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God dag, kära damer och herrar! It is time for a new edition of the bisarr blog! You might be wondering why I got so polyglotic all the sudden. Well, because I'll be introducing one more concept for this blog series, the country focused entry. And continuing off of the Scandinavian vibe of the last blog, the first entry will be about none other than the mighty Kingdom of Sweden! Why did I choose them to be first? Well, it's not merely because Spotify itself is a Swedish company. From all my years of exploring the vast musical landscape, I have come to the conclusion that, excluding the really big boys like the US and UK, Sweden has probably the widest and richest variety of music out of any country I can think of. And all of it is high quality! Seriously, name me any genre and I can almost guarantee that there exists at least one Swedish artist that is one of the best representatives of that genre. And I guarantee that no matter what music you like, the land of the three crowns has made its way into your playlists one way or another. So allow me to prove my point to you and show you the rich musical treasures that Konungariket Sverige has blessed us with.
Sweden being as ancient as it is of course has a very old and rich history of traditional folk music that has inspired generations. There is a lot to talk about there, but I would rather focus on modern popular music first to begin our exploration. There are many many Swedish artists that have achieved great commercial success and they need no introduction. ABBA are probably the greatest pop group of all time, their songs are truly timeless and have inspired people across borders and generations. This is some of the best songwriting pop music has ever seen. Besides them, many other Swedish bands like Roxette, Ace of Base, etc. have achieved massive success in decades past, while younger artists like Icona Pop, Robyn, Loreen, Zara Larsson and more have taken to the charts in recent years.
On the topic of pop music, I just have to shed some light on a man called Max Martin. This man is one the best kept secrets of the pop music industry, so while his name might not ring any bells for you, I can guarantee you've heard his music. Because you see, this Swedish gentleman actually has 25 No. 1 hit singles to his name and countless other songs that have made it into the Top 100 charts. These have been songs he wrote and/or produced for the likes of Katy Perry, Maroon 5, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Pink, Backstreet Boys and many more. Quite the selection, no? I don't know how, but this man just has some uncanny talent for writing disgustingly catchy tracks that just appeal to countless people all over the world and just smash every record. And he's been at this for over 20 years now and shows no signs of slowing down!
On the electronic side of things, there are plenty of offerings too. Sweden along with the Netherlands are the biggest powerhouses in the European house and trance scenes. Who can forget the aptly named Swedish House Mafia? Other acts like the enigmatic The Knife bring a more experimental and unique electronic sound. Besides that, countless EDM artists have also made massive names for themselves on a global scale, most notably the late Avicii.
On the rock side of things, Sweden has been a powerhouse since the 70s and many bands have also become internationally known, most notably the legends Europe. This transitioned into heavy metal in the 80s which would explode in popularity across Sweden and all of Scandinavia, with Swedish bands becoming some of the most well known in the entire world. Spooky Satanic rock band Ghost have become a massive sensation and even won a Grammy.
Since the 80s, Sweden has also been competing with Germany for who has the most and the best power metal in the world. Drawing on their long history, Viking heritage, traditional music and love of fairy tales to create amazing fantastical tales with epic musicianship.
And drawing further on that folklore and culture, plenty of awesome folk metal teeming with traditional instruments and ancient myths.
Symphonic metal is not far behind either with grand compositions with vast instrumentation and elevated storytelling. Don't forget gothic and doom metal too, with Candlemass in particular kickstarting doom metal as we know it today.
A big mention has to go to progressive metal. Having an unending number of world class musicians and endless creativity to pull from, Sweden has blessed us with some of the most phenomenal, sophisticated and yet catchy prog ever.
On the more extreme side of prog, the Swedish machines Meshuggah basically invented a whole new style of metal and defined the sound for an entire generation of new bands. And still none of the youngins can reach their level.
On that topic, let's talk about death metal. There is to this day an ongoing debate on whether death metal first originated in Sweden or the United States. While I lean more towards the US being first, the contributions of Swedish bands cannot be understated and they helped define the sound of death metal the world over. The Swedish bands also, while still fans of gore and horror, tend towards a more dark and atmospheric sound than their partners across the pond.
If that wasn't enough, Sweden most certainly spawned the most popular offshoot of this genre - melodic death metal. Inspired by the dual guitars of Iron Maiden, many Swedish bands brought melodic guitar riffs, some clean vocals and catchy song structures to death metal and brought it to the masses. This sound was born out of Gothenburg and this type of classic melodeath is to this day still referred to as the "Gotherburg sound". Modern metal wouldn't be the same without this movement.
And from death metal, we must talk about black metal. After the genre was christened and first conceived by the Englishmen Venom, it was the musical messiah Quorthon and his band Bathory that created the black metal sound. While they reinvented themselves into other Viking-driven styles later, their old black metal sound is emblematic to this day.
To this day, some of the best and most successful black metal bands in the world hail from the Kingdom of Three Crowns!
Is this enough variety for you? Well, the Swedes aren't done yet because you can even find some wild, off-the-wall groups that do their own thing. Like the pop metal works of Amaranthe or Solence. Or the aggresive metallized punk of Raised Fist. Or for a wackier example the pirate sea shanty folk group Ye Banished Privateers, who perform old Irish and English folk songs and new original compositions in the same style. With their accents, appearance and style, you'd think they'd come from Dublin, Cork, Belfast or Blackpool. But no. Umeå, Sweden. Who would've thought?
Oh, also Caramelldansen is a Swedish creation too. Take of that what you will.
Right, did I prove my point about the unending variety of Swedish music? I think I did. It's impressive what a microcosm of music this relatively small country is and what a monumental influence on the music of the world and the world of music they have had. And there is so much more I couldn't cover. In my opinion, with so much musical heritage, it's no surprise that Spotify was born in Sweden, it just feels right. So let's explore their music more, together! And let my playlist be your starting point. Tack och ha en trevlig dag!