In the words of Niklas Kvarforth: “… there’s something really wicked going on, which I think many of the Swedish people are responsible for. And thank God for that!” Sweden has given the world some of the greatest black metal bands of all time.
Where would music be today without the contributions of Bathory and the almighty Dissection?! Anyone who doesn’t love Nifelheim and Abruptum justifies the existence of Gehennah’s song “Beat That Poser Down.” Speaking of what’s “True,” there has never been a frontman more poser-averse than the late Per Yngve “Pelle” Ohlin, a.k.a. “Dead,” who famously relocated to Norway to join Mayhem. The young Swede will always be remembered as black metal’s most important muse.
If you are looking for more quality music that doesn’t exactly sell like Watain, you will love Dimhymn, Omnizide, Nephenzy Chaos Order, Avsky, Grafvitnir, Cardinal Sin, IXXI, Angst, Lifvsleda, Mortuus, and the highly influential Ofermod. The genre-fusing Swordmaster (pre-Deathstars) is tons of nostalgic fun as well. If you like your metal raw and sleazy, we suggest that you get down and dirty with *Hammerfuck *(2001) — the lone EP by a band called Latex, which featured two Lord Belial members.
Before you delve into those recommendations, however, enjoy our main list of Swedish bands that deserve more appreciation! As exceptional, and in some cases classic, as these groups are, the sad truth is that your average metal fan is more likely to have heard about “Lord Ahriman corpse paint soap” than any of their records. Our picks include some seriously sinister Satanists, practitioners of dark magic, and the kind of eccentrics you will just have to hear to believe. Get ready for “Blood Fire Death!”
This band of outlaws was founded in Stockholm in 2004. It might come as a surprise that the major American label Metal Blades Records signed Valkyrja for their sophomore album, Contamination (2010). Valkyrja has since moved on and has completed four full-length albums to date. On their latest effort, Throne Ablaze (2018), guitarist Simon Wizén took over on vocals. Valkyrja’s lyrics on Throne Ablaze are more existential than in the past. Whereas personal spirituality often plays an important role in the writing process for BM bands, the freethinking Wizén is not religious. Therefore, he has stated that he does not feel the need to label himself in order to fit in with any group.
“Only True Believers” should be permitted to listen to this ridiculously awesome act! Armagedda was founded in 1999 as Volkermord and was rechristened the following year. Are you ready for some “Poetry from a Poisoned Mind”?! The sentiments expressed in much of Armagedda’s material are all too relatable to us curmudgeons of the world: “I don’t like the modern humans. I don’t care if some of them dies. I’m not happy to see your ugly face. As long as you’re alive.” Yet, the mostly Swedish lyrics that come after their second album are on another level.
Although Armagedda disbanded in 2004, they eventually regrouped and blessed the world with Svindeldjup ättestup in 2020. In some ways, this gem follows the natural course of progression represented by* Ond Spiritism: Djæfvvlens Skalder Anno Serpenti MMIV *(2004): The first track after the instrumental intro even bears the title “Ond Spiritism.” Nevertheless, if you have only heard Armagedda’s early work, you will definitely be surprised. Even the vocals on *Svindeldjup ättestup *are reminiscent of those belonging to some avant-garde BM releases. Whereas some of Armagedda’s previous material struck the perfect balance between amusing and evil, this record is no laughing matter. It is not as raw as what we have come to expect from Armagedda, whose style has evolved into something more mature but no less appealing. Just give it a chance!
Armagedda’s resurrection is quite remarkable considering the struggles of Graav, who currently makes up half of this outfit. In a long saga, he became involved in Sweden’s largest drug distribution scheme. The brave existentialist made the decision to run away, however, before his trial. Graav has not only survived jail time, but he has also survived the white light revelation of Jesus Christ, or at least that’s what he believes. Explore some of Graav’s other bands like Ehlder, Lik, and the defunct Lönndom, which was a collaboration with Armagedda’s Andreas Petterson! You won’t be sorry.
From Stockholm with hate?! This savage band, whose name means “created of evil,” has been spreading Satanism since 2000. The vast majority of Ondskapt’s songs are in English, which helps them convey their message to a broader audience. Ondskapt very briefly featured Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth, who released their debut EP, Slave Under His Immortal Will (2001), and first album, Draco Sit Mihi Dux (2003), through his defunct label, Selbstmord Services. Lifelover’s late co-founder, Jonas Bergqvist, “Nattdal” / “B,” was also a member. Similarly, Lifelover’s surviving co-founder, Kim Carlsson, “( ),” has participated in live performances with Ondskapt.
Although you will not find the named geniuses on any of Ondskapt’s records, that’s quite alright given the list of other talented musicians who have also been a part of this outfit. For example, ex-Ondskapt’s “Wredhe,” Fredric Gråby, recorded quite a bit with Shining. He appears on releases like the iconic V / Halmstad (2007). Joel “Megiddo” Lindholm, one of Ondskapt’s two current guitarists, is yet another former Shining member. He plays in Marduk and In Aeternum among other bands.
If you love elitist BM bands that think that keyboards defile the subgenre, Craft shares your philosophy! This bestial entity refuses to compromise. Craft was formed in 1994 as Nocta, but they wish that you would just forget that they ever bore another name. After all, that was before the release of their first demo, Total Eclipse (1999). Craft’s members were inspired to make music after hearing Burzum. Darkthrone also set the band down the right path.
Like Ondskapt, Craft was formerly signed to the now closed Selbstmord Services. After five blasphemous albums — Total Soul Rape (2000),* Terror Propaganda (Second Black Metal Attack) *(2002), *Fuck the Universe *(2005), Void (2011), and *White Noise and Black Metal* (2018) — we can’t wait to see what these misanthropic “Thorns in the Planet’s Side” will prepare next. Hopefully, these anti-cosmic musical terrorists will finally bring “Death to Planet Earth.” Craft uses the diabolical English language as their means of communicating feelings of “undiscriminating hate.” “Succumb to Sin” and submit to Craft.
Formed in 1993, Sorhin has only completed two albums, I det glimrande mörkrets djup (1997) and* Apokalypsens ängel *(2000). Both of these efforts were recorded at Peter Tägtgren’s Abyss studio, where Sorhin has worked on other releases as well. Sorhinn’s first EP, *Skogsgriftens rike *(1996), and debut album, *I det glimrande mörkrets djup* (1997), were produced by Peter, who has collaborated with the next three bands on this list.
Apparently, vocalist Nattfursth tortured himself with a plier wrench when making Sorhin’s first demo, Svarta själars vandring (1993). Although Sorhin has not published new material since 2002, the group has never officially called it quits, as vocalist Nattfursth confirmed in an interview with* Bardo Methodology* a few years back. Sorhin has more material that really ought to be brought into the light of Lucifer and the general public.
R.I.P. the anti-cosmic Arckanum. This highly influential project emerged in the early ’90s but called it quits in 2018. Yet, Arckanum’s final EP, Första trulen dropped in 2019. The band’s mastermind, Shamaatae, stated that he planned to focus more on his spiritual life, which is intertwined with his ambitions as an already published author. After Arckanum’s second demo in 1993, the trio morphed into a one-man band. That is not to say, however, that he did not enlist the help of guest artists like ex-Dissection’s Set Teitan. Shamaatae finished nine albums under the Arckanum moniker. To make Arckanum’s releases look brutal, Shamaatae has repeatedly collaborated with cover artist Chadwick St. John who illustrated Darkthrone’s Old Star (2019).
Shamaatae incorporated his love for Norse mythology and Chaos Gnosticism into his work. He is a worshipper of Pan and a practitioner of black music. You would be hard-pressed to find another band with such quirky beliefs. It is also important to note that Shamaatae studied runes in order to improve his ability to perform in the bygone language of his forebears.
Before founding Arckanum, Shamaatae was a member of Conquest/Grotesque. His bandmate Tomas Lindberg and Alf Svensson, who joined after Shamaatae left, famously went on to form At the Gates. Shamaatae also started a band called Absorption/Disenterment with his brother Sartaros, who was initially involved with Arckanum and returned as a guest. Among Shamaatae’s other musical accomplishments are his drums on Sorhin’s second demo. You can chill out while subconsciously absorbing wisdom from his ambient project Ljotan if you dare.
The devilish Setherial was formed in 1993 and soon caused a splash of fire and ice with their debut album, *Nord… *(1996), which was released by Napalm Records. Their first demo, A Hail to the Faceless Angels (1994), and their earliest EP, *För dem mitt blod *(1995), will also take your breath away and leave you blue in the face. Thank Beelzebub that Setherial has cursed us with six wicked albums.
Setherial has not released anything since their mind-blowing two-song EP *Firestorms *(2013), which actually features leftover material from 2009. Nevertheless, we hope that this beastly outfit will raise its head above water again sometime soon. We can only pray that Setherial is as still alive and as sick as ever. “With Veins Wide Open,” we pray for more “gospels of inhumanity.”
Triumphator was conceived in 1995 and unveiled their only album, Wings of Antichrist, four years later. This glorious record was produced by Peter Tägtgren. Triumphator has not unleashed any new content since that time. Although many believe Triumphator to be dead, we wouldn’t be so sure. Triumphator broke up after “Deathfucker,” Marcus Tena, was arrested. Now that Tena is out of jail, a resurrection may be possible.
Since his release, Marcus Tena has reopened his label, Shadow Records. (He previously ran a record store by the same name.) In 2019, Tena re-released two songs from Wings of Antichrist on a split called Black Metal Terror that showcases bands like Watain. Through Shadow Records, Tena has worked with some of the groups mentioned here today. Not only was Marduk one of his clients in the ’90s, but Marduk’s Morgan “Evil” Håkansson was among the guest lyricists on Wings of Antichrist. If Triumphator manages to make a comeback, we would like “Arioch” / “Mortuus,” Daniel Rostén, of Marduk and Funeral Mist (another former client of Tena’s) to continue to front the band and provide guitars.
Diabolicum epitomizes misanthropy: “Oh, disciples of the lying whore, what was the deceiving love compared with the grandeur of hate?! … Oh, vermin of the loving god, what was the feeble life compared with the glory of death?!” Diabolicum’s brilliant hate manifesto of a sophomore album, The Dark Blood Rising (The Hatecrowned Retaliation) (2001), contains so many other thought-provoking statements: “It is madness to suppose that one owes anything to one’s mother. Should we be expected to show gratitude toward her just because she had some fun one night fucking?! What she felt should be enough reward for her.” This masterpiece ends with the following words: “There is no forgiveness unless blood is shed.” Dissection’s late mastermind, Jon Nödtveidt, and Watain’s Erik Danielsson both contributed killer lyrics to this effort. The Dark Blood Rising boasts several special guest musicians as well.
This refreshing industrial metal band will help you break free of the feeling of monotony that often accompanies listening to too much modern metal. Diabolicum has been encouraging listeners to “abandon all hope and compassion” for over two decades, almost three if you count the time they spent working under the name Imperial. Unfortunately, Diabolicum remained dormant for years until the release of their third and latest album, Ia Pazuzu (The Abyss of the Shadows) (2015). The generous Niklas Kvarforth offered his services in the studio after learning that the band needed a vocalist. His talent is unsurpassed. Ia Pazuza’s sixth track, “The Abyss of the Shadows,” however, features Carl Warslaughter, who has become the group’s new frontman.
Although Diabolicum’s releases are always inventive, this experimental record still managed to catch us off guard. The title track, which is also the album’s finale, is meant to give the impression of black waves enveloping land and all of creation, as guitarist Sasrof told Metallus. “Ia Pazuzu” is not at all unlike “Her Divine Hatred (Tiamat)” from Diabolicum’s debut, *The Grandeur of Hell (Soli Satanae Glorium) *(1999). The techno interlude that you will hear during Ia Pazuzu’s “Genocide Bliss” was created by Aborym’s Malfeitor Fabban. Adding electronic elements to black metal does not always result in particularly good music, except when done by the very best like Beherit. The results are often polarizing. Yet, Diabolicum pulls this off beautifully! Diabolicum remains brutal and true. We could call Diabolicum’s music war metal, but that’s an overused term. Sit back and feel the sonic bullets piercing your skin.
Pure Kvarforthian black energy:
The Grandeur of Hell (Soli Satanae Glorium)-era Diabolicum, showcasing their original vocalist, Tommy “Bloodblood” Dahlström:
Avslut is 21st-century black metal without any gimmicks. The band has translated their name as “Ending,” but it can also mean “contract,” “bargain,” “deal,” or “balancing” (in the sense of one’s accounts). Formed in 2016, this Stockholm-based crew will eat away at your sanity like a syndrome. So far, Avslut has unleashed a couple of Swedish-language albums, Deceptis (2018) and Tyranni (2019), and the same number of EPs.
In 2019, Avslut reissued their second EP, *Förslavad *(2018), as a split with Nordjevel’s Krigsmakt (2017). Nordjevel may be from Norway, but they have only hit the studio with Swedish drummers, first ex-Marduk’s Fredrik Widigs and now ex-Dark Funeral’s Dominator. Get ready for Avslut’s amazing brothers to rock us yet again this autumn with their upcoming album, *Gnavhòl *(2022)!