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User Album Review
This compilation is a three-CD companion to an equally exhaustive book of the same name, and each in its own way is an authoritative and wholly enjoyable tour guide to a scene the reverberations of which have echoed throughout the entire metal world since the late 1980s. The Swedish death metal scene has given us some of the most melodic, fist-pumping, anthemic, and classic music to ever emerge under that subgenre's banner, from At the Gates and Arch Enemy to Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Unleashed, Therion...the list is seemingly endless. And yet, many of the bands featured here will be new to the average listener, because compiler Daniel Ekeroth is attempting to chart the earliest days of the scene and pay respect to bands that never broke out of their homeland (if, indeed, they were even renowned beyond their home towns). Consequently, the entire first disc is taken up by never-before officially released tracks from demo tapes, originally circulated by hand and by mail in the pre-Internet era. Bands like Grave, Therion, and Nihilist (who would become Entombed) are heard alongside more obscure peers like Carbonized, Afflicted Convulsion, and the aptly named Obscurity. The second and third discs offer songs by Marduk, Dissection, At the Gates, Unleashed, and many more, and again, acts known only to diehards like Toxaemia, Liers in Wait, Crypt of Kerberos, and Repugnant get their moment in the (midnight) sun. Virtually everything here boasts the thick, distorted guitar sound that was the trademark of the Swedish scene, though some bands display greater ambition than others, experimenting with keyboards, progressive song structures, and greater length (with the longest track here, Dissection's proto-black metal epic "Black Horizons," coming in at a patience-testing 8:10). There are some big names absent, whether it's because of licensing issues or Ekeroth's personal tastes, notably Amon Amarth and Opeth; in the latter case, it's easy to suspect aesthetic choice at work, since they were ignored in the book as well. Ekeroth's tastes clearly run to the primitive and the obscure; he's one of those "they were better before anybody knew who they were" guys, which is one of the things that makes this trip through the history of the Swedish metal underground a bounty of surprises, no matter how knowledgeable you may think you are. But even a total newcomer will find much to enjoy here.
- allmusic.com review by Phil Freeman
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