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We Make Sweden Rock!

Europe, Candlemass, Hammerfall, Yngwie Malmsteen   

By Rich Catino

Yup, just like the Hammerfall song ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’, Sweden has been rocking since the 80s with great bands. A couple big names that obviously come to mind – Europe, Yngwie Malmsteen, Candlemass. But the Sweden branch of the Heavy Metal tree has many smaller branches. Many mostly from the 90s and 2000’s, and probably half these names are influential and should be inducted at some point to the Metal Hall of Fame. But that discussion is for another article.

Melodic Death Metal from In Flames, At The Gates, Dark Tranquility, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Entombed, Therion, Soilwork, Dimension Zero, Amaranthe, Bloodbath, Scar Symmetry.

Industrial Progressive groove machine Meshuggah.

Blackened Thrash from Witchery, The Haunted.

Black Metal pioneers: Bathory. Dark Funeral, Dissection, Marduk, Watain, Necrophobic.

Swedish Viking Death from Amon Amarth, Vintersorg, Unleashed, Thyrfing, Tiamat.

Melodic Doom: Ghost, Sorcerer, Grand Magnus, Draconian

90s/2000s Power Metal: Lost Horizon, Morgana Lefay, Dream Evil, Falconer, Tad Morose, Bloodbound, Sabaton, Narnia.

Progressive: Seventh Wonder, Evergrey, Katatonia.

New Wave of Melodic Hard Rock Metal: Eclipse, Dynazty, Crazy Lixx, Crashdiet, H.E.A.T.

New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal: Bullet, Wolf, Enforcer

But it all started in the early 80s.

There was also 220 Volt who released four albums – self titled debut in 1983, “Powergames” a year later, “Mind Over Muscle”, and 1998’s “Eye to Eye” the best one. Heavy Load’s second album “Death or Glory” in 1982 and “Stronger Than Evil” that’s kind of an underground classic amongst journalists and metalheads. Treat, who had some success with the song and promo video ‘World of Promises’ (covered by In Flames on the album “Clayman”), have released nine albums since 1985. “The Pleasure Principle”, “Dreamhunter” and “Organized Crime” records I recommend. And later in the decade glam hard rockers Shotgun Messiah self-titled debut and “Second Coming”, and Electric Boys “Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride” in 1989.

Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie is a legend for a couple reasons, and obviously Metal Hall inductee worthy. Not just for his Neo-Classical approach to the guitar and what he brought to heavy metal music in the early 80s, but he also carved out a path for both instrumental albums, and (along with Helloween) the birth of European Power Metal. Malmsteen arrived on American shores for the first album by the California band Steeler in 1983, which also featured singer Ron Keel. Followed by in the same year playing on the Alcatrazz album “No Parole from Rock n Roll”, which featured Graham Bonnet on vocals. A year later his debut solo album is released, Yngwie J Malmsteen’s Rising Force, with Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, and Jens Johansson on keyboards, who in the 90s would join Stratovarius. “Marching Out”, “Trilogy”, and “Odyssey” in 1988 with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals followed giving us several hits, and influential music. Malmsteen was young, hungry, shredding yet writing heavy and aggressive riffs to beautiful memorable melodies, hooks, and solos reflective of the song’s melody. Instrumentals ‘Black Star’ and ‘Far Beyond the Sun’, ‘You Don’t Remember, I’ll never Forget’, “I’ll See The Light Tonight’, ‘I Am A Viking’, ‘Don’t Let It End’, ‘Queen In Love’, ‘Fire’, ‘Heaven Tonight’, and show opener for many many years ‘Rising Force’.

Yngwie’s golden era did not end in the 80s, I strongly believe the albums from 1995-97 – “Seventh Star” and “Magnum Opus” with Mike Vescera on vocals, and “Facing The Animal” hold up equally. Songs ‘Never Die’, ‘Forever One’, ‘Hairtrigger’, ‘Seventh Sign’, ‘Tomorrow’s Gone’, ‘Time Will Tell’, ‘Voodoo’, ‘Facing The Animal’, ‘My Resurrection’, ‘Like An Angel’. Since then, releasing twelve more albums with different lineups and singers and varying degrees of good to mediocre songs, poor production, and just too much sameness overall. Still regardless, Malmsteen of course has earned his place in Heavy Metal’s history and of course a spot at the Metal Hall of Fame.

Europe 

Yes, I know, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Rock The Night’, and ‘Cherokee’, but Europe are more than that album and those songs. Singer Joey Tempest and guitarist John Norum started making music under the name Force in 1979-80, band name changed to Europe prior to winning a rock contest in Sweden with the songs ‘In the Future to Come’ and ‘The King Will Return’ in 1982. Two from the self-titled debut released in 1984. The debut, with “Wings of Tomorrow”, are melodic neoclassical heavy metal albums. Look up the promo video for ‘In the Future to Come’ on Youtube, a metal riff carries the song not a keyboard, no hair spray, just long hair t-shirts and denim. Other standouts, and my favorite ‘Seven Doors Hotel’, ‘Children of this Time’, and ‘Paradize Bay’. “Wings of Tomorrow” still my favorite album, it’s got the rawness and metal riffs from the debut, but with some keyboards and bigger melodies and hooks without being light or too polished. ‘Stormwind’, the heavy ‘Scream of Anger ‘(even Arch Enemy covered this song), ballad ‘Open Your Heart’ which gets a great upgrade on the album “Out Of This World”, ‘Treated Bad Again’, beautiful neo classical guitars by Norum for instrumental ‘Aphasia’ sets up the rocking title track. Piano ballad ‘Dreamer’ is perfect and a nice addition to the rockers as ‘Dance The Night away’ closes the album hard.

I’m not going to talk much about the 1986 multi-platinum “The Final Countdown” because the singles were rightfully hits to help sell so many copies of the album. It’s just more important to know where Europe started, and where they have been going since reforming in 2003. I will say that ‘Time Has Come’, rockers ‘Heart of Stone’, ‘On The Loose’, and ‘Love Chaser’ do use the riffs as part of the base to the arrangement with the complimenting keyboards. But unfortunately, mid way through the touring cycle and album promotion John Norum left the band, replaced by Kee Marcello who you can see in three of the promo videos.

“Out Of This World’ was released in 1988, and I think it is as good as Final Countdown. It’s got a great mix of that 80s hard rock with AOR rock hooks. First single ‘Superstitious’ is just brilliant, the riff, vocals, melody, hook, and solo is perfection. ‘Let The Good Times Rock’ and ‘Ready Or Not’ great arena anthems and showed Europe still rocked with edge. I also love ‘More Than Meets The Eye” and that balance between the guitars, keyboards, and Tempest’s voice soaring above. Raise the horns to ‘Just The Beginning’ and an old school Europe riff. ‘Tomorrow’ another top five Europe piano ballad. 1991’s “Prisoners In Paradise” a more mature album, less polish and hairspray, more groove and soul heard on opener ‘All Or Nothing’, ‘Little Bit O Loving’, ‘Girl From Lebanon’, and ‘Bad Blood’. But Europe didn’t forget the fun and what pays the bills in songs like singles/videos ‘Halfway To Heaven’, or a great ballad in ‘I’ll Cry For You’.

Moving forward to the 2000’s, Europe are not quite making the same music. Same lineup from the “Final Countdown’, but now the music is more Deep Purple and Rainbow inspired. “Start From The Dark” is, well, dark and moody, “Secret Society” (2006) is contemporary, while ‘Last Look At Eden” has a Nightwish influence in the title rack. Three more albums follow with “War of Kings” (I think) the best with more of where they came from (i.e.: “Prisoners In Paradise”) but with the grittier guitars. The latest “Walk The Earth” also a very solid album, still has the darker tone to the guitars and keyboards, see ‘The Siege’, ‘Wolves’, to progressive moments like ‘Turn To Dust’.

So, many reasons why Europe should be inducted into the Metal Hall. Not just for their metal beginnings, or radio and MTV success, but because of their relevance to this day with new music. I just would like to hear the next album to back to their roots and the first two albums. Come full circle.

Candlemass



Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi the riff master, are of course the godfathers of Heavy Metal (with Judas Priest) and Doom Metal. But damn are Candlemass not the sons of Sabbath. Bassist Leif Edling is the only consistent member to this day from the beginning. The debut “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” from 1986 is six songs masterclass in haunting riffs, melancholy melodies, guitar solos, and foreboding vocals. ‘Solitude’, ‘Demon’s Gate’, ‘Crystal Ball’, Black Stone Wielder’, ‘Under The Oak’, and ‘A Sorcerer’s Pledge’. The following year at “Nightfall” enter the voice of Messiah Marcolin bringing in more range and dramatics to the music. Musically Candlemass also evolve with more clean guitars for dynamics, and several mid pace songs. ‘At The Gallows End’. ‘Samarithan’, ‘Dark Are The Veils of Death’, and promo video song ‘Bewitched’. More classics come in a streak with “Ancient Dreams” and “Tales of Creation” in 1988/89 – ‘A Tale From the Crypt’, ‘Incarnation Of Evil’, ‘The Bells of Acheron’, ‘Dark Reflections’, ‘Under The Oak’, and ‘The Edge of Heaven’.

Three more albums were released in the 90s (with a couple singer changes) staying true to Candlemass, with Messiah returning for the comeback self titled album 2005. It was like the band never lost a step. But only four years later another singer change. Messiah leaves, enter Robert Lowe from the band Solitude Aeturnus for the album “Death Magic Doom”. Easily one of the best albums in the catalogue, a perfect balance of doom, up-tempo heaviness and powerful hooks. Check out ‘Hammer of Doom, ‘The Bleeding Baroness’, ‘Demon Of The Deep’, ‘Clouds Of Dementia’, and ‘Funeral Dreams’. But again, another short stint for a singer Lowe only lasts another couple Eps and another studio album. But you know what they say, “never say never”, “life comes full circle”. Original singer Johan Längqvist returns for the last two albums, “The Door To Doom” from 2019, and 2022’s “Sweet Evil Sun”. Sure, it’s nothing different or amazing but its dependable Candlemass doom.

It goes without question Candlemass need to, hopefully will accept, being inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame hopefully sooner than later.

Hammerfall 

Hammerfall were one of the saviors of traditional Heavy Metal in the late 90s. Yes, true Heavy Metal still existed and many bands from the 70s and 80s were releasing albums. Sure, some of it wasn’t great, some tried jumping on the flavor of the week, some changed members, but many put out great music. Problem was, with record labels and MTV changing their music agenda, the fans too were to blame also jumping on the grunge, alternative, and then false nu “metal” bandwagons. Still, I knew better and looked overseas thanks to imports at Vintage Vinyl Records in New Jersey, and magazines like Bravewords & Bloody Knuckles. A couple years prior to getting the debut ‘Glory To The Brave” in 1997, there was new albums from Helloween, Grave Digger, Running Wild, Savatage, and Rage. Newcomers Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Stratovarius, Axel Rudi Pell, Angra, Kamelot, Symphony X, and later Edguy, Rhapsody, and Primal Fear. Nevermore, Evergrey, and Royal Hunt, among others.

“Glory To The Brave” is what every Iron Maiden, Dio, Accept, Manowar, and Helloween fan would have wanted from a new band from the next generation. Twin guitar leads, galloping rhythms, soaring melodic vocals, and a big chorus to sing along with. ‘The Dragon Lies Bleeding’, ‘The Metal Age’, ‘Steel Meets Steel’, ‘Stone Cold’, and the majestic title track. But this was just the beginning, “Legacy Of Kings” a year later is power metal perfection, every song is flawless building on the debut’s strengths. The double bass ‘Heading The Call’, title track, they ‘Let The Hammer Fall’, the passionate ballad ‘Remember Yesterday’, cover of the Pretty Maids ‘Back To Back’, ‘Stronger Than All’. Still to this day my favorite album in the catalogue.

Two years later Hammerfall go to the next level with “Renegade” produced by Michael Wagner (Accept, Dokken, Metallica, Skid Row). Title track is always in the set, ‘Templars Of Steel’ a great building mid pace show opener, ‘Way Of The Warrior’, and album closer ‘A Legend Reborn’ brings the majesty. To this day Joacim Cans and guitarist Oscar Dronjak the only original members left, and nine albums total. Highlights since then are “Crimson Thunder” from 2002 and songs ‘Rider Of The Storm’, hit single/video ‘Hearts On Fire’, and headbanger ‘The Unforgiving Blade’. 05’s “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” I think is overall stronger, more mid pace songs like ‘Blood Bound’, ‘Hammer of Justice’, and ‘Born To Rule’. Four more albums follow with varying degrees of songwriting and suffering from sameness. But “Dominion” in 2019 had more edge and the latest album “Hammer Of Dawn” (although the use of “hammer” is old) as well enjoyable. By now bassist Fredrik Larsson is back since 2007, and guitarist Pontus Norgen on second guitar since 08.

With over twenty-five years as being one of the leaders from the next generation in the 90s Hammerfall are an obvious choice for the Metal Hall of Fame. I don’t think anyone would question that.

 

For the past 21 years, Rich Catino has been the director and a journalist for the Heavy Metal music webzine, Metal Asylum, (www.metalasylum.net) where, along with staff, has the opportunity to review, interview, and photograph legends from the past, but more importantly giving attention to the present and future of the hard rock and heavy metal music scene. He is also a contributor at Bravewords from Canada alongside known journalists like Martin Popoff and Mark Gromen, and at Sea of Tranquility (www.seaoftranquility.org) from time to time. Catino’s artistic resume includes special effects makeup for several independent films, and theater, writing and directing an original short horror film. Dressing the photo shoot for the goth/metal band The Bronx Casket Co. seen in the booklet for “Sweet Home Transylvania” in 2001. Also, building the miniature set as seen on the packaging for the Hellraiser toy line, to props and sets for haunted attractions.

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