Who Are the Best Swedish Metal Bands?

Bang your head to our top 20 picks

The country of Sweden has always been a hotbed of heavy metal, launching the careers of some of the most successful metal artists of the past several decades, from the straightforward doom metal of Candlemass to the progressive experimentation of Evergrey to the thundering Viking metal of Amon Amarth. There are so many amazing bands to choose from that it's difficult to compile a top 20 list. With apologies to those that don't appear, here are some of the best Swedish metal bands that fans of this genre won't want to miss.

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Roadrunner Records

Formed in 1989, Opeth not only is arguably the best band in Sweden, they also rank as one of the best bands in the metal genre, period. They are extremely musically diverse, mixing death metal with many other styles, and even using acoustic instruments in some songs. The vocals are diverse as well, and the lyrics are exceptional. In more recent years, the band has begun to lean toward a more progressive sound, but that has done little to diminish their metal bona fides. 

Dark Tranquillity
Century Media Records

Dark Tranquility, formed at the end of the 1980s, were pioneers in the melodic death metal movement. Unlike some groups whose time in the sun has come and gone, Dark Tranquility continues to progress and release great albums.

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Nuclear Blast Records

Utilizing unusual time signatures and tempo changes, combined with thrash and death metal elements and out-and-out experimentation, Meshuggah never fails to surprise. While some of their projects can be more hit than miss, when they are on target, they are exceptional. 

At The Gates
At The Gates. Century Media Records

At the Gates also stood at the forefront of melodic death metal in the early '90s. Before disbanding in 1996, they recorded several influential and respected albums. Some of their members went on to form The Haunted. The band reunited in 2007, released their sixth full-length album, "To Drink From The Night Itself," in May 2018, and continue to tour.


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Black Mark Production

The metal world was blown away by the ungodly sounds that the Swedish band Bathory let out in the early 1980s. Arguably one of the first true black metal bands, Bathory had a major influence on the sudden rise of the genre during the early 1990s. Bathory would eventually evolve into an epic Viking Metal (the subgenre with a lyrical focus on themes from Norse mythology) solo project that oozed a darkened atmosphere. The band ended with the death of frontman Quorthon in 2004.

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In Flames
Sony Music

Even with multiple lineup changes, In Flames continues to be at the top of the melodic death metal genre. Mixing death metal growls with clean singing, they have a wide appeal that grows with each release—although some critics believe their latest releases drift too far toward the mainstream.

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Nuclear Blast Records

Many listeners and critics dismiss Soilwork as being "too commercial." Sure, their style of melodic death metal is more palatable compared to some bands in the genre, but it's still unlikely that you'll hear any of their music on your local pop station anytime soon. They write great songs that mix the brutal and the melodic.


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AFM Records

In a country where melodic death metal reigns supreme, it may seem unusual to rank a largely progressive metal group like Evergrey so highly. However, when you factor in their extraordinary musical ability and great songwriting, it's an easy choice. Tom S. Englund has one of the best voices in metal, their videos are beautifully shot, and they put on a great live show. 

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Amon Amarth
Metal Blade Records

Originally called Scum, Amon Amarth eventually changed its name to what the elves in J.R.R. Tolkien's books call Mount Doom. Amon Amarth could be considered the most Viking of the Viking Metal bands due to their lyrics and videos, but the band prefers to just be called metal. With Johan Hegg's seriously low register voice, the band's tightly structured playing, and videos that run like mini-films, the quintet manages to be rousing and fun as well as heavy and extreme.

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Nuclear Blast Records

Candlemass is one of the pioneers of doom metal, which debuted as a genre around 1984. Messiah Marcolin was their singer in the band's heyday, followed by Robert Lowe. Mats Leven is currently the vocalist. The band continues to tour, even though they said that 2012's "Psalms for the Dead" would be their last studio album. In 2017, Candlemass released a picture disc of "Nightfall" and a "Dark Are the Veils of Death" vinyl to celebrate 30 years since recording the hit album.


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Arch Enemy
Century Media Records

Arch Enemy is unusual in the Swedish metal world as they are fronted by a female vocalist, although you'd be hard-pressed to tell from just listening. Original lead singer Angela Gossow death-growled with the best of them, and current vocalist Alissa White-Gluz continues that powerhouse tradition.

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Peaceville Records

Katatonia is another band whose sound has evolved over the years. They started in the early 1990s as more of a death/doom band. These days their music is much more complex and dynamic, but still heavy. Jonas Renkse's vocals have also evolved from being harsh to melodic.

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Nuclear Blast Records

Starting out as a no-frills death metal band, Therion would completely change their sound in the mid-1990s, adding more operatic and classical influences. Choirs and orchestration would become the norm in Therion’s core sound. Even with many lineup changes, Therion has kept to a symphonic metal sound, with the band’s mastermind Christofer Johnsson leading the way.


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Century Media Records

Marduk is probably the most controversial of our picks, given their anti-Christian, pro-Satanism lyrics, as well as their preoccupation with the Third Reich and accusations of anti-Semitism, but the band is super-tight musically. Since first emerging on the scene in the 1990s, they have developed a distinctive fast and intense style, with lots of blast beats and typical black metal shriek-y vocals. 

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Century Media Records

Entombed is largely credited for starting the Swedish death metal sound. The band’s music is an amalgam of thrash metal influenced by American death metal bands like Death and Morbid Angel. Relying on stout, primal riffs, Entombed eschews many technical aspects of the genre in favor of a more stripped down and raw approach. In 2014, Entombed split over legal disputes, and guitarist Alex Hellid formed Entombed A.D. Then, late in 2016, the original trio reformed.

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High Roller Records

Dissection was a band whose musical accomplishments were overshadowed by their actions. They released two very influential death/black metal albums in the mid-1990s, but then frontman Jon Nödtveidt was jailed for murder in 1997. Although Dissection resumed after his release, "Reinkaos" (2006) got mixed reviews. Nödtveidt committed suicide in 2006, and Dissection disbanded.

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The Haunted
Century Media Records

When At the Gates dissolved in 1996, three of the five members (the Björler brothers and drummer Adrian Erlandsson) formed a new band with guitarist Patrik Jensen and vocalist Peter Dolving. Dolving left for a few years and was replaced by Marco Aro. He returned in 2003, then left again in 2013 and was once again replaced by Aro. The band's heavy thrash sound and Dolving's penchant for speaking his mind have kept the band in the headlines and on the charts.

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Nuclear Blast Records

Since their formation in 1993, HammerFall has been one of the leading bands in the power metal genre. Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne was also with HammerFall for their first few years but was replaced by Joacim Cans before the band's 1997 debut.

Dark Funeral
Century Media Records

Dark Funeral is a black metal band started in 1993 by Lord Ahriman and Blackmoon. Their full-length debut was 1996's "The Secrets of the Black Arts." Blackmoon and original vocalist Themgoroth left the band shortly thereafter. Themgoroth was replaced by Emperor Magus Caligula who was later replaced by current vocalist Heljarmadr. They are clad in corpse paint and play fast, brutal, and intense black metal.

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Napalm Records

Vintersorg ("winter sorrow") is the creation of Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund and blends many different genres. Harsh black metal is combined with mellower folk metal and elements of more experimental and avant garde styles. Swedish lyrics eventually gave way to English ones, although 2007's "Solens Rötter" saw the band return to its roots.