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Review: Blood Fire Death: The Swedish Metal Story
Book Review
Blood Fire Death: The Swedish Metal Story
Publisher: Feral House
Author: Ika Johannesson and Jon Jefferson Klingberg
Year published: 2018
Pages: 336

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: December 27, 2020
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
for:
Blood Fire Death: The Swedish Metal Story

Rated 4.25/5 (85%) (4 Votes)
Review

This book sets out with an ambitious goal: covering the story of Swedish metal, one of the most prolific metal scenes in the world. Does it succeed? Not quite. And I don't that as a criticism; it's pretty much impossible to cover what's been going on in Swedish metal in just over 300 pages. You have to take some and leave some. One could argue that they've covered the essentials and the rest is just circling in orbit around the bands in the book.

The book is kind of unfocused, for lack of a better word. The chapters are sometimes about genres, sometimes about a specific band or person, sometimes about things like suicide, media, money, etc. There isn't always continuity between chapters, so it's relatively safe just jumping to whichever one you want to read. The level of detail for each varies greatly, sometimes just scratching the surface, sometimes going into way too much detail—that's largely a matter of taste, but I personally don't care much about what's where in a room into which the authors just entered to interview a band or band member. That said, it often has the effect of making you feel like you're there with them, so even though I found that it's not necessary, it adds a dimension not found in most other books I've read about metal.

The authors cover a lot of ground in this book and, while things sometimes drag on a little too long in some chapters, the amount of work they put into this is astonishing. This is not about email or phone interviews. More often than not, they conducted their interviews in person, whether it's at a home, rehearsal place, restaurant, bar or a show to meet with dozens of characters from the Swedish metal scene. If that's not dedication, I don't know what is.

I didn't find this book as engaging as some other I've read recently, but it's nonetheless fascinating and I can guarantee that some of the chapters will make you feel uneasy—if not make your skin crawl—as some of the characters interviewed are definitely on the extreme side of things in life, not just in their music. Extreme metal genres are covered in much more detail than, for example, just plain old heavy metal (Hammerfall and the likes) and that's quite understandable given the history of black and death metal in Sweden (they do touch on the Norwegian scene as well, given the links between the two). They could have doubled the size of the book and still have more to tell. The book feels more like an amalgam of chapters rather than a whole, and some parts almost have an essay style to them. While reading it, I sometimes found that annoying, but looking back I can't see how they could have covered the subject differently; just be prepared for some of that.

I won't call this a page-turner, but I often found it hard to put it down, while I struggled to get through a few of the chapters which can probably be attributed to a lack of personal interest in the subject covered. No matter what, if you're interested in Swedish metal and want to find out more in one location, this book is exactly what you need.


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