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Diabolical, a traditional death metal group, was formed in Sweden in 1996, originally using the name Misanthropic Orchestra. With Vidar W. (lead guitar and the only remaining original member), Agilma (vocals), Phamarus (bass), and Keuron (drums), the band did its first recording in late 1997 by playing a song on Voices of Death by Vod Records. In April 1998, L. Soderberg replaced Keuron on the drums, and, at the same time, the band changed its name to Diabolical — a switch from those who hate, to those who are downright wicked, cruel, and fiendish. By August 1998, Soderberg took on a dual role by taking over the bass position in addition to the drums. In October 1998, the band did a split recording with Blazing Skies, and a few weeks later recorded a contribution, "No Remorse," to the Metal Militia, Vol. 3 compilation. This album didn't actually get released until almost three years later.
From 1996 through 1999, various other members came and went from the band, but in June 1999, H. Carlsson joined on as lead and rhythm guitar, and in August 1999, M. Odling became the lead vocalist. These two, along with Vidar W. and Soderberg, created a cohesive wholeness, and Agilma left to focus on his main band, Haimad.
The Canadian Death Network released Diabolical's first CD, Deserts of Desolation, in May 2000. Scarlet Records, the Italian record label that brought out Terror 2000 and Necrodeath, signed Diabolical on for its first full-length album, Synergy, released in April 2001, and P.O. Saether (Ebony Tears, Carnal Forge, and Terror 2000) was the producer. Saether went on to produce the band's next album, A Thousand Deaths, recorded in September 2001. This second full-length reflected the band's experience and was more aggressive, creating a faster and tighter brutal impact.
Jonas Berndt (talent behind Mork Gryning) joined on as bassist in June 2001. Although the bandmembers had always resisted going live, they finally accepted an offer to do their first live performance. The experience captured them and Diabolical became a solid live band. During the band's first big tour in November 2001, it played with Hatesphere, Grave, Portal, and Withered Beauty in Sweden and Denmark. By February 2002, Berndt returned to play in Mork Gryning full-time, and Soderberg once again took on the dual role of bass and drums.