Ask the average Joe Six Pack what they know about Swedish music, and you’ll probably be treated to a monumentally cringe-worthy rendition of “Dancing Queen.” It’s true that ABBA remain a global sensation, but Sweden’s no one-trick pony; The Hives, Europe, Refused, and Ace of Base all call the tiny Scandinavian nation home.
While the quality and variety of Sweden’s music scene might be a surprise to some, it is common knowledge to fans of heavy metal. The sheer magnitude of Sweden’s impact on metal cannot be understated; I doubt many of those now-infamous Norwegian edge-lords would have started lighting fires if it weren’t for Bathory. How does one Djent without Meshuggah? Christ, Entombed started a whole sub-genre based on a goddamn guitar pedal. But of all Sweden’s additions to the pantheon of extreme music, none are more iconic than In Flames, At The Gates, and Dark Tranquility, pioneers of melodic death metal. The Gothenburg Three have been immensely influential to countless metal bands, including relative newcomers and fellow Swedes The Overthrone.
That influence is loud and clear on this Stockholm-based five-piece’s debut EP The Plague, however what vaults this slab of melodeath above the clutter is the band’s gift for mature, tasteful curation of ideas. While the nearly two-minute intro track may overstay its welcome a touch on such a short record, it accomplishes a deft bit of aural world building, presenting a hellish, 28 Days Later -esque soundscape before a meaty guitar riff plunges into first real track, “Inferno.”
Vocalist Sebastien Brottman’s opening shriek heralds the coming maelstrom of pummelling percussion and breakneck riffs. The overall tonal quality is immediately apparent. There is polish, but not so much as to emaciate the attack. While modern technology means that dialling in particular guitar and drum tones is only a few mouse clicks away, The Overthrone show a surprising attention to detail here for a debut EP.
The familiar-feeling opening riff of “Dusk is Dawning” is quickly ensconced in some tasty lead work from guitarists William Forslund and Jona Muldin Lindström. The song’s mid-paced chug and snarling riffs demonstrate The Overthrone’s ability to shift into a lower gear without losing intensity and while also nodding to NWOAHM greats Lamb of God as a source of inspiration. “Dusk” also gives us our first taste of Brottman’s clean vocals. While I’m typically a card-carrying member of the “GROWL OR GTFO” club, the cleans totally work here, imbuing the music with grandeur and emotion when combined with the soaring lead work.
Closing track “Downfall” is The Plague’s longest. Clocking just over seven minutes, it acts as a final showcase of The Overthrone’s considerably hefty bag of tricks, but is so chock full of variety there is no fear of anyone getting bored.
Making melodic death metal that is neither numbingly derivative or embarrassingly cheeseball is a tough order, but The Overthrone deliver music that is reverential, authentic, and just downright enjoyable. Final word: the band names In Flames as a major inspiration – fellas, I fucking wish contemporary In Flames sounded like The Plague.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson