Much like headliners Amon Amarth, Swedish metal may as well be a genre all on it's own. The branches of that tree are as twisted and interconnected as other metal genres. Swedish death metal in particular has a rich history that can be split into two distinct scenes. Many Stockholm bands favor the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal guitar pedal with all the controls maxed out. A trick so common it's often referred to as the 'Swedish Chainsaw'.
One band that's separate from the Stockholm death metal sound if not the scene is Grand Magus. Not a band I know well, but I'd immediately recognize the voice of JB Christoffersson from his time in Spiritual Beggars. A band that caught my attention being another project of one of my favorite guitarist Michael Amott. JB is joined by the other two men in this threeway - bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig Witt (Spiritual Beggars).
If there's one band from the show that I'd feel comfortable recommending to anyone looking for kick-ass classic metal it's Grand Magus. The rest of the bill is melodic death metal. So, if the vocals of the other bands is going to bother you. Check out Grand Magus.
Grand Magus' ninth full-length record 'Wolf God' was released April of this year.
I've spoken some about the Gothenburg sound when writing about In Flames. However now is good time to roll the clock back to 1995 and talk about two albums in particular. Carcass' 'Heartwork' and At The Gates' 'Slaughter of the Soul' brought melodic death metal into the spotlight. In my own opinion both easily take spots in my top ten albums. However both bands would both be broken up by the following year.
Spoiler Alert: both bands would reunite over ten years later.
At the Gates.
Before then I discovered them myself by looking into the careers of various musicians that had been in Cradle Of Filth. In searching through Adrian Erlandsson I would search out two of his previous bands that caught my eye; The Haunted and At The Gates.
One thing I came to find out very quickly is that a lot of artists and press people talk about the impact made by At The Gates. Many credit it as one of the biggest influences on metalcore and the New Wave of American Metal. Upon listening to 'Slaughter of the Soul' myself it lived up to every high exception I had for it. Like most of the Gothenburg scene, they skew the prototypical death metal riffing and lyrical content for a major focus on writing catchy yet brutal riffs and melodies; while the lyrics often delve into topic of a more personal or cerebral nature.
God-fucking-dammit just like Emperor, Carcass, and Acid Bath; all of these new favorite bands of mine they were done for - forever.
Just kidding... well except for Acid Bath.
At The Gates has since released two new albums. This was the first time I had the chance to see them live. Well worth the wait and such a great set list. It's worth pointing out the crowd was as into their new songs as they were for the tracks from their masterpiece.
Early in At The Gates' set Daniel Erlandsson could be seen filming his brother Adrian play his drum set. This brings to mind that this may be the first time the two brothers might have been on tour together since Adrian's time with Cradle Of Filth.
At The Gates' sixth studio album 'To Drink From The Night Itself' was released last year and it's a grand time I tell you.
After leaving Carcass, guitarist Michael Amott was approached by Japanese record label Toy Factory; not for his classic metal project Spiritual Beggars but with a request for a new band in the styling of Carcass. Not looking a gift record deal in the mouth, Arch Enemy would form and release their first record "Black Earth" in 1996.
He'd be joined by brother Chistopher Amott on guitars, Johan Liiva playing bass and lead vocals and lastly Daniel Erlansson. Sharlee D'Angelo would take up bass duties in 1999. A couple of years ago, this line-up came together as Black Earth to do a Japanese tour playing songs from their three first albums.
Angela Gossow would replace Johan in 2000 and brought a more brutal death metal vocal style. Nowadays she's made her gig as the band' manager full-time job and was replaced by Alissa White-Gluz (ex-The Agonist). Something I didn't know until I picking up 'War Eternal' and immediately reconized Alissa's voice. Something I find really cool with her joining Arch Enemy is that I feel she has the brutality of Angela and dynamics of Johan on 'Burning Bridges'.
By this time Chistopher Amott had left the band for a second time. Shortly after the release of 'War Eternal' guitar god Jeff Loomis would join Arch Enemy on a permanent basis.
Michael Amott has remained one of my favorite guitarist. So much so when I finally started making my own money one of the first things I saved up for was Michael Amott's old signature guitar an ESP ltd Ninja-600 in black. Named her Yuffie after another ninja.
Over the years Stockholm's Amon Amarth has been criticized for their lyrical content. Not for the usual reasons you're thinking of. Instead the concern was that vocalist Johan Hegg run out of subjects to write about. Amon Amarth draws from norse mythology and viking history for musical and lyrical inspiration. Twenty-seven years later they're going stronger than ever.
The height of my love for this band was 2006's 'With Oden on Our Side'; but they really began blowing up with the 2008 follow-up 'Twilight of the Thunder God'. Now considered originators of the viking metal sub-genre those aforementioned criticisms sound a bit ridiculous now.
Their stage show is one of the most solid for an extreme metal band coming from overseas. You'll see in the pictures I'm certain, but the crazy viking helmet drum riser and the giant skeletal Loki was a real treat for someone like me who frequents these metal shows more than anything.
All in all this may have upstaged Gigantour 2 (2006) for my favorite lineup for any single metal show. Though that may be due to my love for Swedish metal.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by Christina Rosenfeld for ZRockR Magazine, All Rights Reserved.