Monday, February 20, 2012

Thank You Daniel Ekeroth: Sweden's Thrash Movement

Sweden had a small thrash movement? You didn't know that? Me, neither.

Thanks to Swedish Death Metal (by Daniel Ekeroth--HIGHLY recommended for the wealth of information, just FYI), which loosely prefaces the history of Swedish death metal with relevant thrash bands, I'm digging into a few obscure acts. But let's be realistic here: Sweden's metal scene didn't effectively take off until the early nineties. Thrash metal groups like Hatred were scattered here and there--typically influenced by American and other European bands--but never in great quantity. On behalf of reports from youngsters of the period, it was not "cool" to be a metalhead in Sweden. A shame really. All that talent lost.

Luckily for us, we have remnants of these highly-creative bands in the form of numerous demos and EPs. I haven't come close to scratching the surface of Sweden's mini-thrash scene, but I've given Damien and Mefisto's discographies a run through or two, as well as one of Hatred's demos. First listens of all three leave me impressed because, despite what elitists will say, they're entirely comparable to what was going on in the United States, Germany, and other European countries.

DAMIEN

The first, an orthodox thrash band called Damien, formed in 1982, releasing four demos and one EP over the course of six years before breaking up. Theoretically, their last release, Requiem for the Dead, should have gotten the band worldwide exposure or, at the very least, something outside of Sweden. But as far as I can tell, that didn't happen and led to their demise in '88. I'm assuming the band didn't have a dedicated budget for recording, but Reqiuem for the Dead sounds positively pro when placed with their demos--heavy, thick slabs of guitar and nice, balanced production values. It's surprising given the circumstances, but all the more intriguing when looking into this time period's mysterious releases.

Discography:

1986 - Onslaught without Mercy (Demo)
1986 - Hammer of the Gods (Demo)
1987 - Chapter One (Demo)
1988 - Chapter II (Demo)
1988 - Requiem for the Dead (EP)



HATRED

The next, Hatred, seem pretty dang generic, if only because of their name (Metal Archives has about 20 bands named Hatred listed. WOW!). In reality, their music is actually quite special, a cornerstone in Sweden's musical development. Ekeroth hails the act's second demo, Welcome to Reality, as one of the best thrash releases during Sweden's identity crisis, and while I can't back him yet due to my limited exposure to these obscure bands, I'm inclined to agree because it is as enjoyable as any quality eighties thrash record. All four tracks clock in at over five minutes--one nearly at seven--so this isn't the normal thrasher-basher and instead a collection of carefully-composed songs. At this point it's still sinking in, but definitely worth a listen because of its historical significance. Might be fun to one-up your friends with your musical obscurity, too.

Discography:

1987 - Winds of Doom (Demo)
1989 - Welcome to Reality (Demo)
1989 - Hatred (Demo)
1990 - The Forthcoming Fall  (Demo)


MEFISTO

I'll take a shot in the dark with this one. According to my research, Mefisto was singlehandedly the most important extreme Swedish metal band because they not only predated the scene, but inspired countless bands that followed. Their music generally borders thrash metal, with short stints of speed metal, but some call it an early variation of black metal, something I'm not exactly sure I'm onboard with. Both demos are comparable to very early Sodom--a staple in influencing black metal--so I see the comparison, although I'm adamant on my stance. Whatever the case may be, each release absolutely kicks and deserve a place in your collection.

Discography:

1986 - Megalomania (Demo)
1986 - The Puzzle (Demo)


So, there you have it: three excellent and unknown bands from Sweden's small thrash movement. I'll let you get to discovering new treasures, but as you listen, acknowledge that you're keeping these bands alive in an age when they would otherwise be forgotten, swept into the depths of time.

-TMA

13 comments:

  1. Sweden still HAS a thrash movement. Check out FKU.
    http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/tag/fku/

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    1. Ah, yes, F.K.Ü. I did a post on them early on in my blogging career, but they always seem to slip my mind. It's interesting because they formed in '87, right in the midst of this, but never released anything until the very late '90s. Thanks for the reminder, Al!

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  2. Don't forget the young bands grow Sweden, Raging Steel, Entrench and Antichrist for examples of band who released great debut album this last two years.

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    1. Thanks! I'll surely get around to checking those out soon.

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  3. Yeah, Sweden had a small thrash metal scene. Big news. Mefisto was not that important. Bands like Bathory, Maninnya Blade and Agony had more influence. It was cool to be a metalhead in Sweden. I´m just sick and tired of people doing their own mindtrips and rewriting what the scene was. According to Ekeroth he wishes that it more or less came out of HC which he himself likes, but that is hardly the truth. Just as Death Metal bands pretended they never listened to thrash like Metallica... Now bands noone cared for are with the aid of internet helping themselves to grandeur. Air, it is all air.
    Anyway, Damien and Hatred are good picks for thrash. Mefisto was more a wannabe Venom band, complete with top hat just like Cronos in the "nightmare" video... Pathetic.
    Mind you there was Mezzrow, Ice Age, Epidemic, Hexenhaus, Raving Mad, Midas Touch, Meshuggah, God B.C., Hysteriáh, Tribulation etc. Scene and scene. What the hell does everyone want?

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Anon. I take it you're not a fan of Ekeroth?

      If you come back and see my comment, please send me an email, as I'm interested in hearing more of what you have to say. It's almost as if you lived in the period!

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  4. I have nothing against the guy. Don´t know him, but I read the book and his view is his and I don´t share it entirely. Yes, I lived in the 80`s... Interested in what I have to say? I´m not...
    The only thing I can add from this was that the thrash scene was smaller than the death metal trendy scene and that most swedish bands was horrible. There is a lot of bands that made demotapes and are never mentioned for some reason. That would be my input. Live it.

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    1. Well, it's certainly interesting to see an alternative viewpoint on the scene. Most everything you see posted about the early movement in Sweden is very positive.

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    2. Of course. The people in those bands write good shit about themselves and their friends. Very strange.
      Tell me that Kazjurol "Stagedive to hell" is good. Or that the first Hexenhaus album can be compared with Vio-lence or Forbidden? Might be charming, but good? You have to compare with american bands, because thrash and death metal, as I see it, is after all american music.

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    3. What do you think of what is arguably a Swedish adaptation of death metal (through sound) with razor blade guitar tones and similar themes?

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    4. And I return... The adaption or maybe the adoption is mainly from the band Death. (People may deny it and point to Possessed or whatever, but let´s get real here.)
      The Sunlight-sound was a fluke, a stroke of good luck. The Gothenburg-sound is that swarming bee-thing... It´s not very interisting if you ask me. When the DM bands started to freak out and everyone got bored of the zero amount of progression then it was interesting for about 6 months. I´m more interested in Thrash after all, even though Sweden had like five decent bands. Let me ask you something: How come a lot of these people that had these teenage bands haven´t grown up yet? I´ll name the really silly band F.K.U. that are mentioned above, probably by themselves, sitting and making something "happen" after midnight. Why do they think that ripping Exodus, S.O.D. and other happy thrash is artistic? Do they? Why do these people carry on? They sell nothing and produce just garbage. 25 years ago is today? Answer me!

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  5. This Anonymous guy know his stuff. Why they carry on after 25 years. They find nothing better to do. Its sad.
    He missed Destiny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiySgFQhkZA

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    1. Even you should know that thrash is a very limited subgenre of metal--there are really only a few bands today (like Vektor) pushing the boundaries. There's only so much you can do before it morphs into something entirely different.

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