It’s an accepted fact that Scandinavia is the undisputed kings of heavy metal. From the blackened horror of the Norwegian scene, to the sleazy and Melo death offered by the Finns, and further to the post-rock leanings of bands from Iceland, each country boasts a plethora of great heavy acts with a distinctly northern flavour.
It’s in the fjords of Sweden however that the best of anything and everything heavy and loud can be found. Ahead of a run of dates by proggy natives Opeth, we felt the time was right to cast our eye over 10 of the best heavy acts to emerge from Sweden. Get those horns in the air!
The cream of the crop for this list, as far as we are concerned, Opeth continues to push the limits of heavy and progressive music, making them one of the most exciting acts in the world, let alone in Scandinavia.
With a black metal phase kicking off their career, the band explored the fusion of death metal and folk music over the course of 20 wonderful years, including a six album partnership working with Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson, before going full jazz/prog rock in 2011 on the controversial but no-less brilliant Heritage.
With two distinct chapters in their history, the aforementioned Heritage and progressive metal triumph Blackwater Park can’t be missed. Catch them on tour next month!
Check out Opeth’s ‘Windowpane’:
The undisputed emperors of Viking Metal, these Swedish icons have carried on the legacy of their medieval ancestors, albeit via riffs and double kicks as opposed to pillaging and aimless slaughter.
Historically a little predictable for some, the group stepped it up ten-fold on this year’s album Berserker, honing their death metal sound to include that extra bit of punch. Headlining festivals and filling arenas, these lads are unstoppable, and for good reason.
Check out Amon Amarth’s ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’:
At The Gates
For many, At The Gates signified the birth of the metalcore genre, with this melodic death act fusing in hardcore elements to their sound, as well as the odd hammer-on here and there that would later be lapped up by the likes of Heaven Shall Burn and Killswitch Engage.
1995’s Slaughter Of The Soul is considered a game-changer for the genre, so get yourself educated.
Check out At The Gates’ ‘Blinded By Fear’:
Truth be told, this group now consists of an American and a Canadian, but historically the band has its roots in Scandinavia, starting out as a supergroup featuring members of Carcass, Carnage, and Spiritual Beggars.
It was in the mid noughties however that the band found themselves on the map, with then front-woman Angela Gossow becoming one of the most fearsome voices in ’00s metal. The group is still touring relentlessly and well worth your time.
Check out Arch Enemy’s ‘Blood On Your Hands’:
While death metal was making gruesome waves on the east coast of the US in the late ’80s, Swedish grind-masters Entombed were proudly repping the camo shorts in the arctic circle.
Referred to as one of the ‘big four’ of Swedish death metal, alongside Dismember, Grave, and Unleashed, it’s hard not to go past the riff-fest masterwork of Left Hand Path, a must-have for any death metal fanatic.
Check out Entombed’s ‘Left Hand Path’:
In Flames are so big that they made it onto the Guitar Hero III soundtrack with their 2005 metalcore classic ‘Take This Life’. Another band that laid the blueprint of metalcore, In Flames didn’t just pioneer the ideas, they transformed them into world domination with the one-two of albums Come Clarity and A Sense Of Purpose – both dropping in the mid-’00s.
They may not have the same influence today, but they carried the torch for a generation of long-haired Swedish music fans who had a taste for the skinny jeans as well as the unreadable logos.
Check out In Flames’ ‘Take This Life’:
One of the more left-field picks on this list, Katatonia might not be a household name but they’ve racked up an eye-watering musical back catalogue of artfully composed progressive, doom, and heavy metal.
Propelled by the creative fuel of founding members Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom (both also of supergroup Bloodbath), the band has toured with the likes of The Devin Townsend Project, Moonspell, and Alcest among others, whilst bringing their dark sounds to all the major festival stages around the world.
Give Dead End Kings a spin for the perfect entry point for this group of Swedish legends.
Check out Katatonia’s ‘Lethean’:
You know that genre called ‘djent’ that single-handedly took over the metal world at the start of the decade and changed the heavy musical landscape?
That can pretty much entirely be attributed to the talents of this group of gnarly Swedish musicians, who combine death metal with odd-time signatures, progressive song structures and all manner of polyrhythms you could think of with seamless ease.
Their biggest hit ‘Bleed’ has become a benchmark for heavy drumming, whilst other metal standards ‘New Millennium’, ‘Cyanide Christ’, and ‘Clockworks’ have battered their way into the essential metal cannon. A must-listen for any fan of technically inclined heavy music.
Check out Meshuggah’s ‘Bleed’:
Pain Of Salvation
Another outlier in the list, Pain Of Salvation certainly isn’t the biggest progressive export to come out of the Northern Winter, but they exude a quality that made it impossible to exclude them from this list.
Combining masterful song arrangements with heartbreaking lyrics, soaring vocals, and an incredible dynamic range, Pain Of Salvation are a hidden gem that are worth bragging to your mates about. Remedy Lane is the entry point here.
Check out Pain Of Salvation’s ‘Undertow’:
What’s European metal without a bit of war-themed power metal, eh? Sabaton might look and sound like Warhammer fanatics, but it’s hard to look past their powerfully heavy sound, rooted in 20th-century warfare themes, and their dazzling live show, awash with fire, explosions and all the power screams you dragon slayers could possibly muster.
Their latest record, The Great War, has been making some serious waves this year. Turn it up and wail your heart out.
Check out Sabaton’s ‘The Last Stand’:
Opeth Australian Tour Dates
Tuesday, December 10th
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, SA
Wednesday, December 11th
Astor Theatre, Perth, WA
Friday, December 13th
Palais Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday, December 14th
State Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Sunday, December 15th (Sold Out)
Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane, QLD