SPECIAL HIGHLIGHTS – Swedish Death Metal Highlights
Continuing from what we attempted to do with our German death metal article, which met with a good response, with several known and unknown bands getting highlighted in the style, this time around we have shifted our focus to Sweden, which was once known as the Mecca of death metal and influenced thousands of bands since the ’90s. After the resurgence of old school death metal largely in the new millennium, several bands came up with excellent albums that are definitely worthy of notice. Some might not be as popular but you could check them out nonetheless. Feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments. – Kunal Choksi (Owner/Editor)
Interment – Scent Of The Buried (Pulverised Records, 2016)
The roots of Interment can be traced back to 1988 when four guys from Avesta formed a death metal band called Beyond. They recorded a demo in 1990 but when some guys left Beyond the remaining members decided to change their name into Interment. Between 1990 and 1994 the band recorded a couple of demos. Other than that not a lot was going on and Interment called it quits. Most guys stayed active in bands such as Uncurbed, Moondark and Dellamorte. In 2002 Interment reformed and they have released quite a few recordings ever since. Six split releases and two full-lengths to be precise. ‘Scent Of The Buried’ is the latest full-length and it’s a prime example of rotten Swedish death metal. Recorded with Tomas Skogsberg in the famous Sunlight Studio in Stockholm this album contains everything you can wish for when it comes to Swedish death metal. – Pim Blankenstein
Under The Church – Supernatural Punishment (Pulverised Records, 2017)
Doing a special about the current state of affairs in Sweden when it comes to “Svensk Dödsmetall” with that trademark Boss HM-2 buzz-saw guitar tone you can’t leave out Under The Church, can you? Even when they formed relatively recent (in 2012) the band’s key members are Erik Qvick (drums) and Lars Henriksson (bass) who both used to be in Nirvana 2002 in the late 80s/early 90s. That band has a large part in the evolution of that typical Swedish sound together with Nihilist/Entombed, Carnage/Dismember, Grave and the Sunlight Studio. If you haven’t heard Nirvana 2002 I order you to do so now.
Fast forward to 2007, when Nirvana 2002 reunited for the release part of Daniel Ekeroth’s book on Swedish death metal. This event can be seen as a crucial part in the formation of Under The Church. The band wasn’t formed immediately, but in 2012 Qvick and Henriksson got together and started recording. Qvick also took care of the guitars and they recruited Mik Annetts on vocals. They recorded a demo and an EP and in 2015 their debut full-length ‘Rabid Armageddon’ saw the light of day. Compared to Nirvana 2002, Under The Church’s songs are more compact and to the point, but Swedish death metal through and through. Something we can say about their newest recording ‘Supernatural Punishment’ too. When this special is published the album hasn’t been released yet. It is out on November 10th. We have heard it though and this 9-song 30 minute album just knocks you out with an uppercut to the chin. Recordings were done with a revamped line-up. Annetts has left and the new members are Erik Wahlin (Merciless) and Marcus Klack (ex-Morbid) on guitars and Erik Sahlström (General Surgery) on vocals. I’m sure you’ll be able to listen to the first songs of this new album pretty soon. Until then check out the fantastic Razor cover these guys recorded for the split 7” EP with Germany’s Revel In Flesh that was released in April. – Pim Blankenstein
Feral – From The Mortuary (Cyclone Empire, 2016)
Swe-death is Swe-death right? I mean it all sounds a lot alike really doesn’t it? Is it possible for a band to stand out a little from the pack? Why am I asking so many fucking questions? Good point, best I get on with it.
Feral, funnily enough from Sweden have been a major pick up for Transcending Obscurity Records as far as I am concerned, bringing with them your pretty much given HM-2 soaked madness that you would expect from a band in this post seeing as it is in fact about Swedish death metal, so what is it that set’s them apart from the rest of the crowd?
For starters they are batshit as heavy as fuck. Whoopee you say so are all Swe-death bands, and yes you are correct, but where most bands (excluding the mighty Paganizer of course) have amps that go up to ten, these guys have ones that go up to 11! A well worn cliché you may say so let’s put it another way. Imagine a mammoth, you know, those big hairy fuckers that died out a while back due to a lack of whatever it was that a mammoth can lack, now put a Motorhead T-shirt on the bastard, invite his friends over, supply them liberally with the liquor of their choice, and then see what havoc ensues. This is as close as I can get to describing Feral.
Catchy, crunchy, crushing tunes that will have you and your large hairy beast of a friend (and his mates of course) running rampant around the house, this EP contains six tracks of the finest sort of Swe-death that one could possibly want. Well played Transcending Obscurity Records, well played indeed! – Andrew Cook
Paganizer – Land of Weeping Souls (Transcending Obscurity Records, 2017)
You can be as fancy and as hi-tech as you like but after fannying around with the latest fads, in the end you’ll go back to what you know.
In a past life the Remmington 870 was my shotgun of choice. Heavy, made of what appeared to be scaffold poles but ridiculously reliable, simple to clean and able to fire not only our SG & solid slug but also RIP & IMP without missing a beat. You had supreme confidence that this weapon would do what it was supposed to under any conditions. Then someone with some pull on the unit decided we should maybe switch to the more modern and sexy looking Benelli Super 90 (not at all swayed by an all-expenses paid trip to the factory I’m sure). Fancy, a lot lighter and able to go from pump to semi auto with the flick of a switch. It was a piece of shit. Couldn’t handle what we put it through without spontaneously dismantling itself and the barrel was thinner than a coke can, reaching hand blistering temperatures. I had more stoppages on this than all the other weapons we had combined and I even saw one “cook off” a cartridge when no one was even touching it. Utter wank and all the operators hated the thing but the powers that be loved it for whatever reason and we were stuck with it.
Where am I going with this you may ask? Well, most modern metal bands are like that Benelli. All “tits & teeth” but when tested are not only unsatisfying but fall to bits.
Of course, Paganizer is the Remington 870! Nothing remotely fancy or hi-tech but solid as fuck and primo quality! Ten albums in and the Scandinavian Warmachine are at the very peak of their powers on ‘Land Of Weeping Souls’. The main man here as ever, is vocalist / guitarist Rogga Johansson.
Cut this man in half and he has “death metal” running all the way through him like a stick of Brighton rock. Rogga is the very definition of the term “work ethic”. I’ve lost count of all the releases this utter riff machine has played on in the last couple of years. Everything from the Bone Gnawer and The Grotesquery projects (with Kam Lee) to Minotaur Head, Down Among The Dead Men and Echelon (with David Ingram) the bloke is the byword for quality death metal riffage and if he plays on an album you have my cast iron, copper bottomed guarantee that it’s worth buying.
‘Land Of Weeping Souls’ follows on less than a year or so from the superb ‘On The Outskirts Of Hades’ EP and this LP showcases an overall faster and meatier sound. The thrashy as fuck opener Your Suffering Will Be Legendary is a total blast with pounding drums and knicker dampening riffage. This track also reminded me why I believe Rogga is a really underrated DM vocalist. His voice, to me at least has got more powerful over the years and exhibits some nice little nuances over the course of the ten tracks here. He can growl with the best of ‘em that’s for sure as his roar at the opening to Dehumanized shows only too well. This is a super intense three minute bombing raid that will leave your neck feeling like Diane Abbott’s bicycle seat……by that analogy I mean “wrecked” as opposed to “unused”…….obviously. Forlorn Dreams up next and this tune, has a really epic feel to it. More mid-paced and with and awesome intro riff / drum combo. Yes please Sir, may I have another? Yes you fucking may!
Every track is a total vertebrae botherer and you’ll be hitting the “play” button again as soon as Prey To Death has finished ragging you round like a rabid tiger. Credit to Transcending Obscurity Records of India for picking up Paganizer amongst some other top signings. Good job Kunal!
Paganizer have released another killer record. Everything you want as a fan of Swedish death metal is here. Great, memorable song writing, killer riffs, aggressive but intelligible vocals, tasty leads, and megaton drumming. All soaked in lashings of groove. 100% recommended. – Mark Eve
Vanhelgd – Temple of Phobos (Pulverised Records, 2016)
Vanhelgd put out a stunning album in ‘Temple of Phobos’, side-stepping the conventional Entombed/Dismember sound to create something darker, moodier and even haunting. It’s as if Unleashed were taken over by the dark side and created something absolutely vile and grim. There’s an otherworldly vibe that’s unique to them, as though they’re dabbling in an occult-tinged medium that only they are privy to. The album also has its share of dark melodies in addition to the trademark Swedish death metal flair, and on the whole they’re doing something markedly removed from their ancestors which in my opinion makes them not only comparatively refreshing but also one of the strongest bands in the style as of now. – Kunal Choksi
Sorcery – Garden of Bones (Xtreem Music, 2016)
Sorcery can boast of one of the best comebacks in death metal with their album ‘Arrival at Six’ but they’ve taken things up another notch with their latest album ‘Garden of Bones’. No longer remaining under the shadow of their ’90s material, the music of Sorcery is seriously good and right up there even if they were a new band altogether. The music on the album is intense, spiteful and yet they know when to squeeze in those remarkable melodies and hooks. Sorcery have remained underrated right from the start, but if they continue like this, they’ll definitely do something truly significant. – Kunal Choksi
Entrails – World Inferno (Metal Blade, 2017)
When Entrails formed in 1990 the popularity of Swedish death metal and death metal in general was at its peak. Besides rehearsing Entrails never managed to record anything and they gradually dissolved into obscurity. In 2008 the band was reformed and in 2009 they recorded a couple of demos. They were picked up by FDA. Records whop releasedtwo albums (‘Tales From The Morgue’ in 2010 and ‘The Tomb Awaits’ in 2011). Those albums drew the attention of Metal Blade. That label has released three more albums of which ‘World Inferno’ is the most recent. What Entrails present on their records is Swedish death metal through and through. Probably not the most original band out there, but they simply stick to the basics of the genre and in that sense you can never go wrong. So, classic-styled death metal in the vein of Entombed, Nihilist, Dismember and Grave so to speak. The fact Entrails have always worked with Dan Swanö guarantees their albums sound really great. So, if you look for a band that defines Swedish death metal Entrails is a safe bet. – Pim Blankenstein
Gods Forsaken – In A Pitch Black Grave (Soulseller Records, 2017)
Gods Forsaken was formed in 2016 by three guys who have been working together in Just Before Dawn too. Even though drummer Brynjar Helgetun is of Norwegian descent, we can easily state Gods Forsaken is a Swedish force and therefore has to be part of this special. You might know Helgetun from bands such as The Grotesquery, Putrevore or Megascavenger to name just a few. The list is endless. Jonny Pettersson (Ashcloud, Henry Kane, Skineater, Ursinne, Wombbath amongst others) takes care of the vocals and Anders Biazzi is responsible for guitars and bass. The latter is also known for his part in the early recordings of Amon Amarth when they were still cool according to some. When he left that band they became really successful with their easy to digest brand of death metal. Anyway, this trio recorded their debut ‘In A Pitch Black Grave’ , which is released on both CD and vinyl by Holland’s Soulseller Records. Nine tracks in that classic Swedish style with buzz-saw riffs and melodies that tear your soul apart. It’s almost as if Dismember has never left the building. – Pim Blankenstein
Bombs of Hades – Death Mask Replica (War Anthem Records, 2017)
Bombs Of Hades was formed by the duo Jonas Stålhammar and Anders Ekman to play crustcore with some other guys just for the fun of it. When Magnus Forsberg and P.O. Söderback joined the band in 2007 things got a bit more serious. Musically the band with a history in acts such as Abhoth, God Macabre/Macabre End and Utumno changed their style to a mixture of death metal and crustcore. Over the years Stålhammar’s love for prog rock has also left its mark on the compositions of Bombs Of Hades, which becomes all clear on their 4th and latest album ‘Death Mask Replica’. All the various influences work really well, because Bombs Of Hades understands that a song has to be a song. In the end it’s just catchy and groovy as hell, but due to the various influences everything sounds interesting and original too. This is just magnificent in both simplicity and complexity. That seems like a contradiction, but Bombs Of Hades show that it works. Stålhammar recently replaced Anders Björler in At The Gates and that’s not without a reason. Let’s hope his activities in that band won’t interfere with Bombs Of Hades’ future, because we need to hear more from them too. – Pim Blankenstein
Mordbrand – Wilt (Carnal Records, Feb 24th 2017)
Well shit the bed folks, these guys come from Sweden! I bet you guessed that already, and what type of music do they play? SWE-DEATH you all yell in unison. You are all so clever. With a ton of releases behind them already, Mordbrand are a recent listen for me, and I must say I pretty much thought it was a little so-so, but I kept this one going in the background while I was doing whatever I was doing (trying to convert the masses into the worship of foul Gods to be honest) and slowly but surely I began to be sucked into their vortex of deathliness. Swe-deathliness it is indeed. If Ikea could package this (along with a few tasty meatballs of course) in their stores they would most certainly be a far more interesting place to visit, although the kids may run away in fear if they played it over the loud speakers.
Brutal and honest Swe-death is what you asked for, and this is as good as it gets. Nine songs of deathly induced deathliness that leave no room for interpretation. You will wilt under their power, and after all that’s why you’re here isn’t it you clever folk. Nuff said. – Andrew Cook
Wombbath – Downfall Rising (Pulverised Records/Dark Descent Records, 2015)
Originally formed in 1991, Wombbath are O.G.’s of the Swedeath scene. Though they only have a couple of full length albums out (including ‘Downfall Rising’, their most recent), they have kept busy with six splits, a couple EPs, a single, and a demo. Yet another Jonny Pettersson project, Wombbath features a full band: Johan Momkvist (Bass), Håkan Stuvemark (guitars, bass), Pettersson (vocals, bass), Henrik Åberg (drums), and Al Riglin (guitars). On ‘Internal Caustic Torments’, the quintet play nasty, sweaty, filthy old school death metal. They keep the production lo-fi, so it has that classic, ‘recorded in a cave’ quality to it. The band remains rooted the sounds of that caustic Swedish scene, though they had twenty years between full lengths. The differing production values from the two decades in between ring clear. ‘Downfall Rising’ still starts and ends with classic death metal via the HM-2 pedal, but the sound is tighter and clearer, without being any cleaner. Any way you look at it, Wombbath make filthy death metal, perfect for spending an evening hanging out with your zombie pals. – Rick Jackson
Henry Kane – Den Förstörda Människans Rike (Transcending Obscurity Records, 2017)
Thanks to the timing of my graduation from college, which led almost immediately to marriage, the start of family, and the start of my career, I went about a decade and a half of listening to almost nothing now. Though I caught the origins of thrash, and even early groove metal and industrial, I really missed the birth of true extreme metal. It wasn’t until the last several years that I began exploring things such as black metal and death metal. All of that is to say this: Henry Kane was my introduction to the wonderful world of Swedish death metal. I had the (obviously false) impression that all the death metal from Sweden was softer melodic stuff, alright in small doses if I was in the right mood, but overall, just kind of ‘meh’ for me. This solo project by Jonny Pettersson of Wombbath fame (among about a zillion other projects) set me straight. As my students would say, “This album goes hard.”
The theme of the album explores the Reverend Henry Kane from the movie Poltergeist. Horror movies and stories have long been fodder for death metal, and here, it helps make the album outstanding. Musically, ‘Den Förstörda Människans Rike’ claws and shreds its way into your soul with no good intentions. Made up of equal parts HM-2 powered guitar turned to about 13, blasting drums, anguished and unhinged vocals, crusty goodness, and pure unadulterated chaos, the sound of the album took me completely by storm. I had literally heard nothing like it. For this reason, Henry Kane will always be my personal answer to Entombed’s ‘Left Hand Path’, the album that drew me to this particular sound. Everything else will be measured against ‘Den Förstörda Människans Rike’ (including ‘Left Hand Path’). So far, I’ve discovered that Swedeath hits a serious sweet (sour) spot for me, but this is insanity laced, crusty take on it remains my favorite of the bunch. Like a moldy fungus, it continues to grow on me. – Rick Jackson
Ashcloud – Kingdom of the Damned (Xtreem Music, 2017)
Strictly speaking, this entry is about the band Ashcloud more than the specific album ‘Kingdom of the Damned’. That particular album is merely the most recent release by the project. Currently a duo featuring Gareth Nash (Body Harvest) and Jonny Pettersson (just about every other band in the world including my previously discussed Henry Kane), the project started with a 2006 demo produced as a solo project by Pettersson. Following a seven year hiatus, Nash (lead guitar, vocals) joined Pettersson (guitar, bass, vocals), releasing another demo in 2013. A couple of years later, the duo put together a three year streak of album with ‘Abandon All Light’ (2015), ‘Children of the Chainsaw’ (2016), and ‘Kingdom of the Damned’ (2017). While Ashcloud is definitely an HM-2 band, with the buzzsaw tones ringing loud and clear, they also add some more melodic and epic flourishes. Don’t get me wrong. This is a dark, punchy, evil-sounding band. We’re talking in contrast to other Swedeath bands here. The pacing is marginally slower. The chord choices and tempo changes are less chaotic. The buzzsaw is more of an ominous presence than a wielded weapon of war for Ashcloud. I say none of this as an insult. It is just a different take on the Stockholm sound, and it is beautiful! (in a monstrous sort of way) – Rick Jackson
Gravestone – Rotten Kill (Raw Skull Recordz, 2017)
Växjö based four-piece Gravestone was formed in 2013 and in regard to this special vocalist/guitarist Penki Samuelsson is their most well-known member as he defiles the six strings in Entrails too. Earlier this year these guys released their first EP through the relatively new Dutch label Raw Skull Recordz, whose goal it is to infest this earth with old school death metal. That is exactly what Gravestone delivers on the three songs that make up this 12-minute recording. Filthy sounding Swedish death metal that brings nothing new to the table but still makes up a tasty dinner. – Pim Blankenstein
Cut Up – Wherever They May Rot (Metal Blade, 2017)
Even though Cut Up is a relatively new band (formed in 2014), these guys can be considered as death metal veterans having a past in the great Vomitory. Their debut ‘Forensic Nightmares’ was quickly written and landed them a deal with Metal Blade Records, who released said album in 2015. In March 2017 the sophomore recording ‘Wherever They May Rot’ saw the light of day on which the Karlstad based churn out wicked death metal once again. Opposed to most bands appearing in this special Cut Up can’t be seen as a specific Swedish HM-2 death metal outfit. Of course there are traces to be heard within their sound, but Cut Up adds other influences too. The overall pace of the songs is quite fast, but their brutal sounding songs contain a healthy dose of catchiness. This altogether makes Cut Up a great asset to de Swedish death metal library. – Pim Blankenstein
Maim – Ornaments Of Severity (Soulseller Records, 2017)
One of the first times the name Maim popped up was on the 2008 compilation album ‘Resurrected In Festering Slime’ (Soulseller Records) with the track Envy The Dead. That song also appeared on their debut full-length ‘From The Womb To The Tomb’ released in 2009. That album was followed by the album ‘Deceased To Exist’ in 2011. Then things became a bit quiet due to members relocating to different cities and so on. In 2015 the core of Henric Ottoson (drums) and Christian Sandberg (guitars, bass and vocals) remained. As a duo they decided to record a third full-length entitled ‘Ornaments Of Severity’, which was once again released by Soulseller Records. We can add that in 2015 a 7” EP ‘With Dawn Comes Death’ was released as well. ‘Ornaments Of Severity’ shows a band that is heavily influenced by Autopsy. But hey, those Americans left their mark on Swedish death metal when it all started out so nothing new there. Concerning Maim it is a slight change as you could hear they drew influences from bands such as Death and ‘Harmony Corruption’-era Napalm Death next to Autopsy as well. One could say Maim know their death metal history and took the best parts to create the monster ‘Ornaments Of Severity’ is. – Pim Blankenstein
Puteraeon – The Empires of Death (Growls From the Underground, 2017)
Puteraeon has managed to put out three strong albums in rapid succession. If you count their demo releases, which are long enough to be regarded as full length albums as well, the band has put out an staggering amount of songs between 2008 and 2014. However, things went silent for three years after the release of ‘The Crawling Chaos’. In early 2017 they announced that they were going to self-release their new material in the format of a thee-track digital EP, and later announced a physical version of the EP in the form of a 7 inch vinyl edition through the new label, Growls From the Underground. Their love for H.P. Lovecraft shouldn’t have passed under anyone’s radar, this time the man even adorns the cover art. Jonas Lindblood’s well of HPL-lyrics seems to inexhaustible and by now I couldn’t even imagine a version Puteraeon that didn’t worship at the grave of the man at night. Speaking of his grave, “Providence” is the opening track of this EP, tastefully named after the quote “I am providence” which embellishes his headstone. To my surprise the EP has a very strong production, even though they employed the reigning world champion of overly compressed- and ear numbing productions, Dan Swanö, instead of Andy LaRocque who has worked on previous albums. The whole sound has a lot of air and room to breathe even though all instruments are going full throttle basically all the way through. The tracks extremely well put together, and no part lingers for too long before changing it up. It all seems very thought through. This goes to show that you can still write this type of death metal as long as you’re smart about it. Good musicians will still write fantastic songs even if it’s a genre that’s been done several times before. I do somewhat miss Jonas’s deep and guttural voice though. However, the vocals are more articulated here than ever before, and in the end the change is probably for the better. After all, Jonas has lost none of his vigor while bellowing over the epic guitar breaks. The guitars of Jonas and second guitarist Rune Foss harmonize skillfully and without going overboard. While opener Providence is a swirling vortex of madness (in the best possible way), At the Altars is a more catchy affair with parts that get stuck in your head and vocal lines you can anticipate to scream along to at a live show. Closing song Epitaph opens with a blast, in the most literal sense. This is a short track that is over before you know what hit you. A perfect closing number that leaves you hungry for more. Puteraeon seem to have gained a lot from taking some extra time to refine the material before release, and after all three years is not an atrocious time to wait for quality. If you don’t like this, you probably don’t like death metal, and if you’re tired of the genre, you probably weren’t that into it to begin with. Swedish OSDM is obviously here to stay whether you like it or not. – David Nilsson
Creeping Flesh – Scorched (Independent, 2016)
This is the latest demo from underground Swedish crushers Creeping Flesh. Dripping with that certain ugly, filthy, Swedish allure, and pausing only to rev up the chainsaws to full killing capacity, this is 14 minutes of Grade A slaughter music.Well-written, full of catchy riffs, memorable hooks, and sinister atmosphere, Creeping Flesh are a band I’ve been keeping an eye on since their hideously enjoyable 2015 EP ‘Rising Terror’. As a sucker for this style, this is a band that certainly know what they’re doing with it. Check them out. – Nigel Holloway
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave (Century Media Records, 2017)
This crusty death metal outfit features members of At The Gates and Disfear and comes to us via Century Media Records. If you were as disappointed as I was with the At The Gates comeback, know that this is Tomas Lundberg and co’s redemption. The Lurking Fear favor a back-to-basics approach that joins elements of ‘One Kill Wonder’ and ‘The Haunted Made Me Do It’ with groups like Graben or Wolfbrigade. Every single track is a banger filled with relentless vocals, raging D-beats, and old school Gothenburg riffs. ‘Out Of The Voiceless Grave’ is a filthy, stampeding mammoth with no account for you standing in its way. – John Man