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The 15 Best Heavy Rock Bands From Switzerland

I've been writing about foreign travel and European rock music online for over 12 years.

Krokus remains one of Switzerland's best rock bands ever.

Krokus remains one of Switzerland's best rock bands ever.

Don't Forget the Swiss

A land of mountains, cuckoo clocks, and precision timing could not be better situated to produce great rock music. All three of these stereotypical ingredients of musical largesse, quirkiness and technique bring flavour to this Helvetian feast of guitar, drums and whatever else they can throw into the mix.

Enjoy 15 of the best rockers from Switzerland, the nation which literally sparked the inspiration for "Smoke on the Water". These momentous exponents of Heavy Rock will surely echo loudly across the peaks of your overheated brainwaves.

15 Alpine Giants of Sound and Fury

  1. Breakdown of Sanity
  2. Celtic Frost
  3. China
  4. Coroner
  5. Eluvetie
  6. Gotthard
  7. Krokus
  8. Lunatica
  9. Messiah
  10. Paganini
  11. Samael
  12. Shakra
  13. Sybreed
  14. Toad
  15. The Young Gods

1. Breakdown of Sanity

A Metalcore band who were formed in 2007 in Berne. The group was started by Oliver Stingel who was soon joined by singer Carlo Knöpfel, Their first album The Last Sunset came out in 2009 with the follow-up Mirrors leading to their first European tour in 2011.

Their name was chosen to reflect the mania and aggression of their musical style but also as a social statement about the state of the modern world. Knöpfel combines deep growls with clean singing to provide a wide emotional range to their music.

Also the band are firm proponents of DIY managemernt by having controlled most aspects of their career. Self-production, album covers, even bookings, merchandising and finance have been handled by the group themselves.

Among their most insane tracks are "Hero", "Infest", "When Silence Breaks", "My Heart in Your Hands" and "The Writer".

2. Celtic Frost

A truly inspirational band from the Gnomeland of Zurich and after their formation in 1984 they had a profound influence on Extreme Metal. Celtic Frost have delved into Thrash, Black Metal and Death Metal in their sonic explorations.

They started by signing to Noise Records and released an EP called Apocalyptic Raids in 1984. Classic albums Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion followed with the latter adorned by artwork from their fellow Swiss country man H.R. Geiger.

Back in the early days they took time to gain acceptance by the Rock press after some negative reviews but they slowly built a cult following among international fans.

Their main player was Tom Gabriel Fischer who led the band into their first incarnation from 1984 till 1993, the year that they split for the first time. The band reformed in 2001 but after a few years Fischer left the band and they folded again in 2008.

Best tunes include "A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh", "Circle of the Tyrants", "Jewel Throne", "Procreation" and "Wings of Solitude".

3. China

An AOR band who hail from Winterthur. who arrived in 1985 amid the New Glam period of that decade. A deal with Vertigo in Germany brought regular success in the Swiss album charts.

But they failed to maintain a stable line-up and despite a new deal with EMI, the changing tastes of music in the post-Grunge era compounded by financial problems led to a break up in 1995.

However they resurfaced in the new millennium and went on sporadic tours which eventually culminated in 2010 with their first album in 15 years called Light up the Dark.

Songs that are worth a listen are "Middle of the Night", "Shout it Out", "Wild Jealousy", "Don't Look Back", "Sign in the Sky" and "Back to You".

4. Coroner

These guys are a Thrash Metal band from Zurich. They started up in 1983 but their first album R.I.P didn't come out until 1987. The band subsequently gained a solid reputation and loyal fan base within Europe.

Because of their eclectic and complex sound with a notable influence from Progressive Rock they were nicknamed "The Rush of Thrash Metal" after the legendary Canadians.

After releasing five albums and struggling to gain the attention of the music media they finally broke up in 1995.

It wasn't until 15 years later that they got back together with appearances booked at festivals in 2010. But a new studio album took until 2017 with the announcement of 'Autopsy' being their first since 1993.

You can gleefully delve into the innards of their back catalogue with "Skeleton on Your Shoulder", "Divine Step", "Tunnel of Pain", "Son of Lilith" and "Read My Scars".

5. Eluvetie

Another band from Winerthur, who were founded in 2002, Eluvetie are a Folk Metal troupe that evolved from solo studio work by singer Christian Glanzmann. He is also a multi-instrumentalist including mandola and bagpipes.

A hurdy-gurdy may also merge with the rasping guitar as the group combine a Melodic Death Metal sound with traditional Celtic music. Their name is an Etruscan translation of Helvetia, the female national personification of Switzerland, and they sing both in English and an ancient Gaulish language.

Their first release was the demo Vên in 2003 but this was subsequently re-released after re-mastering improved the production. Since then they have been consistently in the studio averaging an album in less than every two years.

Top songs include "Inis Mona", "Omnos", "The Call of the Mountains", "A Rose for Epona", "King" and "Thousandfold".

6. Gotthard

A group steeped in the old school Classic Rock style. They come from the Italian region of the country and were begun in 1992 by singer Steve Lee and guitarist Leo Leoni. Their eponymous first album was released the same year.

Gotthard are hugely popular in their native land with one million album sales representing 1-in-8 of the population. But they have enjoyed success around Europe too with albums such as Open, Need to Believe and Firebirth.

Tragically Steve Lee died in a roadside accident in Nevada, USA in 2010. After much soul-searching he was replaced by Swiss-born Australian Nic Maeder and the band went on with a successful new album called Bang in 2014.

Check out just some of their top rockers with "Anytime, Anywhere", "Lift U Up", "Sister Moon", "One Life, One Soul", "Heaven", "Feel What I Feel" and Starlight".

7. Krokus

A very successful band from Solothum formed in 1974. For their first two albums they played Progressive Rock until came the epiphany when they saw ACDC in concert.

Krokus retained the band name but converted to a more raw and boisterous Classic Rock sound which became fully forged when new singer Marc Storace joined in 1979 and the album Metal Rendez-vous was released.

The early 1980's were their glory days and they even cracked North America with their 1983 album Headhunter going gold in the USA. They flirted with the resurgent Glam Rock era but with less success and ever since they have had a patchy record of hits and with too many cover versions in their back catalogue. But great album covers often adorn their discs.

The 2006 album Hellraiser marked a return to form and they still have an enthusiastic following and a well-deserved place in the history of Heavy Rock. Check out "Hot Shot City", "Bedside Radio", "Screaming in the Night", "Headhunter", "Our Love", "Tokyo Nights" and the ludicrously titled "Long Stick Goes Boom".

8. Lunatica

A Symphonic Metal band put together in Suhr in 1998. Their debut album Atlantis came three years later in 2001. In its wake a performance at the Metaldayz Festival in Switzerland led to a Best Newcomer Band award.

Their second album Fables and Dreams gave them more well-deserved attention as it was a well written and more developed album under the skilled navigation of producer Sascha Paeth.

With their Gothic sound and image and with the female voice of Andrea Dätwyler flowing over heavy guitar the comparisons with Nightwish are inevitable.

Some top tracks to lend your ear are "Power of Love", "Who You Are", "Elements", "Hymn" and "Emocean".

9. Messiah

A Thrash band from Baar who burst onto the scene in 1984. They first appeared on stage in 1985 supporting Celtic Frost. Next year came their first album Hymn to Abramelin released on an independent label.

The follow-up disc called Extreme Coldweather helped consolidate a cult following but without mainstream success. Nevertheless they toured around Europe in countries like Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy as well as their home country.

But disagreements over their future musical direction exacerbated by personal frictions within the band led to their temporary break up in 1987. But they were revived with new personnel and had now adopted a Death Metal style.

Try out "Choir of Horrors", "Lycantropus Erectus", "Hymn to Abramelin", "Baptized in Blood" and "Future Aggressor".

10. Paganini

A band named after their founder and singer Marco Paganini. After performing with the German band Viva alongside Barbara Schenker of the famous Rock family, Marco started the Swiss band in 1982.

Their debut album Weapon of Love was released in 1985 on the Phonogram label. Unsurprisingly perhaps, they scored a hit in Germany with the single "Berlin by Night" which was taken from the album.

In 1987 they supported Mötley Crüe on the road as part of the Girls, Girls, Girls tour. Entering into the spirit of the times they bought into the re-discovered Glam Rock style of the era and Lady Schenker actually designed their flamboyant stage costumes.

Their success was short-lived as after their second album It's a Long Way to the Top in 1987 they were dropped by Phonogram. But they kept plugging away until they finally decided to call it a day in 1990.

As with many bands they made a comeback in 2003 with the album Esoterrorism containing a brand new line-up. Further occasional releases followed plus Marco himself also rejoined Viva in 2007. Other songs to sample are "Time", "For Your Love" and "Don't Let Me Down".

11. Samael

Originally a Black Metal band from their early days of 1987, they evolved into an Industrial sound in the 1990s.

Coming from Sion the band were started by brothers Michael and Alexandre Locher. They are otherwise known by their unusual stage names of Vorph and Xytras respectively.

It took four years from their inception to produce their first album which was Worship Him released in 1991 and which led a to a major deal with Century Media Records. But it was their fourth album Passage which saw them begin to make their mark with helpful exposure on MTV.

They have continued to release solid albums and have also ventured into side projects and other experimental diversions including a foray back into their Black Metal roots. Regarded as a spectacular and unforgettable stage act across Europe and North America this was encapsulated on the Black Trip live DVD in 2003.

Best songs include "Slaveocracy", "Baphomet's Throne", "Passage", "Jupiterian Vibe", "Black Hole" and "On Earth".

12. Shakra

A Heavy Rock group from Bern formed in 1997.They quickly released three albums in the following five years but then singer Pete Wiedmer left the band.

However his replacement Mark Fox helped push the band forward and the 2003 album Rising saw their real breakthrough.

They played supporting roles to Iron Maiden and Guns N' Roses and toured all over Europe in their own right. However Fox courted controversy on their song "Chains of Temptation" as the video depicted him injecting himself with heroin.

But it do no harm to their musical career and they enjoyed great success. But then Fox left in a bitter split with guitarist Thom Blunier in 2009. Time heals all wounds with Fox returning in 2015 and Shakra continue to record and tour together.

Among their best rockers are "Hello", "Save You From Yourself", "Ashes to Ashes" and "Love Will Find a Way".

13. Sybreed

An Industrial Metal band from Geneva who were founded in 2003 by guitarist Thomas Betrisey and singer Benjamin Nominet. Their first album Slave Design came the following year.

Their name is a hybrid of the words "Synthetic Breed" and they have explored many differing musical styles, although they call themselves Death Wave.

Fans of Fear Factory, Meshuggah and Soilwork may enjoy their blend of a futuristic, cyber interfusion which courses through their pounding Industrial onslaught. Sybreed had a intensive 10 year career until Nominet departed the band and an official break up was confirmed in late 2014.

Take up the challenge and interface with great songs such as "The Pulse of Awakening", "Isolate", "Bioactive", "The Line of Least Resistance", "A.E.O.N." and "Doomsday Party".

14. Toad

A band hailing from Basel as far back as 1970. In a similar vein to early Status Quo they played good old-fashioned Hard Rock and Blues as heard on their début album in 1971.

Their first two albums were actually mixed by Martin Birch, who later made his name as producer of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden amongst others.

From the mid-1970's Toad weren't very active and drifted off the radar, only appearing on various compilations and live albums. They resurfaced in the 1990's with new material but broke up officially in 1995.

The success of Toad was limited to the domestic markets and they didn't figure highly in the international Rock scene. But there is no doubting their influence on later bands from Switzerland and they are certainly worth a listen.

Check out their power chords and soulful guitar leads on "Stay", "Pig's Walk", "Tomorrow Blue" and the epic "Life Goes On".

15. The Young Gods

An Industrial band from Fribourg who started in 1985. Their music is an eclectic and sometimes experimental mix of sounds and styles. Reflecting this rich variety they sing in English, French and German.

Once described as "electro-noise terrorists' they have had several celebrity admirers in Mike Patton of Faith No More, U2 guitarist The Edge and even the White Duke himself in the guise of David Bowie.

Originator Franz Teischler wanted to combine the raw verve of Punk Rock with the intricacies of Classical Music. But they are a difficult band to pigeon hole as they have explored many facets of the musical styles of Rock and other genres.

Some of their best songs are "Skinflowers", "Did You Miss Me?", "Envoyé!", "She Rains", "Longue Route" and "Kissing the Sun".


Thus we conclude our eclectic pageant of talented Swiss musicians and singers with hopefully more to follow in their wake.

The Swiss may have some way to compete with the likes of Germany and the Scandinavian countries when it comes to Heavy Rock from Continental Europe.

But they've shown that they can hold their own in the best of company.

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