Scandinavian Metal Bands

The best Scandinavian metal bands: Your definitive guide to metal from Scandinavia

Scandinavian metal bands are a unique kind of musical phenomenon. While Scandinavia might be best known for its beautiful, serene landscapes and happy people, it’s also home to more metal bands than virtually any other country in terms of density.

The United States, for instance, is generally associated with more outspoken attitude than the laid-back Scandinavia. However, in the US, you’ll find around 72 metal bands for every 1 million citizens.

The UK has around 69 metal bands for every 1 million inhabitants. Those numbers sound pretty impressive, until you get to Scandinavia.

Finland has around 630 metal bands per million residents, and Sweden has 428 per million. Norway and Iceland score 299 and 341 metal bands per million residents respectively. No other nation can compete with numbers like those.

Somehow, the metal music in Scandinavian has collected an incredibly passionate fan base, full of die-hard fans ready to promote their favorite bands worldwide. Here’s what you need to know about the incredible Scandinavian metal sensation.

Why are there so many metal bands in Scandinavia?

Before we attempt to answer the complex question: “who is the greatest Scandinavian band of all time?”, let’s take a closer look at the Scandinavian metal band.

In general, life in Scandinavia seems beautiful, laid-back, and friendly. The region isn’t somewhere most people would naturally associate with metal. Yet the metal scene has taken the Nordic space by storm.

So, why are Scandinavian metal bands so popular? There are a number of theories. One report examined each part of Scandinavia carefully to determine the factors influencing metal appreciation.

The study found a number of correlations between things like the Catholic religion, and the presence of available concert halls, and the number of metal bands.

Research into the popularity of metal also indicates wealthier, more economically stable companies are more likely to have a high number of metal bands too. The better the economic output per capita, level of creativity, and entrepreneurship in the region, the better metal does.

Since Scandinavian countries are often considered to be reasonably wealthy, it makes sense the region would therefore be connected to metal.

Other theories suggest Scandinavia loves metal music because it’s a way to deal with the harsh atmosphere of the region. Many countries within Scandinavia have limited sunlight, and extremely dark, cold winters. In this environment, metal can be a way of taking control.

The best Scandinavian metal bands

Metal is a diverse genre in Scandinavia, and around the world. There’s more than one “style” of metal to consider. For some people, the best band will be an artist of Scandinavian death metal.

For others, Scandinavian power metal bands will rule the day. Each sub-genre has its own distinctive following, and slightly different style of music.

Crucially, Scandinavian metal is still a relatively new concept, despite its popularity. The first instances of Scandinavian metal didn’t appear in the musical underground until the 1980s. While black metal hails from Norway, Sweden was the country to bring life to “death” metal.

Here are some excellent Scandinavian metal bands you should definitely check out…

Scandinavian death metal bands

Death metal bands from Scandinavia largely come from Sweden. The country is one of the biggest in the world for the death metal sound. Indeed, many fans consider Sweden to be pivotal to the overall growth of the global death metal scene.

Death metal is a little darker than some of the other forms of Scandinavian metal we’ll mention in this article. It’s common for many of the songs created in this region to revolve around death and other morbid topics.

Here are some of the most popular death metal bands from Scandinavia:

At The Gates

Widely regarded as one of the biggest death metal bands in Scandinavia, At The Gates launched in 1990, and has been rocking the scene ever since.

The group has an amazing consistent approach to music, with a fantastic selection of bass, guitar, and deep drum sounds accompanying an unforgettable voice. The specific style of music At The Gates is best known for is “melodic” death metal.

Entombed

Another death metal band from Sweden, Entombed started life under the name “Nihilist” in 1987, but the title of the group soon changed. Considered an early pioneer of the Scandinavian death metal sound, the group was active until 2014.

This fantastic Scandinavian metal band quote some major groups as their influence, such as Kiss, the Misfits, Black Sabbath, and Slayer. The group is one of the “big four” of Swedish metal.

Opeth

A progressive metal and death metal band from Sweden, Opeth has been through a host of changes to the lineup over the years. Despite a number of transitions, the band still ranks as one of the most famous Swedish and Scandinavian death metal bands of all time.

Even in Finland and other parts of the region, Opeth has earned its space at the top of the charts more than once.

Panzerchrist

One of the few truly influential death metal bands from Scandinavia to hail from outside of Sweden, Panzerchrist comes from Aarhus in Denmark. The group formed in 1992 and has released a number of albums since.

The group has had a few lineup changes throughout the years, but their hardcore sound continues to attract listeners from around the globe, including in Scandinavia.

Dismember

A leading Scandinavian death metal band from Sweden, Dismember is another of the pioneers of death metal in the region, belonging to the “big four” of the music genre. Dismember actually disbanded in 2011 but reunited again in 2019 to create even more unforgettable music.

The album “Like an ever flowing stream” is considered a milestone for the fanbase of death metal in the country.

Scandinavian black metal bands

Black metal has its own unique appeal, featuring more melodic, somber themes than the standard death metal band. Scandinavian black metal bands frequently come from regions like Norway and Denmark, however, there are some well-known groups from Sweden too, like Bathory.

Here are some of the best Scandinavian black metal bands to hit the scene:

Emperor

Widely considered one of the top black metal bands of all time, Emperor originally formed in the 90s in Norway. Considered by critics to be one of the most influential black metal bands of all time, the group split up in 2001, but reunited a few times over the years to hold concerts for fans.

The band officially reformed for the third time in 2016, and still appears at some metal festivals and gigs.

Bathory

Originating in Sweden during 1983, Bathory is one of the most highly regarded and best-known death metal bands in the world. Similar to Emperor, Bathory is considered one of the most iconic acts in the death metal landscape.

Aside from being one of the better-known black metal bands in the world, Bathory is also a pioneer in “Viking metal” too. Bathory switched to a Viking and thrash metal style for their fifth record “Hammerheart”.

Watain

Another Swedish leader in black metal, Watain formed in 1998. Famous for their Theistic Satanic views and unforgettable live shows, Watain is one of the most shocking black metal bands of all time.

Apparently, in 2014, the group doused their crowd members in animal blood, allegedly causing some of the members of the audience to throw up. The band’s core lineup has been pretty much the same since their formation.

Mayhem

Considered one of the most popular black metal bands in history, Mayhem helped to form the foundations for Scandinavian black metal.

Influencing dozens of music creators from around the region over the years, Mayhem launched in 1984, and has earned a lot of media attention over the years due to a connection with burning churches.

The group has split up a few times over the years but have always reformed again.

Horna

A Finnish black metal band previously known as Shadowed, Horna formed in 1993, and has delivered over thirty studio releases, including albums, Eps, demos, and splits.

With Mynni luukkainen on bass guitar, Larui Rytkonen on drums, Tuomus Rytkonen for lead voals, Ville Pystyneed on guitar and Ville Markkanen on bass, Horna has gained a lot of popularity over the years.

Scandinavian power metal bands

If you like the idea of trying out some Scandinavian metal bands, but you’re not in the frame of mind for death or black metal, power metal may be ideal for you. Scandinavian power metal is fast, engaging, and even uplifting in some places.

Power metal often feature a lot of high-octane guitars, strong bass sections and melodic vocals.

Here are some of the best power metal brands from around the Scandinavian region:

Hammerfall

Formed in Sweden (Gothenburg) in 1993, Hammerfall quickly became a pioneer in the Scandinavian power metal landscape. The band is a major influence to many of the top metal bands in Sweden today, with Oscar Dronjak on guitar, Fredrik Larrson on bass, and Joacim Cans taking lead vocals.

This is one of the power metal bands from Scandinavian you’ll never forget.

Stratovarious

Formed in 1985, the Finnish power metal band, Stratovarious, has successfully released 20 albums over the years. Although the group has faced a number of changes, they’ve managed to maintain their popularity.

The longest-standing member of the band to date is Timo Kotipelto, who joined in 1994. None of the original band members remain in the group today.

Manticora

Hailing from Hvidovre, Denmark, Manticora offers a unique experience of Scandinavian power metal, taking inspiration from progressive and speed metal. The band takes a unique approach to song writing, with several references to fantasy, literature, science fiction, and other elements in its lyrics.

Current members of the band include Lawrence Dinamarca on drums, Kasper Gram on Bass, Lars Larsen on vocals, and Stefan Johannson on guitar.

Artch

Originally formed in 1983, Artch were one of the initial Norwegian power metal bands to enter the scene. Formed by Bernt Jansen and Cato Andre Olsen, Artch has changed its lineup a few times over the years.

Two albums from Artch were issued by an American label, Metal Blade, which has helped the group to achieve a stronger standing worldwide.

Bloodbound

Inspired by some of the best-known metal bands of all time, such as Iron Maiden and Hammerfall, Bloodbound is a 6-piece Swedish band specializing in power metal.

Known for fast-paced and chaotic music, as well as the use of makeup in shows and on album covers, Bloodbound has earned a lot of attention over the years.

The group recently released a new album in 2021 titled “Creatures of the Dark Realm”.

Scandinavian heavy metal bands

Scandinavian heavy metal music is usually defined by emphatic rhythms, distorted and loud guitar riffs, dense drum and bass parts and powerful vocals. Heavy metal subgenres often omit, alter, and emphasize different attributes from the metal scene to capture the attention of a wider audience.

Scandinavian is home to a number of heavy metal bands, including some of the most well-known groups in the world.

Meshuggah

A Swedish heavy metal and “extreme” metal band formed in 1987, Meshuggah is best-known for its fast-paced melodies and pulsing sounds. The vocalist has a guttural sound to his voice which makes it hard to ignore.

Over the years, Meshuggah has been nominated for two Swedish Grammis Awards, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2018 for the song “Clockworks”.

Katatonia

Formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1991, Katatonia started as a simple studio-only project for Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renkse, as an outlet for the pair’s love of the death metal scene. Gradually, increasing popularity pushed the team to add more members to their band and begin live performances.

The lineup was originally an ever-changing revolving door of musicians, giving the group plenty of new sounds.

Tarot

Known worldwide for the popular song “Wings of Darkness”, Tarot is a popular Finnish heavy metal band with a presence around the globe. The singer and bassist Marko Hietala is also known for a presence in the band, Nightwish.

Current band members include Tommi Salmela on backing vocals, Zachary Hietala on guitar, and Janne Tolsa on keyboard.

Raunchy

Forming in 1992, Raunchy is a Danish metal band associated with industrial metal, metalcore, alternative metal, and heavy metal. The group has released a total of six studio albums and are currently signed to the Massacre Records group.

The band, popular throughout both Denmark and Scandinavia, continues to produce music and play at festivals today.

Sabaton

Hailing from Falun, in Sweden, Sabaton is a heavy metal band which launched in 1999. Many of the songs from the group are about heroism in war. The Great War, one of the group’s latest albums was ranked number one among the music charts in both Germany and Sweden.

This power metal and heavy metal band continues to appear in festivals like Hellfest today and released a new album in 2020.

Scandinavian hard rock bands

Hard rock bands bridge the gap between rock and roll music, and metal. Definitions of “hard rock” vary depending on who you ask.

Some people define hard rock as a slightly more chaotic, guttural, or powerful form of rock. Others see hard rock as a somewhat diluted version of heavy metal, power metal, or black metal.

Here are some popular options we haven’t mentioned so far:

Lordi

Hailing from Finland, Lordi launched in 1992, and earned attention across the globe after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006. Perhaps the most memorable thing about Lordi is the way they dress for their gigs and concerts.

The band is known for dressing up like monsters, with huge shoes and elaborate makeup. Lordi helped to put Finnish heavy metal and rock music on the map.

Pretty Maids

Starting life in Denmark in 1981, Pretty Maids is a heavy metal and hard rock band sometimes described as “classic heavy rock”. The Pretty Maids’ music focuses heavily on keyboards, guitar and vocals.

The group has supported a number of popular bands over the years, including Deep Purple, White Snake, Alice Cooper, Metallica and Black Sabbath.

Hardcore Superstar

A heavy metal and hard rock band from Gothenburg, Sweden, Hardcore Superstar formed in 1997 and has released a total of 11 studio albums so far. The group has rapidly gained a following not just in Scandinavia but throughout the world.

Current members include Mika Vainio, Thomas Silver, and Joakim Berg.

Anon Amarth

Classed as hard rock, death metal, and heavy metal, Anon Amarth is a Swedish band formed in 1992. The name of the band comes from the Sindarin name for the J.R.R. Tolkein’s Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings books.

In some cases, the group has also been classified as “Viking metal”, though the band defines itself as “Death metal”.

Seigmen

Best known for covering a wide variety of musical styles, Seigmen – from Norway, launched during the 1990s. The band is somewhat difficult to label, hence our decision to place them in the “Hard rock” section of this article.

Musical styles cover everything from alternative rock and industrial rock, to doom metal.

Who is the greatest Scandinavian band of all time?

The ultimate Scandinavian metal band will depend on your musical tastes. As you can see from the list above many of the most popular Scandinavian metal bands come from Sweden. However, there’s still plenty of room for names from Norway, Finland, and Denmark too.

Wherever you start your listening journey, you’re sure to get a unique experience from a Scandinavian metal band.

There’s definitely no shortage of amazing sounds to explore.

If you ever have an opportunity to go and experience one of these bands for yourself, it’s worth noting that most Scandinavian groups perform best in person. Visiting one of Scandinavia’s many popular festivals for metal will give you an in-depth look at what makes heavy metal in the region so special.

The winter metal fest in Norway is a must-visit destination for true metal fans, or you can check out the Sweden rock festival. There’s also the phenomenal “Metalfest” open-air rock and heavy metal festival each year in Sweden.

If you’re not ready to rock out in person yet, try creating yourself a new playlist from some of the bands we’ve mentioned above. You never know, you might find your new favorite metal band from Scandinavia.

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
Fantastic Finnish metal bands
Best metal bands from Norway
Celebrating Swedish metal bands
An introduction to Danish metal
The best Icelandic metal bands
A guide to the Distortion Festival
Copenhell Festival survival guide
Experiencing the Roskilde festival
Scandinavian music festival guide

Scandification explores and celebrates the magic of Scandinavia. Stay tuned and we’ll bring the essence of Scandinavia to you.

Advertising enquiries

Scandification explores and celebrates the magic of Scandinavia. To advertise your brand to a global audience, contact our advertising team below.

advertising@scandification.com