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Reviewed by Niklas
City: Stockholm, Sweden
Venue: Fryshuset
Date: 01-02 September 2006

All pictures are © Michael Finnermark.
Please contact him and ask for permission before using any of the pictures.



Swedish Metal Expo

You might have heard about science fiction-expos, where fans dress up like their favourite characters from for example Star Trek and then walk around among like-minded people, meeting their personal heroes and also grabbing as much free stuff as possible. Since last year, metal-fans all around Sweden now have their own expo in Fryshuset in Stockholm, called Swedish Metal Expo, spreading over the two first days in September.

Just like last year there are also (mostly Swedish) bands that perform a few floors down in the venue called Klubben, the most well known acts this year being Nocturnal Rites, Gemini Five, Bullet, Steel Attack and Paperback Freud. Then there is the exhibition hall itself, where record labels, agencies, music magazines, communities and up-and-coming bands struggle to get the most attention.

Metal Covenant attended the expo on the second day, and arrived just in time for the biggest drawing card; Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho and Roope Latvala from Children Of Bodom holding a guitar clinic. The main purpose was to learn the fans how to play the guitar like a pro, as well as answering any questions that came up. The boys played a few excerpts from songs like Lake Bodom and Beach Bodom Terror, some material from Roope's former band Stone, as well as a few solos. A fan asked them to play the Finnish national anthem, but Alexi declined since he reckoned that they would "fuck it up".

In spite of "Wildchild" being a good improviser, the clinic never really took off, mostly due to the lack of a proper moderator and that it was impossible to hear the questions from the audience, which resulted in a confusing Q&A. I'm not a guitar hero at heart, so this clinic might not have been aimed at people like me. But then again, my dad really enjoyed it, and he hasn't played a solo in his entire life. In the end it was worth spending the 45 minutes with the band, especially as they revealed that the next album is planned for a release next fall.

While waiting for the death metal-panel to start, there was time to check out the famous artist Kristian Wåhlin's exhibition. Kristian has painted hundreds of album covers over the years, and he brought his personal favourites to Swedish Metal Expo. Some of Kristian's more famous clients are At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Tiamat, Evergrey, Therion, Bathory, Amorphis, Cemetary, Dark Funeral, Kind Diamond and Dissection. Those who claim that heavy metal can't be "art" should take a look at the covers of At The Gates' Slaughter Of The Soul, Dismember's Massive Killing Capacity and Tiamat's Wildhoney and then report back to me. Pure brilliance.

Then there was time for a group of death metal-legends to take their seats in front of the audience in the hall. None other than Tomas Lindberg (former vocalist in At The Gates), Fred Estby (drummer in Dismember) Dan Swanö (mastermind behind Edge Of Sanity) and Robban Becirovic (editor of Close-Up Magazine) were to take part in a panel and try to reveal all the secrets about death metal. Much of the discussion was spent on how people were able to discover new (death metal) bands in the old days, when there was no Internet. For a young punk like me, it's hard to realize how much effort you had to put in to get the demos or albums you wanted. It was pretty much standard that you were part of tape trading-lists, as well as corresponding with fans in other cities or countries.

One question is about how death metal has coloured the popular music of today. Dan says that there is a small percent of what he think is death metal left in today's music, and that the borders are becoming blurred when it comes to death metal and ordinary metal. Robban points out that one of Sweden's most commercial successful metal-bands of today is In Flames, and they are still rooted in death metal. The next question is consequently how the Swedish Sound has become so wide spread over the world. Robban assumes that the simple answer is that Swedes are very good at taking the best parts of different sounds and putting it together to make something even better. The guys also seem to agree on that Entombed's Left Hand Path (1990) was a landmark since it had such a "bad-ass" guitar sound.

It would feel awkward to leave Fryshuset (which houses both the venues Arenan and Klubben) without seeing any bands performing, so before I had to leave there was time to check out Falkenberg's Sonic Syndicate. They got a lot of attention when they won a record deal with Nuclear Blast as a result of beating around 1,500 competitors in a "band contest". While their material is the rather common fusion of In Flames/Soilwork-metal, seeing them perform live is a whole other thing. They are scarily tight, both vocalists fire thunderbolts through their mouths and bassist Karin Axelsson is an ice-cold babe. Plus, tracks like Jailbreak and Soulstone Splinter suggests that you might want to watch this spot.

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