19 years and they are still not letting up. One of Sweden’s last big Death Metal steamrollers is not showing any signs of slowing down, even on their ninth offering “Hammer Battalion”. Brutal Death Metal never has been my forte, but the Swedes of UNLEASHED somehow managed to strike a certain chord with me for quite a while now, I am not really sure what makes them stand out (and no, just having Viking-related lyrics is not enough!) for me, but, well, they do.
I think a good part lies in the fact that UNLEASHED never were fast or brutal or melodic just for the sake of it, but always have known that you do not have to be the fastest, most brutal, most technical or most melodic to write high quality Death Metal, but never really gave a shit about trends, but went their own way and if it meant not taking the nicely paved three lane highway, but breaking through the undergrowth of the Swedish winter forests. The emphasis on “Hammer Battalion” is on clean, powerful riffing, relentlessly driving drums and Johnny Hedlund’s hoarse roar, but always with these underlying melodies that keep the longship afloat, opener “The Greatest Of All Lies” is a prime example for this.
Besides the Vikings, their contempt for the Christian church is an omnipresent image in their lyrics, but despite not masking their thoughts, they still do not overdue it in my ears, but adequately convey their message in union with the flattening power of the music. And it does not make any difference, if they go high speed, as on the title track, or offer us the more brooding mid-tempo of a “This Day Belongs To Me”, the songs are part of the big picture of UNLEASHED and the two “extremes” that form their sound and make them UNLEASHED.
“Entering The Hall Of The Slain” is a proud monolith, standing unwavering in the stormy seas of Death Metal, one of my personal favourites, shows the pride of the band and their heritage and also their own band history, because while naysayers condemn UNLEASHED of basically having stopped their evolution since their legendary debut “Where No Life Dwells” in 1991, but they simply have found their own style and they’re sticking by their guns (or given their lyrical concept by their swords) and they do that very well indeed! Just listen to the ground-leveling riffing of “Midsummer Solstice”, which is simple, but oh so effective, another one of my absolute faves!
When it comes down to Swedish Death Metal, UNLEASHED are one of the last survivors that have not compromised their sound one way or the other and “Hammer Battalion” is another glorious notch in the warhammers of Sweden!
(Online September 30, 2008)