When I received this CD I was initially surprised by the concept change that UNCHAINED have come up with. Starting out as a basic young thrash band in the vein of countless others, UNCHAINED finally caught my attention with the overall Irishness to the presentation and general look of this release.
To say I was surprised when the intro of "The Heathen Forest" came softly through my speakers would be an understatement as the use of traditional instrumentation was a pleasant shock indeed, made more so by the fact that it was actually quite well delivered. The accompanying distorted guitars in this mid paced and upbeat melody would remind many of other Irish Folk Metallers, the more established, CRUACHAN.
Differences start to rear their head when "Cry Of The Banshee" comes blaring from the speakers. First of all because itís been years since CRUACHAN themselves have shown such balls, but more because of the fact that the band have not completely left behind all traces of their Thrashing roots. With this added to the Folk Metal mix I must confess that I was let down by the lack of pace and grunt behind the music as the entire demo is stuck in a very mid paced rut that lacks any of the flair that made WAYLANDER's debut so magical.
Indeed it has to be said that although the concept is here, it is far from being realised. Certain elements have proved to be very enjoyable though, particularly the use of melody as the band use their Celtic melodies to good, if unfortunately not varied, effect. The traditional instrumentation remains enjoyable but there is no real passion behind the music or, particularly, the vocals. For me this is what made WAYLANDER's debut stand so far above the vast majority of Folk Metal I've heard. WAYLANDER possessed a true passion for the music they were making and, perhaps more importantly given the concept, for the very essence of the warrior culture they were trying to bring to life through their compositions. UNCHAINED fail in parts here because the music, while conceptually interesting, fails to really convince me that it captures the essence of the culture.
The delivery of all the instruments is solid enough, but the general tone doesn't have enough "metal" to it. Itís like imagining an Irish pub band made Metal without any real thought given to making it fit more into the "metal" concept. This is partly due to the production, which although spacious, renders the material a little flat and fails to let even the crunchier sections pack any real punch.
Again where CRUACHAN gain their success is that they no longer have any real pretence at being "Metal" and would be seen now as a Metal inspired Celtic Rock band, UNCHAINED unfortunately sound more flat because of the undoubted attempt at remaining firmly Metal when the music and delivery lacks that punch and aggressive edge.
Vocally also the band have problems as, to put it bluntly, they are just terrible. There is no passion, no variation and, more importantly, no decent sound. They are too gruff for the music and too monotonous for anyone's liking. Tonally they do not sound in the least bit Irish leaving them just purely unfitting for such music.
In the end I should say that the band should not take too much of what I've said as simply unjust or mindless criticism. They have proved themselves able to change their style in a successful way, but it will be a while yet before the rough edges are smoothed. On a positive note however the style change itself is definitely a step in the right direction as there is definitely much more interest and indeed enjoyment to be found in this material than in their earlier works. A touch of maturing may be needed to make some tough decisions, but in the end it would be for the best and would give Ireland another fantastic prospect. (Online May 24, 2005)