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Scandinavian Metal

Presaged by the proto-black metal, Venom-influenced '80s thrash of Sweden's Bathory, Scandinavian metal became a dominant force in the heavy metal underground during the '90s, with a reputation for producing some of the most extreme death and black metal ever recorded. Although the scene was much more diverse than that, attention centered mainly on Norwegian black metal and Swedish death metal. Sometimes nicknamed Viking metal, the basic Norwegian sound was noisy, chaotic, and often augmented by sorrowful keyboard melodies. Swedish death metal bands, meanwhile, tended to favor thick, grinding, detuned riffs instead of a blur of white noise. In both cases, though, there was an audibly chilly bleakness permeating most of the music, which critics often likened to Scandinavian winters. After the Scandinavian scene first came to international attention during the early '90s, some bands began to expand upon the basic blueprints, often adding progressive levels of instrumental technique to the music's core intensity. A second wave of Norwegian bands followed, and the Swedish scene came to be dominated by the so-called "Gothenburg sound," which essentially married ultra-heavy but memorable riffs and death-style vocals to more traditional song structures and an audible influence from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Several Finnish acts rose to prominence during the '90s as well; they tended to be even more indebted to the NWOBHM. Distributors like the Century Media label continued to discover and license new Scandinavian metal acts for overseas consumption into the new millennium.