There are bands in Metal that you know exactly what to expect from and when you don’t get that, you are disappointed. Sweden’s UNLEASHED are still belting out their Viking Death Metal and while their ingredients rarely vary – nobody’s complaining! Now what makes them different from other bands that everybody wants to evolve and whatnot? Well, they have established their sound over by now decades (hard to believe that their debut “Where No Life Dwells” was released 21 years ago!) and with a few slight hiccups throughout their history (“Hell’s Unleashed”, for example), have managed to maintain a pretty high level of quality throughout their career. They never managed to get quite the (cult) following of the other Stockholm greats such as ENTOMBED or the “other” Viking Death Metal band that pretty much left Johnny and the boys coughing in their dust, AMON AMARTH, but if there is one thing you have to give them a lot of credit for is that they never gave up and still are going!
“Odalheim” is their eleventh album to date and they do not show any signs of slowing down, firmly entrenched in old school Sweden Death Metal with melody and heaviness and Johnny Hedlund’s trademark feral growl that is not a growl, but somewhat intelligible, whatever you want to call it, he definitely sounds pissed! And just like in the past, UNLEASHED anno 2012 do not take any prisoners. From the get-go of “Fimbulvinter” on they will pummel you into the frozen ground of Swedish permafrost and you will enjoy every minute of it (if they don’t take off your head before, i.e. you don’t like their brand of Death Metal to begin with)! But then again, do not expect them to just hammer away for 43 straight minutes, no, they offer us a tasty platter of high speed attacks and their slower, brooding sound that often had set them apart from the rest of the gang, sometimes within the song (“Fimbulvinter” and “Odalheim” both see slower, more brooding passages in the middle of the upbeat frenzy, which are welcome breathers), sometimes in between them.
“Gathering The Batallions” and, after an acoustic intro, “Germania” will flatten you with their sheer ferocity, while “White Christ” offers us the powerful UNLEASHED stomp with the trademark Hedlund roar. But do not think that UNLEASHED are just rehashing what they have done in the past, “The Soil Of Our Fathers” sets out with an acoustic beginning again, but then starts to weave more and more intensity and electric guitars into it until breaking through with a modern, pummeling riff reminiscent of PANTERA and consorts, while “Germania” surprises with an almost MESHUGGAH-like technical passage that I did not see coming at all. “The Great Battle Of Odalheim” finally cloes things off with a healthy mix of full double-bass forging and a mid-paced maelstrom, held together with some brilliant melodies, uniting much of UNLEASHED’s past (and present) into one six-minute track (the by far longest of the whole album).
So it is very good to see that UNLEASHED are not just content with recapturing their style, but actually opening up here and there for some unusual twists and overall allowing their relentless high-energy style to still breathe with variety to keep the listener glued to the speakers. Another high-quality release by the Swedes that will not disappoint any fan of the band and might entice some new listeners to give them a chance as well, a worthy colleague of the “Where No Life Dwell”s, “Victory”s and “Midvinterblot”s!
(Online April 5, 2012)