Swedish Death Metal
(Index Verlag)

Svensk Döds Metal… Swedish Death Metal… the place where for some of us it started all into the most extreme sounds on earth. Yes, there is surely A LOT to be praised in many other regions… USA and South America had plenty of extreme Metal bands, and some even have an identity of their own. But for some strange reason, the massive sound of the Swedish bands soon took the world by storm. What was there in this European country with one of the highest levels of life where suddenly these young musicians started to churn such an evil and extreme form of music? Can it be related to some ancient evil spirit that has been released form an ancient slumber? Are those icy waters so damn chilling that they were meant to be fought with fire-invoking metal? This 3 CD compilation makes company to the recently released book by Daniel Ekeroth, a book I have just read a few parts, and while being entertaining, could be actually deeper or better written. But then again, I also think that this compilation complements the book and should have been released with it since the very beginning. The 3 CD compilation starts in a very exact chronological order. Although many years before this Swedish invasion was setting fire to the world, we had BATHORY, but then again that band has always been more related to the Black Metal scene than the Death Metal one, so probably that was the reason it was left out. So it all starts with bands like MEFISTO and OBSCURITY which in essence were proto Death Metal bands with a very harsh and aggressive form of Thrash Metal. It was not until 1988 that one band was doing its own form of music that which will mark the Swedish sound: NIHILIST. The main core and probably what can be related for many bands was a mixture of the American Thrash Metal sound of early SLAYER or KREATOR mixed with a more Hardcore extreme Thrash sound found in bands like IMPULSE MANSLAUGHTER or DOOM and also the Punk- deformed into a Death Metal sound by MASTER / DEATHSTRIKE. Back in the demo days, where the rehearsals and lousy produced studio-recordings were beginning, those influences were a point of reference with many of the bands like MORBID or PUTREFACTION. Disc 1 which is mainly about demo bands and ranges from 1986 to 1990 features many bands in its early incarnations and with still many performing mistakes. For those who were not Metal fans at that time, it will be a good way to discover what bands like THERION and DISMEMBER sounded like in an early stage. Yes, that same THERION that it still going on nowadays. Disc 1 should be approached as an historical testimony of the beginning of an era, which also means sometimes a really lousy, noisy sound. Disc 2 starts in 1989, but for a good reason: it showcases with the song of the band ENTOMBED (yes, formerly NIHILIST) what a few years later was going to give the Swedish sound an identity: the Sunlight Studio guitar sound. Producer Tomas Skögsberg directed most of the bands to have that low-tuned almost bass like distorted guitar sound, which was like a wall of guitars playing all at once. Many of the songs found on disc one were recorded in the same place by almost the same people, and we are also talking of many of the songs are from the debut albums of the bands. Highlights include bands like GENERAL SURGERY (which was more like an answer to UK’s CARCASS although still rooted in the Swedish sound), TIAMAT (which was more like a Black / Death Metal band back in those days…) or EDGE OF SANITY. Even in this similar sound, which was aimed by most Swedish bands (and some other non-Swedish, just ask DARKTHRONE, yes, that same DARKTHRONE back in those years) there was still room for some original bands like AFFLICTED, the very weird CARBONIZED (more Grind orientated but at the same more psychedelic) and the ultra technical LIERS IN WAIT. Meanwhile some others decanted for a more blackened sound like MARDUK (early releases were more Death Metal) and DISSECTION (with an unmistaken occult Heavy Metal approach). CD 2 is based on what is probably the brightest (or darkest) period of the Swedish Metal attack. Their names were in tongues, they were a world apart in the Death Metal, compared to the American most popular bands of the time, the Swedish were brining a fresh (or rotten) air to what otherwise was a stagnant Death Metal scene in America. As not only an observer in that time, but as someone involved in many of the things happening I can tell you 3 things that were for me. The main difference: 1) the obvious low-tuned guitars 2) the growling vocals ALWAYS tried to articulate words, and very few just wanted to do frog-noise and 3) their way to use melody in their riffs; whereas the American contra parts were more thinking on adding melody in the solos and keep it all brutal, the Swedes used melody in a dark and convincing way in most of the songs and almost never abuse of the brutality for the sake of it. A special mention form disc 2 will be made to the fantastic and short-lived band NIRVANA 2002. I think that their name played a big part in the fact they were so short lived, but what an amazing band. Disc 3 offers us what can be called the last "wave" of Swedish Death Metal bands form 1990 to 2007. We have here some more obscure bands that released maybe a few albums but never reached the height of the bands that appear in Disc 2. Still, for my tastes, Disc 3 possesses more of great discoveries for the newer generations, with killer bands like CRYPT OF KERBEROS, UNCANNY, CREMATORY or TRAUMATIC. The inclusion of two newer bands like the killer REPUGNANT and the great KATALYSATOR to show that the Swedish Death Metal sound is still alive, is also a good point for this compilation. Obviously that many bands were left out which would have been like a nice addition (like DAWN, CONCRETE SLEEP, UTUMNO and many others) but this was made to spark again the flame for the newer generation to get out of their places and start searching for bands of those great era. Also there are many newer bands with that Swedish "crunchy" sound, so the tradition is still there. Notice that nothing is mentioned of the Gothenburg sound (i.e. IN FLAMES, AT THE GATES, DARK TRANQUILLITY) as they came later (and also was a big trend if you ask me) but this is more aimed to those years in the early 90s that marked Sweden in the Death Metal map. Some of those bands are still going on, many have changed their style (and for wrong most of the times…) some other are just memories… some other band members now deny their time when this was boiling… still the memories and the sounds are there. It was a magical time, a great time, and it all comes with great music. If you have not read the book, now it is your chance to grab it along this very nice compilation. For those of us that were there in one way or another, being it tape-trading, doing interviews or even releasing material from those shores, it was a joy to rediscover again why we were obsessed with that crunchy guitar sound.

Julián Núñez

Julián Núñez

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