Friday, May 29, 2009

Those Nordic Heroes

Now this is an taxonomy of the greatest Scandinavian metal bands. You might have been wondering why so many music acts come from this region (even mainstream like Abba, Ace of Base, Army of Lovers, Roxette, Europe, A-Ha, Bomfunk MC, Roysopp, HIM, Mando Diao, etc. etc.). Once a Swedish guy told me: “you know the Winter in Sweden is so f*cking cold and dark and depressing that one can either only get drunk constantly, or make music. Well, normally we do both…”.

So really, what is the sound of nordic metal like? Melancholic. Honest. Mystical. Epic. Beautiful. Put your prejudice to one side and enter the hall of fame!

Anathema (UK)

Ok, one exception, they are from the UK, thus not directly Scandinavian… but sound like if they were! Coming from the doom metal corner recently they have been playing beautiful athmospheric rock music, sort of easy listening with soul.

Recommended album: A Natural Disaster (2003)

Amorphis (FIN)

The supreme masters from Finland, been there for 20 years. Molten melodic death metal, progressive rock and folk together they have developed their unique style. One of the most melodic metal bands ever, a must hear!

Recommended album: Am Universum (2001)

Apocalyptica (FIN)

What happens, if you connect a cello to a guitar amplifier? A disaster. What happens if you connect three cellos to amplifiers and add a drummer? We get Apocalyptica. What started as a Metallica cover act ended as a brilliant thrash/symphonic metal band!

Recommended album: Amplified // A Decade of Reinventing the Cello (2006)

Charon (FIN)

Finland again, great gothic metal bad with a truly extraordinary vocalist!

Recommended album: The Dying Daylights

Clawfinger (SWE)

The well known Swedish rap-metal band with a friendly lead. Meaningful lyrics and ear-blasting riffs!

Recommended album: Clawfinger (1997)

Deathstars (SWE)

Funny band playing a very easily digestible industrial metal with ear-worm melodies! Rammstein meet The Sisters of Mercy, kind of mainstream, I’m afraid…

Recommended album: Termination Bliss (2006)

Ensiferum (FIN)

Now this is called “heroic metal”, a mix of medeival folk with epic storytelling and ultra fast “galloping” metal. You can’t help but imagine a medeival knight in shining full armor riding right into the battle when listening to this. Brilliant!

Recommended album: Iron (2004)

Finntroll (FIN)

Finnish guys singing Swedish just “because it sounds f*cking Trollish”! The music style is truly remarkable: it’s (yeah) polka-metal! A mix of folk and ultra high speed finnish polka (a.k.a. humppa). You can’t miss the song “Trollhammaren”, the greatest fun music ever heard!

Recommended album: Nattfödd (2004)

HIM (FIN)

Everyone knows HIM. They are one of those who made gothic metal fit for mainstream. But before doing so (and starting to repeat themselves) they released a quite excellent CD:

Recommended album: Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 (1997)

Insomnium (FIN)

Finland once again! Insomnium is one of the coolest melodic death metal bands out there. Period.

Recommended album: Across the Dark (2009)

Katatonia (SWE)

Swedish guys playing a kind of unique sounding alternative doom metal (which can be slightly depressing on a dark winter afternoon) with excellent song stuctures and tranquil melodies. Must hear the song “My twin”!

Recommended album: The Great Cold Distance (2006)

Lake of Tears (SWE)

An excellent Swedish band involved with gothic and doom metal with psychedelic and progressive elements!

Recommended album: A Crimson Cosmos (1997)

Lordi (FIN)

A kind of cuckoo’s egg in this list, yes, they won the Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago… still a fine band playing ordinary, but very enjoyable hard rock. They look worse than they sound!

Recommended album: The Monster Show (2005)

Nightwish (FIN)

The flagship of symphonic metal (or power metal? or opera metal?), featuring masterful string arrangements with heavy guitar riffs and a female opera voice. Top notch, no doubt! (desperately copied by Within Temptation…)

Recommended album: Once (2004)

Opeth (SWE)

These Swedish masters are known for their extraordinarily complex overlength songs, mainly progressive rock with a blend of death metal, but also some blues, folk and jazz… Playful and athospheric, a class of its own!

Recommended albums: Damnation (2003), Watershed (2008)

Scar Symmetry (SWE)

One of the neatest melodic death metal bands out there! Perfect singing voice, cool growls and a very fresh sound. Ear-worm alert!

Recommended album: Holographic Universe (2008)

Sentenced (FIN)

They were a perfect melodic death metal band with a great lead voice that delivered several several highlights throughout their existence. Smooth as silk!

Recommended album: Cold White Light (2002)

The Gathering (HOL)

Dutch band playing something between death metal, progressive rock and easy-listening trip rock… A fine combination, featuring some quite hard-to-follow female vocal melodies as a trade mark.

Recommended album: Nighttime Birds (2000)

Theatre of Tragedy (NOR)

This excellent Norwegian band featuring both male (grunt) and female (soprano) voices has played a number of styles from melodic death metal over gothic to industrial pop-metal and back again. Real multitalents!

Recommended albums: Aégis (1998), Assembly (2002)

Therion (SWE)

A one of a kind Swedish symphonic metal band, most memorable for orchestral elements and using a complete choir in their songs!

Recommended album: Crowning of Atlantis (1999)

Tiamat (SWE)

A true highlight from Sweden, embracing elements from black metal, gothic, progressive rock with athmospheric and psychedelic patterns, an absolute must hear!

Recommended albums: Skeleton Skeletron (1999), Prey (2003)

Tristania (NOR)

Tristania used to be an excellent Norwegian gothic metal band. Their music merged gothic with melodic death metal, symphonic and electronic elements, creating an ocean of musical variety which is a real pleasure to listen to. It’s a pity that they ran out of inspiration at the dawn of the new century.

Recommended album: Beyond the Veil (1999)

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