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Swedish Death Metal: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums

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The rules: No Gothenburg melodeath or death n’ roll allowed. Old-school death fuckin’ metal only – nuthin’ after 1994. If you haven’t heard these albums, you need to have a few harsh words with yourself. That is all. Thank you for reading.

Presented in order of release as opposed to any of kind ranking….

Carnage – Dark Recollections (1990) 

Dark Recollections | Carnage

Dark Recollectionsthe only album from Swedish death metal pioneers Carnage, arrived fully formed in 1990…..despite the fact that this rag-tag group of individuals had already broken up by the time the album had clawed its way out of the underworld!

This cult classic had a tortuous existence beset by band members habitually jumping ship but the line-up speaks volumes for its overall calibre. Aside from ever-present guitarist Michael Amott (CarcassArch Enemy), Carnage also boasted Matti Kärki (DismemberTherionGeneral SurgeryCarbonized), Fred Estby (Dismember) and David Blomqvist (DismemberEntombed) in its ranks, resulting in a Swedish death metal supergroup before the genre had even taken hold.

The Dismember connections were incestuous with “Deranged From Blood”, “Death Evocation”, “Blasphemies Of The Flesh” and “Self Dissection” previously appearing on Dismember demos (circa 1988–1989), and yet such pillaging never once threatened the overall cohesion found on Dark Recollections.

A Swedish death metal milestone.

Entombed – Left Hand Path (1990)

ENTOMBED left hand path, CD for sale on osmoseproductions.com

Entombed may have only been in their late teens when they released this seminal work but their youth was no reflection on the game-changing, buzzsaw noise that erupted from their fetid, putrid pool of groove and gore.

Brandishing a guitar-tone that sounded like a chainsaw cutting a swathe through decaying corpses, Entombed initially shouldered the burden of channeling Sweden’s endless pool of creativity and created an instant classic at the very first attempt!

While the influence of anarcho-punk pioneers Discharge can clearly be heard, this was an album that entered the new decade with nothing but nihilism and a new dawn on its mind. D-Beat repetition may have been an inspiration but Entombed were so much more than just mere plagiarists. Each track on Left Hand Path takes on a deathly life of its own, from the thrashing belligerence of “Revel In Flesh“, to the glorious grooves of “When Life Has Ceased” and on to the Satan-summoning “Premature Autopsy” in an exhilarating and enthralling 45 minutes.

The albums piece de resistance though is the eponymous, opening track itself, an epic masterpiece which should be heralded as one of death metal’s most breathtaking songs. It’s not often that a band can harness the entire power of their sound on the opening song of their debut album – Black Sabbath are one of the few to manage it – and “Left Hand Path” is the death metal equivalent of that heavy metal milestone.

Dismember – Like An Everflowing Stream (1991) 

Dismember - "Like an Everflowing Stream" - Decibel Magazine

Often replicated in a fruitless attempt to invoke the same response this primitive beast induced back in 1991, legions of bands are still trying to capture its magic to this very day and, alongside Entombed’s Left Hand PathDismember’s Like An Everflowing Stream is one of the most crucial documents of the pioneering Swedish death metal scene. 

Featuring obligatory down-tuned, ultra-distorted guitar and bass riffs – ably backed by Matti Karki’s feral barks, inhuman gurgles and animalistic roars – Like An Everflowing Stream is the sound of Scandinavian death metal perfected and each and every song on this all-time classic still slays, ably grinding its way into your sub-conscience with each serrated buzzsaw riff.

Essential. Utterly essential.

Also check out: 1993’s Indecent And Obscene is also mandatory!

Entombed – Clandestine (1991)

Entombed - Clandestine - Amazon.com Music

Following up Left Hand Path was never going to be an easy task but Entombed’s sophomore release was arguably heavier and more polished than their own genre-defining debut. Retaining  the crunch and aggression already expected of them, the result was another death metal milestone and one that tuned out to be an absolute riff monster!

With riffing as immensely catchy as it was relentless, Entombed‘s carnal rock fusion indicated that death n’ roll was coming but, at this stage, Clandestine was resolutely death metal in nature. Even the lack of L.G. Petrov’s vocals didn’t dampen Entombed‘s fire, with drummer Nicke Andersson ably filling some very big shoes!

The guitars dominated and with that god-like tone, Entombed’s thrashy/groovy distillation of death metal’s core ingredients offered up a variety of sound that has ensured Clandestine‘s place at the very peak of Swedish death metal’s hierarchy.

As good as Wolverine Blues is we’re dismissing death n’ roll from this list so Entombed‘s admittedly influential album misses out on a place in this list.

Grave – Into The Grave (1991)

Grave – Into The Grave ][ Tremendous Pain + Demo Tracks (2005, CD) - Discogs

Agonisingly aggressive one minute, irresistibly groovy the next, Grave have always been the (relatively) unsung heroes of Swedish death metal’s pioneering generation, despite their initial contributions rivalling the early works of UnleashedEdge Of Sanity and Cemetary!

As pure as they come – and stunningly effective without being labelled ‘simple – Into The Grave‘s ever-undulating, meaty grooves and guttural growls immediately had an impact, with the sheer commitment in which they were delivered indisputable and, often, unrivalled.

“Deformed” and the title track are the acknowledged classics, ably the supplying the well crafted, blue-collar-esque, foundations on which Swedish death metal was built.

Also check outYou’ll Never See… (1992) and Soulless (1994) offer more of the same but are well worth a spin!

Unleashed –Where No Life Dwells (1991)

Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells (1992, CD) - Discogs

Unleashed cannily unleashed the ultimate in hellish groove with their outstanding debut album, Where no Life Dwells, an album that showcased a band whoseskill lay in perfectly alternating speed with an ominous atmosphere and no end of memorably brutal songs. 

Unleashed‘s lyrical focus on Viking culture and folklore wouldn’t be fully realised until 1993’s Across The Open Sea. However, there’s no doubting that, even on their debut, Unleashedsounded like a pack of marauding vikings with “Before The Creation Of Time” and “If They Had Eyes” rampaging their way through your earholes with little to no mercy. 

One of the big four of the Swedish death metal scene for bloody good reason, Where No Life Dwells was just the start for a band who’ve gone on to be the most reliable band in Swedish death metal history!

Also check out: Both Shadows In The Deep (1992) and Across The Open Sea (1993) re strong but, ultimately, inferior versions of their debut.

God Macabre – The Winterlong… (1993) 

God Macabre – The Winterlong... (1993, CD) - Discogs

God Macabre’s only album arrived fully formed in 1993 and, while they never managed to record a follow-up, it is testament to the quality of this obscure gem that we’re still talking about it all these years later.

God Macabre’s reign may have been short but it was decidedly sweet and The Winterlong’s occult horror atmosphere – enriched with a diversity often found wanting in death metal – means this intricate, varied, complex and bold album retains its allure. 

True connoisseurs of death metal know exactly how good this one of a kind album really is….while a welcome surprise awaits the uninitiated!

Hypocrisy – Osculum Obscenum (1993)

<br />Hypocrisy - Osculum Obscenum

Peter Tägtgren’s Hypocrisy were a Swedish anomaly from the start, heavily influenced by the sounds emanating from America (Tägtgren resided in the US in the late 80’s/early 90’s) they delivered a far more focused, technically proficient exercise in barbaric brutality than the majority of their peers. 

Here was the sound of pure evil, with elements of black metal seeping in via Masse Broberg’s unholy screeches and an intermittent use of atmospheric keyboards.

The result was an album that neither nestled alongside those in the Swedish death metal ranks nor the devilish cacophony emanating from the United States (namely Deicide), resulting in its ‘black sheep of the family’ status.

Osculum Obscenum: 36 mins of pure genius. Behold the twisted truth!

Also check out: 1992 debut Penetralia which gave more than just a hint of the genius to come.

Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence (1993)

Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence (CD) - Discogs

Breathing putrid air since 1989, Necrophobic have diligently toiled away as Swedish underdogs, always delivering the goods but with little to no fanfare when compared to the likes of EntombedDismemberUnleashed etc.

However, Necrophobic had just as much influence on Sweden’s death metal scene, offering something darker, more malevolent and, ultimately, a little more blackened than their peers but still delivering brutality and ingenuity in equal measure.

Ice cold, morbidly sinister and indefatigably satanic, The Nocturnal Silence was at its best when delivering eerie, tremolo-picked soliloquy’s such as “Before The Dawn” and the overwhelmingly intense title track. The most striking aspect is how something this diabolically depraved could sound so damn catchy, an achievement that can only be attributed to the sheer quality of Necrophobic’s songwriting.

Gorement – The Ending Quest (1994)

Gorement – The Ending Quest (2020, Clear, Vinyl) - Discogs

Concluding this list with one of the finest examples of death metal known to man – Swedish or otherwise – seems entirely fitting….and Gorement‘s The Ending Quest is god-tier death metal from a band who sadly failed to follow-up this genre defining moment.

Not many albums earn the accolade of being flawless but The Ending Quest is one such album. From production to song writing, atmosphere to lyrical content, Gorment were masters of their craft and this devastatingly heavy, yet strangely melancholy exercise in sonic brutality is a unique moment in Swedish death metal history.

The perfect companion piece to Entombed‘s Left Hand PathGorement left an indelible mark with their one and only album and its standing as a landmark in the underground Swedish death metal scene remains undiminished.

Also in this Series:

UK Death Metal: The 10 Greatest Old-School Albums

About Chris Jennings (1985 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

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