Mikael Stanne is a legend of the Gothenburg sound. One-time frontman for In Flames before taking over vocal duties for Dark Tranquillity in 1994, Stanne has remained prolific, guesting with countless bands whilst also unveiling new projects like Swedish death metal luminaries Grand Cadaver and Gothenburg-supergroup The Halo Effect.
We caught up with Mikael to ask him what bands shaped his musical taste - and as you'd expect, things got gruesomly heavy.
1. Grotesque - The Black Gate Is Closed (1989)
"I first got into extreme metal through trading tapes and reading fanzines. When I was fourteen, I went with one of my neighbours, Shamaatae, to sit in on a rehearsal with his new band. That band was Grotesque and seeing them rehearse was incredibly cool.
The intensity and speed of the music being played at maximum volume impressed me like very little had up until that point. My favourite song quickly became Blood Runs From The Altar, from their second demo The Black Gate Is Closed. I was already a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, so this was just perfection to me."
2. Nihilist - Premature Autopsy (1988)
"I read about the bands from Stockholm all the time in fanzines and as soon as I could save up some money, I would buy demo cassettes from the bands I’d read and heard about. Premature Autopsy blew me away. The HM-2 guitar sound and the rawness of the vocals felt intimidating and insane to me. I’m really glad I got to see them in this constellation in November ’88. "
3. Tiamat - Sumerian Cry (1989)
"I remember meeting some of the Tiamat guys before they changed their name from Treblinka, and they seemed like fascinating people. I could tell that they had something else in mind with their music, not just the standard fare of heavy distortion and speed. It felt eerie and strange, and they were very different from other bands I listened to at the time. Sumerian Cry is a true classic and as much as I love most of their catalogue, this is what brought me into Johan Edlunds music.
4. Dismember - Like An Everflowing Stream (1991)
"This is just a timeless classic. I had some demos copied from friends prior to Like An Everflowing Stream being released but with such a cover and maybe the coolest production in the history of Stockholm death metal, I bought it on the day of release. I remember we played a festival together in ’92 and I was blown away by their massive sound. None of the other bands stood a chance. Epic!"
5. Merciless – The Awakening (1990)
"This is still my favourite death metal album of all time. The intensity and that whole, “playing a bit faster than we are able to” type of approach, it makes this such a gem. Great riffs, fantastic vocals, killer cover. It had and still has absolutely everything."
6. At The Gates - Terminal Spirit Disease (1994)
"This is where At the Gates really turned into that inspirational band for me. I loved everything prior to this but it was something about the tight sound that gives this such a propulsive energy. [Fredrik] Nordström’s production here really set the tone for what death metal sounded like, after this. It never gets old and seeing this being played nowadays brings me right back to when I first heard it in the studio, when it was being mixed."
7. The Crown - Deathrace King (2000)
"This just slays so much. It’s impossible to listen to this album without wanting to drink two thousand beers. It’s just so relentless and nasty. I managed to see them many times with different line-ups but I think it really comes together with this one. Total classic."
8. Morbid Angel - Altars Of Madness (1989)
"I first heard Chapel Of Ghouls on the B-side of a cassette with a Metallica live tape on its A-side. Someone had kindly recorded what they considered to be, “the greatest album of all time,” on the other side and I couldn’t agree more.
This has everything I love about death metal and David Vincent was a huge influence on me when I started screaming. I saw them in 1990 and it was a transformative experience. Death metal could be more than just brutality and speed, Morbid Angel showed that this genre could expand and grow.
9. Atheist - Piece Of Time (1989)
"The Florida technical death metal scene was huge for me. The mind-bending songs of Atheist were just so out of this world and even if I didn’t understand the songs back then they still resonated with me. I couldn’t love this more if I tried."
10. Sadus - Chemical Exposure (1988)
"The madness of Twisted Face is just insane. I love how over the top it is and how you can see in your mind how these guys play standing on their toes leaning forward. Such a fantastic band that I keep coming back to, time and time again."