let there be Sunlight

Guitar World|June 2020

let there be Sunlight
ENTOMBED GUITARIST UFFE CEDERLUND AND SUNLIGHT STUDIOS’ RECORDING WIZARD TOMAS SKOGSBERG LOOK BACK ON THE BIRTH OF SWEDISH DEATH METAL AND THE SUNLIGHT SOUND
JOE MATERA

PRIOR TO THE explosion of Swedish death metal onto the international scene in the early Nineties, Sweden had etched its musical heritage onto the world via its most famous export, the sweet pop sounds of ABBA. As the Seventies gave way to the Eighties, new Swedish artists such as Europe and Yngwie Malmsteen would steer the tiny nation’s sonic legacy in a much harder and heavier direction. And with the birth pangs of a darker and extreme sound of metal slowly finding favor with the youth as the decade wore on, Sweden was ripe for the birth of a sound that would go on to become known as the “Sunlight Sound.”

The seed that led to the development of the Sunlight Sound was planted in Stockholm in 1988 when a local teenage band, Nihilist, hired a young up-and-coming engineer and producer named Tomas Skogs-berg to record their second demo cassette, Only Shreds Remain. Skogsberg had first set up his Sunlight Studios as a makeshift facility as early as 1982, and during the next several years — while holding down a day job — he’d spend his nights learning his trade by recording local punk and pop bands. By the time Nihilist enlisted Skogsberg’s services, Sunlight had transformed into a full-blown recording studio with a growing clientele, and Skogsberg had left his day job to concentrate on his studio work.

During the recording sessions for the demo, Nihilist guitarist Leif Cuzner [who passed away in 2006] experimented by cranking all the knobs on his Boss HM-2 pedal to maximum, and, in turn, the first vestiges of the “buzzsaw” sound took shape. Nihilist imploded soon after the demo’s completion, with the remaining members forming a brand-new band, Entombed. The band entered Sunlight Studios in December 1989, and with Skogsberg again helming production duties, they recorded their debut album, Left Hand Path. This album would crystalize the heavily distorted harsh guitar sound that would, with time, come to be labelled the “buzzsaw” sound — because it sounded like a swarm of bees.

“I had worked with some bands prior to Entombed who had a similar kind of music, but I didn’t find that real sound until I worked with Entombed,” Skogsberg says. “Entombed’s Uffe Cederlund was a very good guitarist, so it was easy to work with him. We could try different things together, so using a Boss HM-2, we would try this and we would try that. In a couple of hours, we had stumbled upon the sound. But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh wow, what have we created here?’ It was more like, ‘This is the sound!’”

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June 2020