Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Sweden has two proud subculture traditions: d-beat and death metal.

D-beat and crust have a very special connection to the metal world. There's a reason why there is always a heavy crust presence at the Maryland Death Fest (a fact which became comedy in 2013 when Phil Anselmo asked that security confiscate all bullet belts for fear of being assassinated). There is a reason why a lot of crust bands bear a metallic tint to their sound. It isn't supernatural that so much of the earliest crust scene in the UK made the leap to metal. Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Sacrilege are just a few of the bands that would find their beginnings in the British crust scene only to arrive in the metal world. The same can be said for Discharge who, while not crust per say, would become a crossover act by the mid 80s with the release of their polarizing album Grave New World. In the USA, much of the crust scene has strong connections to metal's sonic and visual aesthetic with bands like His Hero Is Gone, Hellshock, and Stormcrow being prime examples. It is no coincidence then that labels like Earache (oft considered one of the premier metal labels in the world) had early catalogs that were connected to the British crust punk scene. Metal seems to be a natural progression for d-beat and crust punk.

This natural progression was also evident in Sweden. By the late 80's / early 90's, the country's death metal exploded. There were dozens and dozens of quality death metal bands producing demos and then moving on. Some would go on to become headline acts like Entombed, Dismember, Carnage, and Grave. Even in the early going it was clear that these bands bore a punk influence. Entombed's earliest incarnation, Nihilist, used d-beats and showed what a fusion between the two looked like in the Scandinavian country. Sweden's death metal scene is so essential and expansive that its only comparison can be to the New York hardcore scene of the same era. There is virtually no throwaway during this time period. Every demo is required listening. Every piece of ephemera and anecdote worth catalog and discussion. This point is driven home by the fact that there have been two books written to exclusively discuss the Swedish death metal scene. The first is Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth and the other Encyclopedia of Svensk Dods Metall by Nicola Constantini (this fabulous volume exclusively covers Swedish death metal demos from 1988-1992 only). Sweden's scene did not take the big plunge into the realm of metal like the UK did. Rather the two scenes stayed relatively divorced from one another. Outside of Anti-Cimex's Scandinavian Jawbreaker which featured a cleaner sound and bore some elements of thrash to it, the punk scene continued to do its own thing.

Enter Disfear.

Forming around 1989, Disfear took elements from both crust and death metal scenes to effectively reinvent the Swedish sound. It is from Disfear's influence that we have seen the likes of Martyrdod, Warcollapse, Wolfpack (now Wolfbrigade), and countless others. Disfear simply took the things that made the Swedish death metal scene so effective such as ferocious / anxious vocals and pummeling drums and put them into the arena of d-beat punk. The result added new dimensions to the genre's sound. First, it took the genre's immortal war aesthetic and added vocal inflection of legitimate horror and dread to it. When bands like Discharge talked about war, it wasn't a sight to behold so much as it was a political point to be made. Taking the vocal inflection of a genre whose primary aesthetic is the morbid and macabre and applying it to lyrics about the reality of war was a logical and appropriate connection that Disfear made. The second thing Disfear did was place more emphasis on the drums. While the band's first release, a self-titled EP, didn't actualize this vision, the band's second release, A Brutal Sight Of War EP realized the band's original goal for the drums. On A Brutal Sight of War, the band weaponizes its drums. The drum mix is turned up and its sound lowered. The band wanted the drums front and center to use as artillery. Much like in death metal, the goal of the drums is to put a beating on the listener. In most genres, drums are used to keep the rhythm and beat going, but in death metal the drums have been used to impose the band's tone rather than simply keep it.

Arriving on the scene in Sweden, the band would tour with much of Sweden's metal royalty such as Entombed and Dismember. This happened in part because the band did not have many sonic contemporaries in Sweden at the time. Another innovation made by Disfear was the shift from political commentary on war to the fatalistic and psychological impacts war makes. Again, the band's lyrics also showed influence from the realm of death metal. Gone were the cries for peace and protest against government warmongers and replaced by the resignation that the war was lost. The band's debut LP Soul Scars spells this out perfectly. Themes of psychological trauma and irrevocably broken lives from war replaced the politically charged battle cries that Discharge once made. The band's next album Everyday Slaughter, released in 1997, would prove to be the band's swansong as the entity it began as. The band would lose drummer Robin Wiberg and, more importantly, its original vocalist Jeppe Lerjeurd. While Tomas Linberg (of At The Gates fame) would be Lerjeurd's replacement, the band was never really the same following the 1998 departure of Wiberg and Lerjeurd.

No comments:

Post a Comment