Swedish Death Metal
11/29/2008 - Review by: Raising Iron
Some twenty or more years ago, finding books about metal or metal bands was quite an exercise. Encyclopedias, few and far between, were quite scant and left many important bands out, and the few biography's and autobiographies that existed were about what the mainstream considered hard rock or heavy metal, see Led Zeppelin et al. Fortunately, enough time has passed for true heavy metal purveyors to get their due and now there is a plethora of reading for those wishing to exercise their knowledge of heavy metal history. Hell, there's even been several movies done now, Metallica's being one example. I tell you, no one would've seen that coming in the 80's, believe me, I was there. But, we're not getting just the big names, Anvil recently had a semi-biographical movie done about them, and books are becoming very genre specific, which leads me to the book at hand, Swedish Death Metal.
Enough time has passed to justify these sorts of tomes (if something of this sort had been done in the early 90's, it would've been a mere pamphlet after all!), and it's a great chance to get a deeper grasp of the evolution of some of your favorite bands and/or movements. Here, author and Swedish native Daniel Ekeroth, who currently plays bass with Insision and Tyrant, unfolds the events that led to the explosion of death metal that reared its gory head in the early nineties from places like Stockholm and later Gothenburg. Starting with the ground layers, the likes of Venom and Possessed, a line is traced through the likes of Candlemass, punk/grind bands such as Napalm Death and Asocial, into the all important Bathory, and then landing at the abominable birth of classic Swedish death metal as it's now known with the likes of Nihilist and Merciless.
I have to say, as an American reading this, there were things that of course were completely foreign to me, yet at the same time things I could relate to as if I was there. Such as, every weekend the young Swedish metalheads would meet at "the map", a subway station locale in Stockholm, and figure out how and where to get beer and drink. Also, the lack of access to a lot of extreme music was a constant problem, yet they had one store, Heavy Sound, they could count on for good metal. Slayer's Reign In Blood was a rare, hard to find import for these guys! But, Bathory, Candlemass, and Mercyful Fate were rare here in the US, so again, very relatable.
So, Daniel hits all the key points in the formation of such death metal luminaries as Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Unleashed, Edge of Sanity, Carcass, Tiamat (yes, the one and the same now gothic/atmospheric rockers) and Therion (again, you guessed it, they started out as death metal!). Since the book is simply about the birth of Swedish death metal, he basically ends things around '93, but there is a 120 page glossary of death metal bands that have arisen since to round things out of this almost 450 page omnibus!
Also, this is just about death metal bands from Sweden, so although reference is made to bands like Death, Deicide, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse, they are not dissected. One other thing I find a bit frustrating was the lack of coverage of bands hailing from the Gothenburg scene such as Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At The Gates. They are covered, but all too briefly towards the end, which makes sense as the cutoff year is near the rise of these bands, and the author makes plenty of allusion to the fact he likes his death metal as brutal as possible anyways.
Therefore, grab this wonderful compendium written by a man who was there as a youngster, his first hand experience is illuminating and entertaining, and as well are the many quotes from the key players of the scene and their drunken exploits!
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