A common refrain in heavy metal music refers to the “gods of heavy metal”, which is probably a sign of the influence of paganism on the genre. I have no idea if the heavy metal gods actually exist, but if they do, I’m pretty sure they live in Sweden. Why, you ask? Let me explain.
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a decent chance you’re a fan of heavy metal. However, if you’re a Swede that’s reading this blog, there’s an excellent chance of you being a metal fan. The Swedes are MASSIVE fans of heavy metal. Just check out this nifty info graphic showing the number of metal bands per 100,000 people in countries around the world:
Now, technically, Finland has more metal bands per capita than Sweden, and many of them are excellent, but the quality of bands that Sweden has produced is incredible. Bathory helped establish both the black metal and Viking metal genres. Candlemass was instrumental in pioneering doom metal. HammerFall is one of Europe’s most successful power metal bands. Gothenburg, Sweden birthed the incredible genre of melodic death metal, which started with At the Gates, Dark Tranquility, and In Flames, and the country has held a stranglehold on the genre ever since through powerhouses like Amaranthe, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Scar Symmetry, and Soilwork.
People in Sweden are crazy over heavy metal, and they know it. A guy was clinically diagnosed with “heavy metal addiction” and awarded government funded disability benefits to help supplement his job as a dishwasher (during which his employer lets him rock out to Slayer). A popular venture capitalist released a book on Heavy Metal Management, which was the bestselling book in Sweden in December of the year it was released and sold over 10,000 e-books in the first two weeks of January alone!
So why is Sweden so metal crazy? Well, if the fine folks over at Citylab would have you believe that the trend has something to do with the wealth of nations, given that wealthier countries around the world are generally more fond of heavy metal. But, as they themselves admit, correlation does not equal causation. I have an alternative theory.
The gods of heavy metal live there.
Why would they do that? Well, let me put forth a few other seemingly random correlations:
– Sweden is a land of intense natural beauty. Seriously, check the place out. It’s gorgeous. Let me also mention that many old pagan religions emphasize a strong bond with nature, sometimes making it a fundamental point of their religion. Coincidence?
– As beautiful as it is, Sweden is also unbelievably, bitterly cold, and in the winter months, parts of Sweden are bathed in eternal darkness. Sounds like the stuff of metal songs, does it not?
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, well what about Antarctica? It’s super dark and cold there, and some might call it beautiful.
True, but here’s the kicker: Vikings.
Scandinavia was the ancestral home of these fierce warriors, who believed in paganism, devoted themselves to Thor and Odin, the gods of war and death, and believed strongly in the ideals of battle, kinship, and mysticism. Now, you could say that heavy metal merely is a modern manifestation of many of these same ideals, and that the genre is so popular in Sweden due to the lingering influence of the Vikings on the culture. Or perhaps, the metal gods, those same ones who granted the Vikings their strength and power, are now granting that same boon to heavy metal musicians, who are harnessing said power and converting it into incredible, earth-shattering music.
I mean, honestly, which is more plausible? I rest my case.
Image credit: Featured image by Mazurw (CC-BY-2.5) via Wikimedia Commons. Post images by unknown (CC BY-SA 2.0) and netzanette (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr.