REWIND: Take a trip to Scandinavia for some hard rock and metal


Scandinavia: The countries above the countries that people first think of when they want to go to Europe.

After watching Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals it’s tempting to write a column about the Warriors, but I’m not going to be the one to jinx them. So you’re going to have to wait until they finish off whoever wins the East in four.

Instead we’re heading north. No, farther north than that, and east; we’re heading to Scandinavia.

The underrated Danish rock-metal-rockabilly band Volbeat released the first single from its upcoming album, so let’s catch up with what else is going on in Viking country. It’s not just distressingly evil black metal anymore. I mean, there’s still more than a little distressingly evil black metal, don’t get me wrong. But there’s other music too! And some of it is only moderately evil!

Volbeat — “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”

It’s only right we start with some Volbeat, but not the single. It’s OK; it’s not as good as the first track from 2016’s Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie.

This, to me, is the quintessential Volbeat, by which I mean it’s a weird mash-up of all sorts of things that probably shouldn’t go together. The distortion is decidedly metal but the music itself skews toward hard rock, while the drums are a swing beat and the vocals are… something else entirely. Combine all that with the art deco, neo-Western aesthetic of its album art and themes, that can’t quite decide what decade it wants to be in, and it’s a jumbled mess that somehow comes together beautifully.

Listen to Volbeat. Love Volbeat.

Ghost — “Square Hammer”

We can’t have a discussion about Scandinavia, metal or even 21st century music without bringing up Swedish metal band/performance art project Ghost, which is by far my favorite band of the last 20 years.

I’ve gone on at length about how and why they’re such an amazing band far more than anyone asked for or wanted so I’ll spare you yet another prolonged, fawning analysis. But I really want to because they deserve it. I can’t even think of another band that’s blended their albums and their concerts so completely with an ongoing narrative story, and honestly I couldn’t even tell you how someone would do it if they wanted to. And, amazingly, the music doesn’t suffer because of the grander ambitions.

Sorry. I’ll stop.

Leo Moracchioli — “Feel Good Inc.”

Leo Moracchioli, proprietor of Frog Leap Studios in Norway, hasn’t released any original songs that I’m aware of. But don’t hold that against him.

He’s one of the most talented musicians working today and, astoundingly, he releases a new metal cover to his YouTube channel every single week. He’s been at it for a while now too. There’s 274 of them on the playlist of covers at his channel and I think he’s forgotten to add quite a few. In fact it wasn’t easy to pick which song I wanted to use to represent him; “Hello” is my favorite but I’ve used it before, so I went through AWOLNATION’s “Sail,” Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” Toto’s “Africa,” and his most recent as of the time of this writing, “Old Town Road.”

Long story short: I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole and nearly missed deadline so I decided to go with his cover of Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.,” which is one of my favorite songs in its original, non-metal form. But I’m still not convinced I made the right choice and you should click all those other links since they’re just as good and arguably better.

You should contribute to his Patreon so he can keep making more new ones forever.

Apocalyptica — “I’m Not Jesus”

I mean, obviously I’m going to be a fan of any band that began life as an all-cello Metallica cover band. Even if Finland is only arguably Scandinavia.

Apocalyptica has branched out from covers since their first two albums, obviously, and not just when they’re partnering with Slipknot’s Corey Taylor. They’ve turned into a fantastic band in their own right, often still sticking to their cello-cover roots, but they’re at their best with original heavy metal compositions like this one. And it pains me to say that because I love me a good Metallica cover. If “One” on four cellos doesn’t give you chills I don’t even know.

Lordi — “Hard Rock Hallelujah”

Well, if I declared that Finland counts, that means I have to include Lordi.

Eurovision 2019 just ended yesterday and… some song won, I don’t know, I guess it was OK. It was certainly music. But back in 2006 the best song in the world actually won, and that song was “Hard Rock Hallelujah.”

That video above? That was actually the finals of the same music contest that introduced the world to Celine Dion and ABBA. And they won. Because sometimes the world still contains unfathomable beauty.

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