overground scene

Swedish death metal through the eyes of a swedish death metaler

I recently bought the “Swedish Death Metal” book by Daniel Ekeroth. When I read the introduction I was sure that I would read non-stop and finish it within a day. But,  for the pleasure to last longer, I resisted this initial urge. So, now it’s been 5 days and I have only read the first 130 pages.

This moment that I write this post I am in fact listening to swedish death metal. I am listening to Evocation’s  ‘Tales from the tomb’, which stinks of Entombed (Left hand path era) but you can also hear early At the Gates melodies here and there. Swedish death metal! Such a huge part of my life. All the memories and all the new feelings even today, make this scene a part of me. So far, whatever I know about the scene was contextualised by bands’ thanx lists, biographies in records (e.g. like the “Death is just the beginning” compilations), interviews in magazines, zines like the ancient ‘Slayer’ zine (this zine was GOD), and so on. Hence, I have a quite fragmented picture of the early years. Now I get the chance to find out stuff about the scene before it went mainstream.

The first chapters of Ekeroth’s book guided me through the unknown lives of early death metalers in Sweden, their relationship with underground punk, the thoughts and reactions to the emerging death and black metal scene in which all my heroes were nurtured. It was really funny to find out about the relationship between Johnny (Nihilist/Unleashed) and Nicke (Nihilist/Entombed). It is apparent than even to this day they still don’t have much respect for each other. I think that this is normal. I think that both Johnny and Nicke are powerful personalities. They need to dominate, and that is why it would be impossible to share a band! The same thing applies to Fred (Carnage/Dismember). He is a powerful personality and I think it would be impossible to co-exist inside a band with either one of the other two guys. However, I always thought of Dismember as a really democratic band in relation to all others. All band members contributed and especially in the past, everyone in the band was a very creative and active individual. That is one more reason why I respect Dismember so much.

Other awesome things I have discovered so far from this awesome book, include that Petrov (Morbid/Nihilist/Entombed/Comecon) and Cederlund (Morbid/Nihilist/Entombed/Disfear) play in the “Morbid” cd that I have and I didn’t even know! Also, I like the fact that Lindberg (Grotesque/At the gates/…/Disfear), started as a punk and now he is a punk again with the awesome Disfear! Also, there are so many interesting testimonials from scene protagonists (Ekeroth should pay Anders from Unleashed a share of the book’s earnings, seriously) and awesome pictures! I am really looking forward on getting on with the rest of the book…

Now, for some objections:

1. It is crystal clear that Ekeroth is a huge Entombed, and Nicke Andersson in specific, fan. He says so somewhere in the book himself. It is obvious that he was convinced that swedish death metal bands owe everything to Entombed and Nicke, regardless of what his research would tell him. At some point, Ola from Grave told him that they were all heavily into Carcass, and that explains their heavier turn on their second demo tape. However, Ekeroth interprets this heavier turn as the result of the Stockholm influence (at that time, the Nicke influence!). I think that in his willingness to crown Nicke the King of swedish death metal, he overlooks other important factors. It makes sense to me that the reason why bands like Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Afflicted (especially on their first album) sound similar, is because they had similar influences. It is ridiculous not to admit that “Evil dead” from the first Death album, has an intro which is the blueprint for swedish death metal! Early Autopsy as well! The beginning of “Left hand path”, the undisputed monument of swedish death metal, is 100% Bathory, especially the guitar solo! Dismember have recorded only two covers in all their career, “Beyond the unholly grave”  by Death and “Pagan saviour” by Autopsy, and I think that says it all in terms of what they fancied and what they copied! Further, in almost all testimonials within the book, from all kinds of different people, the “guys from nihilist and dismember” (or Nicke and Fred) are always acknowledged together! It therefore makes sense for people who spent so much time together, to share musical ideas and sound similar.

2. Ekeroth’s attempts to flatter Nicke produce some really misleading and unfair conclusions. For instance, at some point he says that Fred (dismember) copies Nicke’s drum playing. That is ridiculous. Nicke cannot stand still one moment!!! He changes rhythms all the time and does all kinds of different breaks and, seriously, many times he is very hard to follow, if you are an inexperienced drummer! He is a technical drummer! Fred, on the contrary, is extremely steady, he does pretty brief and straightforward breaks and he has a specific range of breaks. He does the same 3-4 kinds of breaks the whole time! He has a 100% personal style, which shines through in records like “Indecent…” and “Massive…” in specific. Also, the part about Nicke influencing everyone with his unpublished zine! How is that possible?

3. Finally, even though Ekeroth provides extremely interesting insights in the early scene, I still have questions unanswered! For instance, on the inlay of Left hand path there’s a thank list. At some point, the band thanks Carnage and inside a parenthesis it says “Milli Vannili-Fred! Thanks for the riff mate!”. They obviously refer to Fred Estby, but which riff are they referring to? Trivia like this go unanswered, although I still have not got to the part about the first swedish death albums.

to be continued…

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