For a country with a fraction of the population of the U.S. and U.K., Sweden has had a massively disproportionate impact on the sound of metal. From pioneering doom, death and black-metal bands, to modern-day heshers who continue to push the boundaries of heavy music, the icy Nordic country has always been a metal hotspot.
Therefore, we were curious to know which bands our readers consider Sweden's very best musical export. The votes were incredibly close, with tons of bands who got love but just didn't make the coveted top five spots. Below, are the Swedes who won out this time.
Meshuggah are a Swedish band, but they sound like they hail from Mars. While their home country's extreme-metal output has always been diverse, there's definitely a shared sound and vibe among Sweden's death-metal bands, and Meshuggah's grinding, mechanized grooves have always placed them far outside their peer group. The singular otherworldly brutality of their sound is still unmatched today, but the djent movement they inspired is the closest point of reference. Meshuggah are borderless.
Of all the early Swedish death-metal bands, Entombed were one of the first to reinvent their established sound. Their first two opuses are OSDM 101, but 1993's Wolverine Blues saw them flip grungy riffage, NYHC heaviness and American groove-metal swagger into a nasty new form of extreme-music called death 'n' roll. Therefore, the band who were fronted by the late, great L.G. Petrov blazed trails for two death-metal scenes in just their first five years as a band.
On their first several records, In Flames co-pioneered the melodeath subgenre, including making one of the idiom's finest achievements, 2000's Clayman, before departing elsewhere. Instead of resting on their laurels, making the same record again and again, they spent the better part of the 21st century thus far venturing into catchier, groovier forms of alt-metal. Now, they seem to be returning to their roots on 2023's Foregone, but even if they weren't, they'd clearly still be heralded as one of Sweden's most beloved metal institutions.
In many ways, At the Gates are the melodic death-metal band. Their immortal 1995 masterpiece, Slaughter of the Soul, set a template for catchy, dueling guitar leads slashing across galloping, triumphant death-metal riffage, and it's been copied off of hundreds (if not thousands) of times ever since. At the Gates codified the "Gothenburg metal" sound, but like many of the bands listed here, their influence traveled all over the world, particularly when U.S. bands started shaping metalcore in their image during the early 2000s — and still are today.
The final votes for this poll were incredibly close, and any of the aforementioned bands (and many other Swedish savants) could reasonably occupy the No. 1 slot, but Opeth's position here feels right. The progressive metal band led by singer-guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt aren't the most popular heavy act to hail from their homeland (that'd undoubtedly be Ghost), and maybe they aren't as influential as At the Gates or Meshuggah, but few other Swedish shredders are as daringly — and successfully — inventive as Opeth, whose best work harnesses all of the power and technicality of metal while simultaneously pushing it somewhere else entirely. There's no one else like them in music. Period.