UNLEASHED have fought on for many years in the Swedish Death Metal scene. For many years they have also been one of the most famous and appreciated bands. “Across The Open Sea” from 1993 was perhaps the album that contributed the most to that status. On this album, the band also introduced the Viking theme, which has later become very associated with UNLEASHED. Apart from that, criticism of society and ... ehrm ... fairly intense criticism of Christianity are dominant lyrical themes.
But now, on to the music! The band works with small means to produce the effect they wish for. Johnny Hedlund’s vocals are clearer than most growlers’, as he doesn’t work as far down the throat as most Death Metal vocalists, but rather shouts/sings the lines harshly and slides down into guttural bawls at the end of them. Behind him, the guitars work tightly together, with a much distorted sound, building more upon rhythm than on melody, even though there are passages that are more melodious, such as in “Open Wide”. The bass is strong and gives the whole sound a heavy and muscular feeling. The drums mostly go from thundering double-bass to generic mid-paced rhythmic drumming. There are variations in the drumming too, though, and this mostly consists of following the riffs in some fast-paced rhythmic experimentation (you could at least call it that within the realms of conservative Death Metal).
The riffs themselves are, as mentioned, mostly dependent on rhythm, as the strong distortion and small chord variation give the songs a similar basic sound. Critics (and fans actually) have accused UNLEASHED of making the same song over and over again for twenty years. That is unfair, but there is a bit of truth in there, as well. The band has always stuck to their own style, which has given them a distinct trademark sound. The argument that fans usually add is that they do it so damn well! I agree with that, “Across The Open Sea” is a Death Metal record with class. The band’s energy and rough, aggressive charm convinces and all types of songs that UNLEASHED can muster can be found on here.
The opener “To Asgaard We Fly” and the furious “I Am God” are the best of the intense and galloping songs, which are the real trademark of UNLEASHED. “Open Wide” impresses with more melody and a slower, brooding sound, while the closer “The General” surprises with much variation and shows aspects of all the aforementioned songs. This is Death Metal as it used to be done, but is no more, or well ... it is, by UNLEASHED. For anyone into standard Death Metal, this is a recommendation that just cannot fail you!
(Online August 17, 2009)