overground scene

Experiments in Swedish death metal
November 9, 2008, 9:17 pm
Filed under: death metal | Tags: , , , , ,

Sweden has a long tradition in death metal. It goes back in the late eighties, when bands like Entombed, Unleashed, Dismember, Edge of Sanity, Tiamat and so on, blent their love for extreme metal, represented by bands like Death, Carcass, Autopsy, Repulsion, Master, Necrophagia, Devastation, with the chilling and bitter emotions that their country nurtured in them. These effects can be heard in the freezing and desperate sounds of albums like “Left hand Path”, “Nothing but death remains”, “where no life dwells”, etc. Even though in the beginning all of these bands sounded similar, in the course of history they developed their unique style. The style of each band reflects their different taste in music. Some were fans of the new wave of British heavy metal, others fancied punk, others rock. However, traditional rock, punk or heavy metal were styles that at that point seemed incompatible with death metal, which tended to become increasingly brutal. Nevertheless, when these influences surfaced the results were extraordinarily brilliant.  Here are some examples:

1. Carbonized – Disharmonization (1993)

Even in their first briliant album (i.e. For the security) the tendency to explore new paths is apparent, especially in songs like Éuthanasia’ or ‘Purified’. Disharmonisation is their second album and is clearly experimental and unconventional, containing one of the first appearances of clean theatrical vocals, which resemble a lot “Celtic Frost’s” turn in “into the pandemonium” (Celtic Frost has been the pioneer in many things). The music is wicked and full of peculiar rhythms. There are jazz elements here and there. The few more traditional death metal songs still have this twisted thing going on and evoke feelings of uneasiness and fear. Vocal duties are shared between Johnsson and Rosenberg and both are sick and disgusting. ‘Vlad Tepes’, ‘Succubus’ and ‘Voice of the slained pig’ are both excellent songs and perfect examples of this album’s unique perversion.

2. Entombed – Wolverine blues (1993)


I once read somewhere that when ‘Left hand path’, the first Entombed album, was written Nicke was already bored of death metal. It took some time for his and the other members’ influences to surface. At the time of ‘Hollowman’s’ release, just before Wolverine Blues, Nicke was posing with a Discharge t-shirt, Uffe with a Sonic Youth t-shirt. W.B. is production-wise and music-wise the dirtiest death metal ever. It is death metal with a punk-rock attitude. The lyrics are more ‘punk’ as well, especially in the excellent and nihilistic ‘Contempt’, ‘Full of hell’ and ‘Eyemaster’ (Hellid is one of my favourite lyricists ever). W.B. was followed by two brilliant albums (DCLXVI and Same Difference), in which however the non-death influences dominated their sound.

3. Tiamat – Wildhoney (1994)

Tiamat’s non-death influences have been present throughout all their career. However, Wildhoney was the album in which they played a major role without dominating and overshadowing their personality, like what happened with “A deeper kind …” and thenceforward. While for others it’s punk or heavy metal, for Tiamat it was Pink Floyd.Contrary to their later releases, their more gothic side (Sisters of Mercy, Cult, etc.) is not so clear here. The atmosphere in Wildhoney shifts from suffocating (e.g. whatever that hurts, 25th floor) to liberating (e.g. Gaia, Visionaire) and finally to settling and calming (Do you dream of me, planets, a pocket size sun). A perfect example of how psychedelic rock mixed with death metal can make someone hallucinate. Oh, and let’s not forget the magic mushrooms…

4. Dismember – Massive killing capacity (1995)

Massive killing capacity will always be one of the greatest death metal albums ever, because it constitutes a collection of immaculate songs. Each and every song is inspired, unique and once you’ve listened to it you will remember it for the rest of your life. It is the record which made Dismember my all time favourite band. This is not riffs glued together, technical arrangements and blastbeats used as an excuse for being uninspired. This is about real songs, amazing lyrics, amazing melodies and the best production ever. In this album, dismember themselves have admitted that their record company was pushing them towards sounding like Entombed. However, Dismember did not listen to punk, garage or hardcore at all (as David and Estby confessed to me in 2005 in Greece). Instead, the legacy of bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Kiss is ubiquitous in the compositions of this album. The ending of the obscure and lustful “Hallucigenia” is similar to the ending of “Black diamond” off the first Kiss album, the magnificent “Nenia” has ridiculously similar structure with “Orion”  from Metallica, and the solos and melodies stink off Maiden. In their concerts, when they play “collection by blood” they don’t forget to mention it’s a tribute to Maiden. All these influences are perfectly incorporated into the style of the band and the result is monumental. Certainly one of the most complete albums ever.


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