When it comes to metal, Sweden is generally known for its stupendous contributions to the field of death metal, bands like Entombed, Morbid and Nihilist helping to characterise the buzz-saw tones emerging from the country in the late 80s and early 90s, inspiring countless bands to experiment with tone in the process. Later, bands like Opeth, Amon Amarth and Meshuggah helped diversify that sound even further, while Gothenburg became a by-word for the wave of melodically-inclined bands emerging at the head of melodeath from the mid-90s to the early 2000s.
But, Sweden isn't all fjords and fury - the country also gave birth to possibly the greatest pop act to ever walk the earth, ABBA. Iconic, anthemic and catchier than the bubonic plague, ABBA's contributions to the world of music can be felt in nigh-on every gloriously sugary song ever to grace the radio. That in mind, we tasked Beast In Black guitarist (and all-round musical cheese connoisseur) Kasperi Heikkinen with picking out 10 of the most ABBA-friendly songs in heavy metal history. And no, we didn't just let him pick Ghost and Night Flight Orchestra - we aren't here to shoot fish in a barrel, after all.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I was drawn to any kind of music that featured strong melodies; they enraptured me," Heikkinen says. "When I was growing up, rock and heavy metal music represented the freedom and rebellion that resonated with who I was at that time. I think that’s why those styles became the vital life blood for me throughout the years and why they have shaped the essence of my identity to what it is now. Nevertheless, I'm a music lover first and foremost and I don't like to pigeonhole myself in any specific genre, so whatever is good is good regardless of the category or box that it gets put in. I chose these songs simply because I wanted to introduce some more obscure and lesser known music to the public instead of the same, obvious mainstream choices. I hope you will enjoy this peculiar yet tasty potpourri!"
1. TNT - Listen To Your Heart (Tell No Tales, 1987)
"TNT is a pretty well concealed treasure chest from the land of the fjords. Their albums from the 1980s feature some high-quality hair metal with bombastic production, irresistible hooks and stratospheric vocals. Nowadays multinational bands are nothing weird or unusual, but back in the day a Norwegian hard rock band with an American singer was definitely an anomaly and a major exception to the norm. Ronni Le Tekrø’s poppy yet quirky songwriting and highly original guitar playing combined with Tony Harnell’s supersonic vocal dexterity surely did make up for an interesting concoction. They really kept it strong and won the race with this one."
2. Danger Danger - Crazy Nites (Screw It!, 1991)
"One of the many, many mostly-unknown bands from the late-80s/early-90s hair metal era. These rock’n’rollers and right-out-of-controllers originating from the Big Apple really knew how to be catchy and contagious from the get-go. Choir sing-alongs, virtuosic overall performance, blood pumping energy and high octane adrenaline rush all packed into one is a recipe that’s finger-licking good and to die for! Definitely a perfect soundtrack for cruising down the boulevard, letting it loose and living only for tonight!
3. Pretty Maids - Live Until It Hurts (Spooked, 1997)
"This 1997 release from these Danish ambassadors of melodic old-school hard rock was a victim of the time it was released in. Unfortunately this style of music was flying WAAAAAY below the radar back then, but luckily low public exposure doesn’t diminish the power and majesty of high quality music at all. Sometimes you just gotta dig a bit deeper to find the real gems. These guys have stuck to their guns since the early-80s and forged ahead undeterred on their chosen path, no matter what. Even though this selection is nowhere near among their most well-known songs I'm still sure a lot of rock music aficionados will appreciate the cheerful bliss of this particular deep cut."
4. Fate - I Won't Stop (A Matter Of Attitude, 1986)
"Another slightly obscure group of party rockers originating from Denmark. Founded by ex-Mercyful Fate guitar player Hank Shermann they tried dipping in in the arena rock territory with impressive yet somewhat short-lived results in the glorious 80s. There are keyboards galore and the joyful and upbeat atmosphere is guaranteed to get the party started, especially when you bang your head and sing along to the tongue-in-cheek rock’n’roll-lyric-cliché-generator nonsense, haha! There’s no stopping these wild stallions because they’re gonna get what they came for!"
5. Zinatra - Unknown Skies (The Great Escape, 1990)
"No, this arcane guild is not related to the world famous crooner in any way despite being almost namesakes. Back in the day they were a bunch of highly skilled and like minded rock musicians originating from the country of tulips, clogs and windmills. In the footsteps of their fellow countrymen (who were Hot For Teacher and Running With The Devil) this fast and furious Van Halen-esque shuffle groove is bringing blood to a boil as they’re revving it up and kicking into overdrive! These Dutch groove-meisters take no prisoners as they are soaring across the skies and mountains on their thrilling voyage all around the globe."
6. Stan Bush - Dare (Transformers The Movie OST, 1986)
"Inspirational and fist-pumping ear-candy from the soundtrack of the original 1986 Transformers movie. Vince DiCola, who composed the soundtrack for the whole flick, penned this pièce de résistance especially to be sung by Mr. Bush. Forget about the horrendous modern day Michael Bay atrocities; dust off your old and trustworthy VHS-tape and pop it into your VCR while this masterpiece plays in the background on an endless loop. Pure nostalgic joy and happiness without a worry in the world. Autobots, roll out!"
7. Cheap Trick - Mighty Wings (Top Gun OST, 1986)
"1986 was a pretty good year also when it came to new and exciting movies. This song from the Top Gun soundtrack is a thunderous aviation anthem of the first degree and it still deserves A LOT more recognition than it actually got when the motion picture in question was a box office hit! Written by the genius of Harold Faltermeyer and Mark Spiro this feverish speeding bullet dripping with triumphant synths portrays the heroics and bombast of the fighter pilots to a tee. In the famous words of Maverick and Goose I think we all feel the need...the need for speed!"
8. Robby Valentine - Wild Child (The Magic Infinity, 1993)
"Robby Valentine, a Dutch multi-instrumentalist prodigy, always had a keen ear for poppy and catchy hook-lines. Embarking on a solo career in his early 20s, he’s been honing his craft endlessly and been productive constantly for the last three decades. This simplistic and uplifting tune is a fine example of his song writing prowess, albeit a fairly stripped down and straight-forward pop rock song compared to some of his more bombastic, intricate and Queen-esque compositions. Captivating and memorable positivity all the way!"
9. Fair Warning - When Love Fails (Fair Warning, 1992)
"High quality German Hard Rock/AOR from the early 1990’s. Although they were fairly popular in Japan around the time, their impact on the rest of the world unfortunately left a lot to be desired. But then again you have to take into consideration the fact that all kinds of quality music performed by skilled musicians seemed to be banned and outlawed in most parts of the world in the dreadful 1990s. This song is a bit more minor tonality based but highly energizing, addictive and animated nevertheless. Helge Engelke’s tasteful Uli Jon Roth-influenced guitar playing also deserves a special mention, very stylish and sleek axe work."
10. Beast In Black - One Night In Tokyo (Dark Connection, 2021)
"I don't want to toot our own horn and say too much about this one, but stylistically it's probably something along the lines of eurodance-meets-synthwave-meets-vintage video game music. An adventurous high gear joyride depicting an escapade in the land of the rising sun. Not for the faint-hearted!"
One Night In Tokyo is out now via Nuclear Blast