A Selective Discography of Scandinavian Heavy Metal Music

By Freeborn, Robert | Notes, June 2010 | Go to article overview

A Selective Discography of Scandinavian Heavy Metal Music


Freeborn, Robert, Notes


Since its emergence in the United States and United Kingdom in the late 1960s, heavy metal music has spread to all corners of the globe. From Brazil (Sepultura) to Bali (Eternal Madness) to Bahrain (Dhul-Qarnayn), this hard-edged musical style has firmly established itself in practically every country in the world. One region that adopted heavy metal particularly early on was Scandinavia. Not only have these countries and regions contributed numerous metal artists, but also several genres and sub-genres. This discography highlights some of the more famous (and infamous) bands to have come from the frozen north.

BACKGROUND

Heavy metal as a genre had its origins in the hard rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They distinguished themselves from mainstream rock and roll through the extensive use of amplified feedback and distortion coupled with guitar power chords (normally comprised of open fifths), and aggressive bass guitar and percussion lines. While bands such as Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, and the MC5 have been regarded by some as originators of the genre, three bands are widely considered to be the godfathers of heavy metal: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath set the mood through its use of an unusually raw guitar tone, dark and sometimes mystical lyrics, and even darker album-art imagery. The opening track on the band's self-titled debut album begins with the soft sound of falling rain and tolling bells before bursting forth with an eerie tritone passage from Tony Iommi's down-tuned guitar. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, both exerted a tremendous sonic influence on the nascent metal scene with a soaring, almost operatic vocal style combined with dauntingly technical instrumental parts. In the song "Highway Star," Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore and organist Jon Lord produced solos reminiscent of passages from baroque concertos.

After Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, the first wave of specifically identifiable heavy metal bands began to emerge during the early 1970s. England's Judas Priest and Germany's Scorpions introduced the "twin guitar attack." Whereas more traditional rock bands featured both a rhythm guitar (tasked primarily with playing chords and simple accompaniment lines, and often played by the lead singer), and a lead guitar (responsible for improvised solos and more complex accompaniment), the "twin guitar" approach allowed guitarists to alternate lead and rhythm roles back and forth during a song. Australia's AC/DC gained notoriety for a particularly aggressive combination of high-voltage guitar riffs, driving percussion, and a screaming vocal style on the part of lead singer Bon Scott and, following the latter's death, Brian Johnson. Alice Cooper and KISS became known for their outlandish use of makeup, costumes, and elaborate stage productions that would later exert a tremendous influence on particular heavy metal subgenres.

During the mid- to late-1970s, punk rock arose as a reaction to the slickly-produced and often self-indulgent music being put out by both the mainstream rock and heavy metal communities. Groups like the Misfits, the Ramones, and the Stooges coupled the raw guitar sounds of early Black Sabbath with faster tempos, simpler song structures, and lower production values. At about the same time, the English group Motorhead and its enigmatic front man, Lemmy Kilmister, began incorporating punk influences into its high-energy rock music. Motorhead's influence would later pave the way for the extreme metal genres of "black" and "death" metal. The late 1970s also saw the rise of the American band Van Halen, featuring Eddie Van Halen's phenomenal guitar work which took metal to whole new heights of virtuosity, as well as helping the genre break into the commercial mainstream.

As the 1980s arrived, a new generation of heavy metal bands appeared on the scene. Often dubbed the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" (NWOBHM), groups like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Venom revitalized the aging metal brand and brought it back into the commercial spotlight. …

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