There are plenty of stereotypes about Scandinavians in the collective imagination. According to these, people from countries as different as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland are characteristically tall, blonde, blue-eyed, reserved, happy, socialist, and rich. But why on earth do they like metal music so much?
Scandinavians love metal music for a range of cultural, economic, demographic, and geographic reasons. Their pagan roots, relatively small young male populations, wealth and quality of life, well-functioning societies, and far northern locations all contribute to making the genre popular.
The remainder of this article will explore Scandinavian metal music in greater detail. It will also explain the various styles of Scandinavian metal and look at other musical styles popular in the region.
What Kind of Metal Music Do Scandinavians Like?
Scandinavians like a wide variety of metal music. Early Scandinavian metal bands tended to be classified as heavy or extreme metal. Their successors developed more expressive variants, including bleak styles, such as death metal, and more ornate ones, such as black, power, or symphonic metal.
The earliest Scandinavian metal bands came out of Sweden and Norway in the 1980s. These underground artists included pioneering acts such as Bathory and Opeth from Sweden and Dimmu Borgir from Norway. The Swedish bands, in particular, were the earliest heavy and extreme metal acts in the region.
Later Swedish bands were highly influential in the death metal genre. These included:
- At The Gates
Today, their intense and expressive music, famous for its morbid and nihilistic lyrics and worldview, is renowned all over the world by metal music fans.
On the other hand, Norwegian metal bands are especially well regarded in the black metal genre. And power and symphonic metal bands are popular across all the Scandinavian countries. The victory of Finnish heavy metal band Lordi has also brought Scandinavian hard rock greater mass appeal in recent years.
This deep variety in Scandinavian metal is hardly surprising, given that the region has the highest number of metal bands per 100,000 population. Along with pop, metal is one of the most popular music genres across the Scandinavian countries today.
How Do Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Metal Compare?
Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish metal differ in which sub-genre of metal is most popular in each country. For example, Swedish bands pioneered regional death metal, whereas Norway is especially well-known for popularizing black metal.
Furthermore, heavy metal and Viking metal are popular across Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Symphonic and power metal are popular across all the Scandinavian countries.
The early pioneers of metal in Scandinavia developed a uniquely Scandinavian take on metal called Viking metal, with lyrics and imagery drawn from Norse mythology. The grand settings and epic struggles of their pagan traditions made for a uniquely local and highly expressive style of metal characterized by fast guitars and explosive vocals.
Swedish acts were highly influential in the death metal genre. Although this style can be melodic and progressive, characterized by dynamic shifts in rhythm and tempo, it is most notable for its dark themes, which routinely deal with the most extreme aspects of human experience, especially death, violence, and grief.
Norwegian metal bands are particularly well regarded in the black metal genre. Acts such as Emperor epitomize this sub-genre of Scandinavian metal, which is notable for its predominantly melancholic mood and melodic keyboard sequences.
On the other hand, power and symphonic metal bands such as Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Manticora, and Meshuggah, are popular all across Scandinavia, including Denmark and Finland.
Moreover, it is important to remember that these categorizations are broad and, by their nature, insufficient in capturing the dynamism of an evolving subculture and the work of multiple talented creative individuals.
Many of these bands transitioned across different styles over their careers or used composite styles that drew elements from multiple metal and other music genres. Ultimately, Scandinavian metal is exceptionally diverse, influential, and evolving.
How Does Metal Compare to Other Popular Musical Styles in Scandinavia?
Metal is hugely popular in Scandinavia. However, pop and rock music are very popular, too. The region is famous for chart-topping pop groups like ABBA and A-ha and Avante Garde artists, including Bjork and Sigur Ros. More recently, hip-hop and electronic music have also drawn mainstream audiences.
Scandinavian metal music first received global attention when the Finnish heavy metal band Lordi won the 2006 iteration of the Eurovision song contest. But, while metal is still a relatively young genre in the region, it had been around for a few decades by this time.
Until recently, Scandinavian popular music was largely dominated by pop and soft-rock musicians and groups, such as:
- Michael Learns to Rock
- Ace of Base
These trends first started to change with the development of an underground music scene in Sweden and Norway in the 1980s. The metal groups of the time were a big part of this development.
Notably, this period has coincided with a prolonged period of peace and prosperity across the region. While some writers have speculated that the rise in popularity of metal music in the region is explained by the historic pagan culture and far-northern location of the region, others have pointed to its wealth and good governance as factors. 
According to this argument, Scandinavian countries’ greater wealth not only provides more facilities necessary for the development of a vibrant and diverse music industry, but it also supplies the angst that fuels the anarchic energy of the Scandinavian metal music subculture.
Today, Scandinavia has the highest number of metal bands per 100,000 people of any region in the world. But Scandinavians also listen to a broad range of musical genres. While pop and metal are among the most popular styles, hip-hop and electronic musicians are seeing significant mainstream uptake.
The region has earned a reputation for producing experimental musicians such as Bjork and Sigur Ros, who have sizable global fan bases among listeners of indie music. Similarly, popular electronic acts such as Avicii and Swedish House Mafia have been well received by fans of the EDM genre of dance music.
While it is hard to rank the popularity of different musical genres across the entire region definitively, a survey conducted in Sweden in 2020 ranked pop the most popular music genre, followed by rock, metal, and electronic music. 
Scandinavians love metal music because of the pagan roots of their religion and in rebellion against the conformist aspect of their more egalitarian societies.