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Swede-core (aka Gothencore) is a nickname for the most common style of metalcore music today, which combines the melodies and guitar harmonies of Swedish melodic death metal bands such as In Flames and At the Gates with the aggressiveness and breakdowns of American hardcore punk. This style is most commonly played by North American bands, though it has been made popular in Europe as well by bands like Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn.



While death metal and hardcore had always intermingled to an extent, the first clearly identifiable instances of melodic Swedish metal being combined with hardcore seem to have sprung almost simultaneously, with Undying's This Day All Gods Die, Darkest Hour's The Prophecy Fulfilled, Prayer for Cleansing's The Rain in Endless Fall, Shadows Fall's With Somber Eyes to the Sky, and Unearth's Above the Fall of Man all being released within a year of each other (1998-99). It is unclear who first got the idea to combine the two styles. Darkest Hour had released an EP called The Misanthrope in 1996 which arguably contained elements of their later sound but was for the most part aggro-hardcore in the vein of Damnation a.d. On the other hand, Day of Suffering's 1997 album The Eternal Jihad is cited as an influence for many of the North Carolina bands that followed, such as Undying and Overcast is seen as having started the genre in Massachusetts.

From the above list of bands one can see that the two main points of origin for Swede-core were the Washington D.C./North Carolina and Boston area hardcore scenes, though Florida's Morning Again may have been influential as well. However, it can be argued that strides to bridge the gap between the two styles were being made in the European metal scene as well. In the early 90's, the band Entombed began to incorporate elements of hardcore punk, and it can be argued that Carcass, who are considered to be one of the inventors of melodic death metal, had a strong hardcore element to begin with. The band that brought the Swedish metal sound closest to hardcore, however, was At the Gates, whose landmark 1995 album Slaughter of the Soul eschewed the layered melodies and folk-style acoustic guitars used by their peers Dark Tranquillity and In Flames in favor of a much more raw and energetic sound. In the liner notes of the album's re-released version, vocalist Tomas Lindberg recalls that many of the band's American fans consisted of "straight edge kids". Though they broke up shortly after, At the Gates is one of the bands that are most imitated by today's metalcore artists, particularly Darkest Hour. Soilwork followed a similar pattern, bringing in even more hardcore influences, though in recent years their sound has shifted more towards Nu-metal.


There is a great deal of variation within the subgenre itself. More popular bands such as Killswitch Engage and Atreyu tend to rely on a thicker, better-produced sound, conspicuous breakdowns, and clean-vocal passages, while smaller-label bands such as Undying or Beyond the Sixth Seal tend to have a faster, more raw sound that is often virtually indistinguishable from traditional melodic death metal. The main distinction lies in the drumming, which is much more hollow-sounding (and usually sharper and more precise) than the standard double-bass roll found in most European death metal. If breakdowns are used, they are generally more 'brutal' than those of the bands in the first category.

The lyrics of Swede-core bands are generally more intelligent and complex than those of standard Swedish-style melodic death metal bands, if for no other reason than that English is usually not the latter's first language. Often, they reflect hardcore rather than metal themes; for example, Darkest Hour focuses on socio-political commentary, while Undying focuses on veganism and environmentalism. Other bands such as The Black Dahlia Murder use more standard death metal themes, though this is probably done in a somewhat self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek fashion. Oddly enough, the apocalyptic nature of the music also suits it to Christian themes, and Christian metalcore is nearly a genre unto itself.


Swede-core became unexpectedly popular around the year 2000 along with emo, probably due to its overlap with some of the heavier emo-hardcore bands. Among the bands that helped popularize it and are considered its foremost representatives today are Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, and Unearth. Because of its popularity, it is often criticized as a 'sell-out' genre, being called "the new Nu-metal". The validity of this argument is supported by the fact that Ozzfest lineups in recent years have begun to consist mainly of metalcore bands, whereas the festival had been dominated by Nu-metal in the late nineties. Defenders of the genre say that the style has simply become more popular, while critics counter that the music itself has become watered-down and stale.

Currently Swede-core possesses a sort of second-degree popularity, prevalent among fans of heavy music in general, but lacking the mainstream appeal of emo. However, its influence is visible in the mainstream, as many popular emo bands such as Alexisonfire or Silverstein often conspicuously incorporate Swedish metal riffs into their sound.

List of Bands

A Life Once Lost
Age of Ruin
All That Remains
As I Lay Dying
Avenged Sevenfold
Beyond the Sixth Seal
Bleeding Through
Darkest Hour
Dead Blue Sky
Dwell Beneath
From Autumn to Ashes
Heaven Shall Burn
In Dying Days
Invocation of Nehek
It Dies Today
Killswitch Engage
Last Perfection
Locked in a Vacancy
Prayer for Cleansing
The Autumn Offering
Winter Solstice

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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