An Unexpected Introduction to Swedish Metal
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Metalheads listen to a lot of bands. Seriously. A lot. In most cases, they didn't discover every single one of those bands on their own. They might have been introduced to some of those bands through a friend. Some of those bands might have been the opening band for another band that they were waiting to see. And in other cases, it might have been purely cosmetic - perhaps those bands had a catchy album cover or cool promo photo. Regardless of the manner that we discovered them, we often remember the who, the when, and the how of finding those bands.
In some cases, the metalhead who introduces one band to another has no idea of the effect that it will ultimately have on the other metalhead.
I can still remember a time back in the early 2000s when I was working for a major music instrument retailer in Rockville, Maryland. I was managing the guitar department at the time and there was a guy named Pat who worked behind the accessories counter. We never really talked too much. I was a long-haired, manager-by-day-musician-by-night guy and he was a clean-cut, quiet guy who showed up, worked hard, and left. One evening as the store was closing up, he and I got to talking and realized that we were both metalheads. We had a great conversation and as we were walking out to the parking lot, he reached in his car, grabbed a CD, and told me to check it out.
I listened to it in the car on the way home and my mind just opened up with the new sonic universe that it presented. The songs were laden with tasty guitar riffs and melodic solos! In the post-nu-metal years, it took time before guitar solos made a triumphant return so this was a very big deal to me as a guitar player. The rhythm was solid, chunky, and aggressive - what metal should sound like. The vocals were a combination of melody and screaming that reminded me of Fear Factory but there was something about the way that this guy sang that was different. And, much to my surprise, there were keyboards! Yes, keyboards in metal! And they sounded great!
I brought the CD back to work the next day and thanked him. Then, after work, I stopped at Tower Records, purchased it, and proceeded to listen to it non-stop for what felt like months. I ended up leaving the job a few weeks later so I never had a chance to tell Pat the effect that it had on me. But the story reminds me of the importance of community in metal. It just takes one recommendation and someone might have never ever discovered a certain band can suddenly be gifted with a new sound that goes on to influence what they listen to for years to come. In my case, this band would open my ears to the sound of metalcore and remains one of my favorites.
The album was "Natural Born Chaos" and the band was a relatively newer band from Sweden called, Soilwork.
So, how much do I like these guys? Enough to schedule an overseas work trip to overlap with their concert! In 2017, they were planning a short Scandinavian tour in November. This tour would take them through Malmo, Sweden. I was General Counsel for a company that was based in Copenhagen, Denmark which was a 30-minute train ride from Malmo. I had to travel there several times a year so I made certain that my November trip would overlap with the Malmo show. Everything worked out and I had a chance to check out one of my favorite metal bands in their home country.
Once again, metal had a direct influence on my profession!
Soilwork on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7wqP36o9lqWteOCxBnXlwx
(My top five are: "No More Angels," "The Crestfallen," "Cranking the Sirens," "Stalfagel," and "The Living Infinite I")