With all due respect to the nation’s strong metal tradition (see: Mayhem’s creepy pig-head-featuring live shows or the 1990s string of church burnings), Norway’s recent musical export of choice has seemingly been pop, as witnessed by the rise of AURORA, and the emergence of Sigrid. And with festivals abroad like SXSW encouraging discovery, and Oslo’s by:Larm Festival becoming a destination for anyone looking to unearth nordic newbies, it’s now easier to spot emerging talent. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Norwegian government has been known to invest in the nation’s artistic and musical talents.)
Is the Nordic pop legacy likely to fade? Probably not—it’s been 32 years and no one can get a-ha’s “Take on Me” out of their heads. Up until now, Norwegian pop has been viewed as shiny, radio-friendly fodder. (See: production team Stargate, who has worked with everyone from Beyonce to Demi Lovato.) But a new batch of musicians are poised to challenge that assumption. The guitars are big, the lyrics are English, and the electronics are everywhere. From Alexander von Mehren’s jazz-influenced soundscapes to Sløtface’s sonic assaults, here are 12 Norwegian artists breaking from tradition.