Sweden, along with the other Scandinavian countries, and UK, USA, and Italy has been for a very, very long time a prime source for great progressive music. The progressive scene in Sweden might have not been as strong as the UK or US scenes back in the heyday, but over the years the amount of quality Progressive Rock & Metal bands has drastically increased, with an offer of bands that are today leading acts of the genres.
I’ve given myself a very difficult task to choose bands that are, in my opinion, the finest representatives of what the North European country has to offer when it comes to Prog. I have also set two simple rules: the band must be still active, and they should have at least five studio albums released. Otherwise, this would feel like an impossible mission.
After lot of thinking, I’ve come up with the following list of 20 bands.
Fire! are one of the finest examples of Avant-Prog hailing from Sweden. Formed as power trio originally, featuring Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werlin, the band has come a long way since their 2009’s debut You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago. On their following albums the amount of involved musicians drastically increased. Last year’s album Fire! Orchestra: Ritual is one of the best releases of 2016.
Gothenburg’s Evergrey was formed in 1995, and their first five albums are absolutely a winning streak for any prog metal fan. Led by Tom S. Englund, they’ve had their highs and lows during the career. Their 2014’s “return” in the shape of Hymns for the Broken has put them again on the world’s map, and last year’s The Storm Within has proved that after ten albums, they still have it.
A lot has been said about Meshuggah. One of the most inspiring bands out there, the fathers of a whole new music style, Meshuggah has been active since the late 80s. Their last record, 2016’s The Violent Sleep of Reason, is by far their best work to date.
This might feel like cheating, but over the years Katatonia has progressed quite a lot. From their early doom releases towards more alternative rock vibe right in the middle of their career, the Swedes have made a transition, embracing Progressive Rock on a large scale.
Stockholm’s Siena Root has been around since the late 90s. The band that has flirted many times with the retro Progressive Rock sound successfully blends their hunger for vintage with Psychedelia and Space Rock, and they have been doing it over the course of five studio albums.
These prog metallers is a perfect example of how melody and technicality should sound like. In a basketball jargon: they are good at both ends of the court. I’m not sure what are they up to when it comes to new music, but over the last few years they were mostly active live. Their latest studio album is 2011’s Manifest Tyranny. Having said that, I hope that they’ll return with a new one soon.
This brainchild of bassist and composer Jonas Reingold has been flying under my radar since the release of their debut Entering the Spectra in 2002, and ever since then I call myself a huge Karmakanic fan. In a Perfect World has garnered mixed reviews, but last year’s DOT has brought the band back to the “modern” prog’s elite.
Roine Stolt’s group has been active since 1993, and over the course of almost 25 years the group released 12 albums. The Flower Kings is one of the rare bands that succeeded in releasing inspiring material album after album.
Wolverine’s evolution over the years has gone through the Prog Metal metal driven debut towards more mellow, softer Progressive Rock on their latest achievement Machina Viva. I’m sure that they still have quite a lot to offer; Wolverine is definitely a Swedish band to look for in the coming years.
Swedish answer to King Crimson, Anekdoten returned in 2015 with Until All Ghosts Are Gone, seven years after the release of their previous studio full length A Time of Day. The resulting album is their best effort to date, although their previous records are statements per se. Great Mellotron-driven Progressive Rock.
Swedish musician who needs no introduction. He’s been part of the scene for three decades, and is know for his work with Nightingale, Edge of Sanity, and Witherscape. Swanö has contributed to many great Swedish bands such Katatonia, Opeth, and Therion, but he can also be heard on Arjen Lucassen’s Star One Project. His project Edge of Sanity has been cited by many bands and musicians as inspiration.
Over the years, Swedish musician Reine Fiske has been associated with many great bands and projects coming from his home country. He’s been part of Landberk, and has collaborated with bands such Paatos, Elephant9, Motorpsycho, and Träd, Gräs och Stenar. Fiske has also been a part of Dungen, a psychedelic rock band with plenty of different influences. The band released nine studio albums; the latest being last year’s Häxan.
PoS are definitely one of the “biggest” Prog bands coming from Sweden. With ten studio albums under their belt, they have also crystallised as a band that influenced many modern Prog Rock & Metal groups. Their seminal albums The Perfect Element – Part 1, Remedy Lane, and Be are definitely some of the genre’s greats. Pain of Salvation’s most recent album, In The Passing Light of Day, was released earlier this year and it sees the band going back to their roots.
Many will argue that Cult of Luna’s place might or might not be on this list, but my opinion is that the band made quite a big progress over the years, and since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2001. Their shift towards Progressive Rock could be felt on 2006’s Somewhere Along the Highway. This influence was broadened on the next albums, including last year’s collaboration with Julie Christmas on Mariner.
Possibly the most “unserious” group on this list, Freak Kitchen has been known for their humour and criticism threaded through their lyrics, but also for their skills and great performance.
The collaboration between drummer Morgan Agren and keyboardist Mats Öberg explores wide spectre of stylistically different elements ranging from Avant-Garde, Jazz, Electronica, Progressive Rock, etc. Their latest effort, Schack Tati, was released in 2014 via Cuneiform Records.
Keyboardist Carl Westholm and singer Nicklas Flinck have been working together as Carptree since 1997, and they have put out six studio albums so far. Their latest, Emerger, was released earlier this year. Their mission to combine catchy melodies with more dramatic, progressive arrangements is what led them since the beginning, and they still follow the same route after 20 years of work.
Malmö’s A.C.T. released five studio and one live albums since 1999. Imaginary Friends (2001), Last Epic (2003), and Circus Pandemonium (2014) are among the band’s best releases. Last year they released a live album titled Trifles and Pandemonium, and in an interview they gave last year it was said that they have some new material, so it’s likely that they will release something new in the near future.
Vintersorg have just announced the release of their new album, Till Fjälls Del II, scheduled for June 30th via Napalm Records. Although it’s not promising that the new album will be much of a Prog release (according to press release), the band has successfully explored the genre beyond its limits on some of their previous works: Visions from the Spiral Generator (2002), The Focusing Blur (2004), Orkan (2012).
If you scared that Opeth’s not on this list, you can relax now. Mikael Akerfeldt & Co. are arguably the biggest Progressive Rock/Metal band coming from Sweden these days. The band that’s loved and hated by many has been incorporating the Prog Rock influences since their early days, perfecting it with their early 2000 records, and switching forward to a more mellow and softened sound on the last three albums. Opeth never gave up from Prog, and it seems that they won’t do so for many years to come.