overground scene

My 15 all-time favourite drum intros

In my early contact with metal as a teenager drums were of tertiary importance compared to guitar and voice. My first love was Iron Maiden, and although over the years I came to appreciate Clive Burr’s and Nicko McBrain’s skills and contribution to Maiden’s sound, my untrained teenage ear could not appreciate the nuances. My second love was Dio, and just like with Maiden what I fell in love with was the voice and the guitar-playing. I obviously enjoyed listening to Appice’s hard hits, McBrain’s speed on songs like “Deja vu“, I remember falling in love with Ulrich’s fills on “For whom the bell tolls“, or Columbus’s double-bass attack on “Black wind, fire and steel“, but I did not start really noticing the drums until I started listening to thrash, and specifically when I listened to Reign in blood by Slayer. After that, and the more my taste would gravitate towards extreme metal the more attention to the drumming I would pay. Who doesn’t like a great drum break in the middle of a song (*a future post is in order*), or an awesome drum intro?! Through memory work (so, simply by trying to remember) I came up with many awesome drum intros that have stayed with me throughout my life as a metal fan, and after subsequent filtering (as a result of which amazing songs by Hypocrisy, Judas Priest, Death, Xentrix, Ozzy and Kreator, among others, were left out) I present 15 of them here in chronological order.

1. SlayerEpidemic (1986)

Reign in blood blew my mind and continues to blow my mind no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. It’s funny how, as years go by and new trends in metal emerge, many younger people are no longer impressed by this masterpiece (which is something that I once thought impossible). “When was the last time you truly listened to Reign in blood?”, asks Gavin O’Connor. Seriously, Gavin O’Connor? Still, I would imagine for most people, it is a guilty displeasure not liking this absolute masterpiece and they wouldn’t dare admitting it (as opposed to Gavin who owns his opinion, is proud of it, and so I can make fun of him for being a poser who only listens to “Angel of death” and “Raining blood”). “Epidemic” has always been one of my favourite songs off Reign in blood, as it has a different groove to the dominant skank beat throughout the album. The drum intro has a lot to do with how much I like this song. Whenever I think of a drum intro this is honestly the first song that comes to mind. Nowadays, and after three decades of extreme metal drumming, this intro sounds quite “primitive”, but when I first heard it I would just play it over and over again, for several times before I continue with the rest of the song. Nothing compares to Dave Lombardo‘s intense and quite instinctive old school drumming massacre. The simply devastating drum sound captured on tape by Rick Rubin is not bad either.

2. King DiamondWelcome home (1988)

Mikkey Dee, now famous for being the drummer for Motörhead for almost 25 years, used to be in King Diamond. With him the King released some of his best albums (and my two personal favourite, namely Fatal portrait and Conspiracy), and I actually remember seeing or reading an interview with King Diamond where he said that Mikkey has been sorely missed (I personally think that Snowy Shaw did an awesome job as well). Indeed, the impressive drum performances in King Diamond’s early albums compared to the almost mechanical drumming in this last few albums is like comparing night and day. “Welcome home” is a masterful track off Them, and the intro is one of the most memorable and classy drum parts I can think of. Overall, this song represents the pinnacle of King Diamond’s progressive dimension. Agressor did an accurate cover of this song on their Medieval rites (1999) album, although the drum intro is neither entirely accurate nor has the feel of the original.

3. Holy TerrorNo resurrection (1988)

Holy Terror released two albums in the late 1980s, at a time when thrash was still alive and well but slowly losing ground as the first death metal albums, as well as the more extreme thrash bands of Germany, began to surface. The second album by Holy Terror is a minor thrash masterpiece and this song is a testament to that. Their peculiar style of metal that combined traditional heavy metal melodies and singing, with rougher and at times growling vocals, super fast riffs and drums, deserved more recognition in my opinion. Joe Mitchell‘s expertly executed super fast beats perfectly complement the super-fast vocal delivery. The intro to this song is an all-time favourite, and is the perfectly manic start for a perfectly manic song. I have been listening to it since my teenage years and it still does not fail to excite me. They don’t make them like this anymore.

4. Malevolent CreationCoronation of our domain (1992)

Alex Marquez gave his best performance on Malevolent Creation’s Retribution. His contribution on this album cannot be overestimated, and never before or after did Malevolent have such a colourful drum sound and playing, and orchestrations. I suspect that Scott Burns had a lot to do with fine-tuning Marquez’s playing, especially the blastbeats, as in subsequent releases his blastbeats are all over the place (I am thinking Divine Empire‘s second album where the blastbeats often seem to chase the guitar riff, but are unable to catch up with it. Still, it is an awesome album!). Anyway, this drum intro is probably the best out of all the intros in this list. This is the definition of finesse in drumming.

5. Dismember – Fleshless (1993)

This is an extremely simple fast single stroke drum roll (I think so) spread across two toms, opening one of the best songs in one of the best albums in the history of music (yes, not only death metal). One of the reasons I love it so much is because to me this intro is like saying “get ready for some non-stop relentless beating”, and indeed this is exactly what follows throughout the album. Remember, this is not a playlist with the “best” drum intros, but rather my favourite drum intros, and this is definitely one. I simply adore the drum sound on this album, and Fred Estby‘s playing is really exciting. Indecent and obscene is probably my all-time favourite death metal album, and Fred’s playing is one of the reasons.

6. GorefestPeace of paper (1993)

It’s no big surprise that all of the songs on this list come from albums characterised by great drum performances. In both False (1992) and Erase (1993) Ed Warby gives lessons in extreme metal drumming. His sound is clear, he hits hard, and his blastbeats are a force of nature. “Peace of paper” is an astonishing song off an amazing album, and it is also the song where Warby goes crazy with his snare-kick gymnastics. The drum intro is not anything special, but I love it. I think that his performance in these two albums opened up doors for him, as I recall seeing his name in many projects over the years. Gorefest did a very impressive comeback in the mid 2000s and then unfortunately folded again, and in those two comeback albums Warby also did an amazing job.

7. SlayerKilling fields (1994)

Divine intervention is a galore of outstanding drum work by Paul Bostaph. Quite honestly, when I bought this album I could not believe how someone can play like this, and to this day I consider Divine intervention a masterpiece with state-of-the-art drumming. This album is chock-full of drum highlights, and apart from this song, “Sex, murder, art” and “Serenity in murder” are personal favourites. There is no doubt that Paul knew that filling Lombardo’s shoes would be hard, mostly in terms of acceptance by the hardcore fans rather than actual performance, and did his absolute best to prove himself with this album. In my opinion, the intro of “Killing fields” is one of the heaviest and attention-grabbing moments in metal history.

8. BenedictionThe grotesque (1994)

Benediction is not a band known for its virtuoso musicianship. It is known, however, for its absolutely awesome and unique-sounding death metal.  “The grotesque” is one of Benediction’s best songs and it comes from the Grotesque/Ashen epitaph EP. This EP marked the departure of Ian Treacy, Benediction’s original drummer, whose improvement from Subconscious terror (1990) to Transcend the Rubicon (1993) was nothing short of stellar, and the short-lived collaboration with Paul Brookes (who has been very ridiculously photoshoped into the photo of the band on this release). I personally prefer Treacy, who has also provided some really cool drum parts, but nevertheless, Brookes offers a very memorable drum intro to this beast of a song.

9. UnleashedIn the name of god (1995)

“In the name of god” starts with a very simple double stroke roll, yet constitutes an extremely effective drum intro which has always stayed with me. The fact that it opens one of the catchiest songs in death metal history, composed by Fredrik, obviously adds to the importance of this drum intro, but there is no doubt that Anders Schultz‘s contribution to Unleashed’s sound is significant (also check out the awesomely placed double bass à la Slayer at the end of the song). Victory is, in my opinion, the last great album by Unleashed, and it is not a coincidence that it is also the last album with Fredrik Lindgren. He is one of the composers that is missed in the death metal genre.

10. Dying FetusJustifiable homicide (2000)

1999 was the year my friends and I found out about the then new wave of North American brutal death metal. A fiend of mine got hold of three awesome cassette-tapes; one with Deeds of flesh‘s Trading pieces (1996) and Inbreeding the anthropophagi (1998), one with Nile‘s Among the catacombs… (1998), and one with Dehumanized‘s Prophecies foretold (1998) and Dying Fetus‘s Purification through violence (1996). When Destroy the opposition came out we didn’t listen to anything else for a month. This is probably the least interesting song on the album, but what a great and memorable intro! Kevin Talley is a great drummer hailing from the American brutal death metal underground who has rightfully been recognised as one. His drumming on albums like Killing on adrenaline and Destroy the opposition are unbelievable. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the separation of Jason and Kevin from Gallagher resulted in inferior subsequent output from both Dying Fetus and Misery Index. Anyway, this whole album is a drummer’s pleasure.

11. The CrownI won’t follow (2000)

The Crown has always been a hit and miss band in my opinion. I never liked any of their albums in their entirety, just individual songs, and if I had to pick a favourite album I would choose Hell is here (1999). This song comes from Deathrace king, an album from which I worship two songs and the rest of them I listen to once every ten years or so. “I won’t follow” is one of the songs I worship, and the other is the inimitable “Back from the grave”. Janne Saarenpää‘s style is very intense and out-of-control and often reminds me of Chris Witchhunter from Sodom (I’m thinking of “Baptism of fire”). This is the definition of in-your-face extreme metal drumming of the type that inspires kids to pick up drumsticks and learn to play.

12. Deeds of FleshMaster of murder (2001)

Mike Hamilton‘s stint with Deeds of Flesh started with an album (i.e. Mark of the legion) which, for me, marked the creative downfall of the band. However, just like the drummers that preceded him, Hamilton’s drumming is amazing, and this song is a case in point. A beautiful, yet cold and lifeless, phrase composed of super fast double strokes and double bass, introduces an awesome riff. The way Hamilton switches from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal during the blastbeats, and the effect this has on the riff is also great. Later on in their career Deeds of Flesh tried to reinvent themselves and switched to super-technical death metal and, in my opinion, lost their distinctiveness that is still present in this song.

13. Pig DestroyerSnuff film at eleven (2001)

Just like Dying Fetus’s Destroy the opposition, Pig Destroyer’s Prowler in the yard was a game changer in the world of extreme metal. Brian Harvey provides super fast blastbeats, grooves, and insane drum fills.  This song is one of the most death-oriented songs on the album, and has such an awesome drum intro, representative of the musical and lyrical insanity that reigns throughout the album. What contributes to the awesomeness of this intro is that it does not lead to a fast beat but a tensely controlled slow beat. Harvey’s performance on the next album (i.e. Terrifyer) is also stellar. Having a drummer like this at one’s disposal is an amazing privilege, because it gives one absolute freedom to write anything they want, no matter how fast and complex.

14. Lock UpFeeding on the opiate (2002)

Nick Barker is one of those drummers who make extremely fast drumming seem easy. I fell in love with his drumming when Cradle of Filth‘s Dusk and her embrace came out, and I loved him even more in Lock Up, although his repertoire in the latter is much more limited. His performance with Cradle of Filth rightfully opened doors for him as over the years he has played with many prominent bands. This is actually one of the best album intros ever, and I cannot believe that I forgot to mention it in the respective post I wrote a few years ago. Overall, Hate breeds suffering is my favourite Lock Up album too. Bill Hicks’s inspiring statement, “Play from your fucking hearts!”, sampled at the beginning of the song is also genius.

15. Dark FuneralThe eternal eclipse (2016)

The final entry in this list comes from a recent album, namely Dark Funeral’s very impressive Where shadows forever reign. Dark Funeral has a history of great drummers, including the brilliant Matte Modin (who offered devastating drumming for Defleshed back in the day). In this album the drums are provided by Nils Fjellström, another master of inhuman speed in drumming (check out videos of him performing live with the band on YouTube, you won’t be disappointed). “The eternal eclipse” is my favourite song off this album, and the drum intro is perfect.

A minor mystery solved, and life goes on…

Reading the information provided in the booklets or inner sleeves of albums – on vinyl, CD or cassette-tape – has always been an important part of my – and many others’ I presume – experience of engaging with popular music. Thanks lists used to be the source of finding out about affiliated bands, friendships between bands, and bands that I should check out. At the same time reading bands’ thanks lists would often obscure, rather than clarify, things. Responsible for that would often be the use of inside jokes, such as nicknames and references to events with which I, the reader, was unfamiliar. For example, I remember reading the thanks lists of Napalm Death‘s Harmony corruption (1990) being simultaneously entertained, intrigued and confused by the constant use of the word ‘chuffed’.

One of the oldest band-related mysteries that I can remember of originated in the inner sleeve of Entombed‘s Left hand path (1990). In the thanks list the band thanks Carnage and then, in brackets, Fred (presumably Fred Estby) who was the drummer in Carnage and Dismember. The sentence “Milli Vannili-Fred! Thanks for the riff mate!” fascinated me because it provided information regarding the relationship between two of my favourite bands – Entombed and Dismember – and also because it provided ammunition to my imaginary debates with annoying staff of heavy metal magazines, among whom it was commonplace to casually refer to Dismember as a “second-rate Entombed”. Yet, this was a piece of information that begged for additional information. For more than 20 years I have wondered, “which one is the riff on Left hand path that belongs to Fred?”.

Ten years ago I bought and devoured Daniel Ekeroth‘s book Swedish death metal (2008). There were things about it that I loved, and things that I hated. (Among the latter was the author’s irritating flattery towards Nicke Andersson.) One of the things that annoyed me – at the time I thought it was unacceptable – was that he did not provide an answer to this mystery. Even though I understand that it is not really a mystery, in the sense that probably nobody cares, I still think that revealing the identity of the riff would be a great anecdote which would also provide a richer, more accurate representation of the relationship between these two important bands and songwriters of the Swedish death metal scene.

Dismember appearing at the Rockwave festival in Attica, 2005 (left), and Mylos club in Thessaloniki, 2007 (right).

Twice I had the opportunity to find out the answer to this mystery but  missed it. I have seen Dismember live twice. The first time was in the 2005 Rockwave festival in Greece. There I actually met Fred, David, and Matti who were wandering around in the merchandising area, but it was very brief and I completely forgot to ask Fred about the Left had path reference. (During that brief encounter Fred recorded my Dismember tattoo on his camera, and the footage was later on included in their Under blood red skies DVD (2009)!) Next time I saw Dismember live was in Thessaloniki a couple of years later, and it was shortly after Fred’s departure from the band (Thomas was on drums by that point), so, once again, I missed the chance to inquire. What I never considered was that perhaps someone else from the band might know the answer to my question. As it turns out Matti did, and last week this minor mystery was solved while I was browsing Matti’s Facebook page.

I have referred to social media as “intertextual enablers” in the past (read this), and this is another instance where information produced and accessed through social media fills in gaps in my popular music knowledge. Later on in the same Facebook discussion, it is revealed that the riff mentioned above which Nicke gave in return was the brilliant intro riff of “Deranged from blood” from Carnage’s Dark recollections (1990). Of course, the “Milli Vannili-Fred” bit of the reference has not been explained. It obviously refers to the late-1980s Dance duo Milli Vanilli, which consisted of two models posing as singers (without actually singing or composing on the records). Perhaps in the context of Left hand path, the term is meant to refer jokingly to Fred as a ghost writer in Entombed. Now enjoy Fred’s riff starting at 1:32 in the video below.

Is this where I came from? #4 J.S.Bach and Dismember

In this, the fourth instalment of the “Is this where I came from?” series of posts I discuss the influence of classical music, J.S.Bach’s music in particular, on Dismember, a Swedish death metal band. David Blomqvist, the guitarist of Dismember, was inspired by Bach to compose one of the most beautiful songs in the history of popular music.

J.S.Bach – Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh (1736)

Johann_Sebastian_BachKomm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh translates into Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest and it is a powerful hymn about the anticipation of death and the arrival at the kingdom of heaven written by Bach for solo voice and basso continuo. Although I have loved Bach’s music since my early teens I only recently discovered this monumental piece. This is not surprising since Bach’s music to which I –  being a guitarist – have mostly been attracted is his Lute suites. Although I think that each person interprets works of art in slightly different ways, I would say that in this piece, the mood that Bach envisioned for someone who longs for death is one of absolute acceptance and resolve. This mood is also reflected in the text. The deeply religious text that accompanies this piece is, according to Wikipedia, attributed to an anonymous author:

Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest! Come lead me to peace for I am weary of the world, O come! I wait for you, come soon and lead me, close my eyes. Come, blessed rest! 

Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! It is better in heaven, for there is all pleasure greater, therefore I am at all times prepared to say “Farewell,”. I close my eyes. Come, blessed rest!

Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! O world, you torture chamber, oh! Stay with your lamentations in this world of sorrow, it is heaven that I desire, death shall bring me there. Come, blessed rest!

Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! Oh, that I were but already there among the hosts of angels, out of this black world into the blue, starry firmament, up to heaven. O blessed rest!

Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! I will now see Jesus and stand among the angels. It is henceforth completed, so, world, good night, my eyes are already closed. Come, blessed rest.

The video that follows is an adaptation of the piece for Organ by Virgil Fox. It is this specific rendition that resembles “Life another shape of sorrow”, the song written by Dismember.

Dismember – Life, another shape of sorrow (1995)

DismembermkcDismember has always been my favorite death metal band. Dismember’s style developed at the same time that Entombed’s career was taking off and, because of that, Dismember has many times been seen as the “poor person’s” Entombed. I have always objected to this somewhat popular perception of Dismember’s identity and contribution to popular extreme music. For starters, I do not think that Entombed created something radically new; I do not think that such a thing as radical innovation exists. Entombed defined the Swedish death metal scene to the extent that they were undoubtedly brilliant and got picked up by an up-and-coming extreme record label (Earache), facts that led to early recognition and placement in an influential position. However, at the same time, they developed their style in close proximity with dozens of other death metal bands that existed at the time. Entombed members were not only close friends with Dismember members but also lived and practiced in close proximity to each other. Thus, I think that their styles developed in tandem rather than separately. Moreover, Dismember was a band that always had unique elements in its sound that distinguished it from its peers. Even on the debut album, but in a more pronounced way on the sophomore album, there are melodic moments and harmonies that originated in classic rock/metal and classical music.

The song “Life, another shape of sorrow”, composed in its entirety by David Blomqvist, comes from Dismember’s third full length masterpiece (Massive killing capacity) and constitutes a prime example of Dismember’s distinctiveness. The brooding intro with the melancholic melody on top of a powerful minor chord progression very similar to Bach’s piece gives way to a section of more up-beat riff followed by redemptive harmonies in the vein of Iron Maiden. This section leads to an explosive tremolo-picking riff supported by a fast Slayer kick-snare beat. The lyrics, sung from the point of view of a person who longs for death, are sung on top of this frantic section which proposes a very different mood than the one crafted by Bach. Here, again, the desire to die is the result of vast pain and hopelessness. Dying is seen as the reasonable action in the context of a life of absolute suffering. However, while in Bach’s case the sufferer seems to be at peace with their desire to live no more, in the case of Dismember, the sufferer appears to be in agony. In the chorus, Matti Karki, the singer of Dismember, screams at the top of his lungs, “Come sweet death, let me sleep forever”. The fast tempo and soulful vocal delivery once more suggest that the person who desires to die is tormented and exhausted from living. The genius harmonised scale played on top of the words “let me sleep forever” adds extra emphasis on the experience of pain associated with living. A brief slower section momentarily interrupts the powerful emotion of hopelessness, perhaps in favour of some time to re-assess and maybe give life another chance, but quickly any hope for the value of living is discredited when the band goes back to the fast tremolo-picking section and a sorrowful guitar solo. The song closes with a repetition of the introductory section, this time played by the Organ, and a narrator saying the words, “Come, sweetest death. Come, blessed rest. And take my hand, and gently lead me on”.

Dismember – in memoriam

Dismember has been my all time favorite band since the mid 90s. I discovered death metal through the sounds of Dismember and other great Swedish bands such as Unleashed, At the gates and Grave. The  first record I heard was the back then newly released Massive Killing Capacity. The impact of this album is probably much bigger than I can perceive. I remember getting a  guitar on my hands in order to learn to play the opening riff of “Collection by blood”. It further increased my already significant obsession with learning as much trivia as possible about bands. Categories started forming in my head about each individual member’s composing style. Within a few years and when a new album was coming out I could tell with certainty who had writen which song without even looking at the inner sleeve or booklet.

I passionately defended Dismember among my peers when I was hearing criticisms such as that they sounded like Entombed. I hated reviewers in music zines because they would come up with ridiculous reasons to compare them to Entombed. I remember asking the late Nikos Tagalos (of Sadistic Noise ) in the old Rock City (also RIP) whether Pieces was any good:

Tagalos: “what have you heard of them?”

Me: “Like an ever flowing and Massive killing”

Tagalos: “more brutal than both of them”.

One day in the summer of 1997 I spent all day in Metal Era with Jim (ex-Rotting Christ bass player) and his friends while waiting for the very first vinyl copies of Death Metal to arrive. I remember the day I listened to the promo-cd of Hate Campaign and I run home to tell my friends about it. The freezing day I streamed the song “where ironcrosses grow” before the release of the album (it was Sunday and it had snowed).

I got to see Dismember live in the summer of 2005, with a ticket my friend Joan gave me as a present for my birthday. I had the honour of meeting Matti, David and Fred on that day. I was super excited for meeting my heroes, them for seeing a fan with a Dismember tattoo on his arm. The concert was like a dream that came true. They even played Reborn in Blasphemy!

After the departure of Fred, I knew that the future of the band would be uncertain. Fred was the motivator, an important composer and the producer. Of course, one of the things I always liked about and respected Dismember for, was that it was not an one-man band. Every album was a collective effort. And before Fred left, I was equally bummed out about the departures of Robert and Rickard, both of whom are amazing composers.

Then I saw the band again in 2007 in Thessaloniki during a one-day trip.  I ended up spending the night sleeping at the entrance of a building because I spent all my money on records. The show was again amazing and I got to meet Tobias and again Matti and David. I also saw David around 12 o clock at night wandering around the streets of Thessaloniki looking for his hotel. I explained to him that he was going the wrong way and suggested he should get a taxi. He asked me how much it would cost because he was worried that the taxi driver would rip him off, and he had a point…

Dismember seemed to me like a band which had a very laid back work ethic, which is something I respect greatly. It was also a very humble band and having met them I can say that they were not taking themselves very seriously and their primary goal was to have fun and play music they enjoyed. They survived a period very difficult for extreme music (mid- to late-90s) and they did so with dignity. Ok they got a bit more melodic as time went by… but one can see those melodic elements even in their early works. They had always been more into melody than their contemporaries.

In a period of 20 years they offered the world some of the most beautiful music ever created, some phenomenal lyrics and some of the most powerful and extreme executions. They certainly co-defined what swedish death metal means. They consistently released flawless albums, a feat that only a handful of bands have managed to pull off. A week ago they anounced that they will call it quits. This post is an opportunity for me to thank them for being such an inspiring part of my childhood and adult life.

New beginnings

Two of my all time favorite musicians have started two new bands. Fred Estby launched Necronaut, a death metal project in which he is the sole composer accompanied by established extreme metal musicians from Sweden and elsewhere. Among the contributors are Chris Reifert (Abscess, Autopsy, etc.), Uffe Cederlund (Disfear, Entombed), David Blomqvist (Dismember) and Nicke Andersson (Entombed, Hellacopters, etc.). Already really chuffed about this project because Estby is an amazing composer and such an intense drummer that can cause you a heart attack. To be honest I would still be happy irrespective of whom complemented the band. Estby uploaded his first song 10 days ago on the band’s myspace page. It is an amazing song sang by Reifert and as someone would have expected, it sounds a lot like something coming straight out of Severed Survival (1st Autopsy album). The song demonstrates flawless songwriting, with riffs that resound the grandeur of early Black Sabbath and a sickening performance by Reifert. Most importantly it is a memorable song with a clear structure, a thing missing from today’s death metal scene (which is the death metal equivalent of progressive rock in the 60s and 70s). I also hope to read some good lyrics, another reason why I think Estby will be irreplaceable in Dismember.(band’s mypace page can be found here)

Nicke Andersson resurfaced with his new rock group Imperial State Electric. Andersson explicitly voices here what was obvious with the Hellacopters, i.e. that he is the lone emperor of the place, or state of mind, that ISE is. He is also environed by great musicians like Anders Lindstrom (Hellacopters), Robert Pehrsson (Thunder express, Death breath) and Dregen (Backyard Babies, Hellacopters) and also some member of The Datsuns (for which I don’t really care). The two songs uploaded on the myspace page of the band are sweet and addictive and sound like Hellacopters of the last two albums (covers album included). Great presentation as well but I would expect no less from Andersson! I can’t wait to get my hands on the first single! (band’s mypace page can be found here)

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…

Dismember: 20 years anniversary show
September 16, 2008, 9:56 pm
Filed under: death metal, gigs, people | Tags: , , , , ,

DISMEMBER, my all time favorite band for more than 13 years now (since 1995), are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. So, they planned an awesome party for the 22nd of November in Stockholm, where all past members will join the current line-up and play songs from their first demo until the latest album! Everyone will be there, including those that comprised the line-up that released the band’s most excellent albums, albums that defined a genre and wrote history. Fred Estby, Robert Sennebaek and Rickard Cabeza. I won’t be able to be there, unfortunately, but those that will be and for those the band means something deeper, they will remember it for the rest of their life.