How are there so many Swedish metal bands? A Swedish metal band explains

(Image credit: Johan Carlèn)

Johannes Eckerström, singer of Swedish melodic metal group Avatar, has explained why his home country has given the world so many heavy bands.

According to the frontman, the country responsible for Sabaton, Arch Enemy, Meshuggah, Opeth, In Flames, Amon Amarth, Bathory and more has done so due to its wide array of government-subsidised music schools.

“In Sweden, post-World War II, there’s this kind of […] an afterschool program thing [where] all municipalities opened music schools,” Eckerström tells 105.7 The Point (transcribed by Blabbermouth).

“It’s not part of the school and the school curriculum; it’s just a place you can go and get to learn to play an instrument. And that is super subsidised and available to basically everyone.”

The vocalist continues: “The first year, you get to borrow an instrument for free, and then, second year, if you’re sticking with it, you will get to buy things very subsidised. And initially, it’s just 20 minutes per week with a music teacher, playing Mary Had A Little Lamb on a violin or something, but it keeps growing from there.

“If you’re drawn into it, it goes pretty far with musical education, just as a fun afterschool thing for kids to do, kind of like playing little league or something, but for music. And that is readily and widely available, which means that a lot of Swedish kids get to get a taste for it.”

Eckerström adds that all the members of Avatar attended after-school programmes like this during their youth, which made it easier to meet people with similar music tastes and to perform metal once they developed a taste for it in their teens.

The vocalist concludes by saying that Sweden being famous for its metal bands has also made it easier for new Swedish metal bands to be noticed and receive goodwill.

“Another big part of it, I think, is once a country has had one version of a success story, that country gets branded like that,” he says

“It’s a pure case of prejudice. If you can say this is a new metal band from Sweden, you feel some kind of confidence and curiosity about it… So we’re kind of used to that. So that’s a self-feeding system.”

Last year, educational website Big Think published an article that claimed, “There are more heavy metal bands in Scandinavian countries than anywhere else.”

The article interviewed Jönköping International Business School economics professor Charlotta Mellander, who attributed the large number of metal bands in Sweden to the country’s high-quality and compulsory music education, as well as its healthy GDP.

Quartz similarly reported in 2014, “Heavy metal music is a surprising indicator of countries’ economic health.”

The report stated that Mellander, “who is Swedish, attributes Scandinavia’s proclivity for heavy metal bands to its governments’ efforts to put compulsory music training in schools, which created a generation with the musical chop to meet metal’s technical demands”.

Avatar released their latest album, Dance Devil Dance, last year and are currently touring North America. See their live schedule and get tickets via their website.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.