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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Unleashed

Midvinterblot

Review by Mike Korn

When a band has a lengthy career lasting more than a decade, they can go in one of two different directions. One: they can constantly shift and evolve their sound to keep up with the times. Or two: they can stay the course and stick with the style that brought them to the dance in the first place. Sweden's Unleashed are definitely comfortably ensconced behind Door Number Two. Their groovy, deliberately paced version of death metal makes them a virtual AC/DC of the extreme genre.

However, just because they stick to the tried and true doesn't mean Unleashed have become boring. With Midvinterblot, they've injected a degree of energy and spite that has been lacking on some of their other releases ("Warrior" comes immediately to mind). The guitar sound is sharper and clearer, the rough vocals of Johnny Hedlund seem more acidic, and the pace is a bit more insistent. The result is a well-rounded album of pounding metal fury that will satisfy any rivet-head who likes his death metal heavy but not insanely complex or faster than comprehension.

Of course Midvinterblot is recommended to any fan of the old Swedish mayhem like Entombed, Dismember and Grave, but it's also a great place to jump aboard if you're curious about this style of music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Blood of Lies
There’s nothing like a blood-curdling scream of "DIE!" to get an album off to a bracing start. The energy level is sky-high right from the start with fast and ferocious riffing, Johnny Hedlund's venom-spewing vocals and surprisingly articulate lead guitar from Frederik.
This Is Our World Now
After a chugging start, this is even more furious than "Blood of Lies.” The band is playing tighter than ever and the clear production brings out the best in each instrument. "The age of the common man is over/ The age of the Warrior has begun!" snarls Johnny.
We Must Join With Him
The longest cut on the disc, this is still under 4:00! Obviously inspired lyrically by “Lord of the Rings,” this is pretty complex for Unleashed. The main tempo is a steady gallop, but it speeds up to thrash and slows down to a lumbering crunch as well. More great lead guitar, including a "Flight of the Bumblebee" takeoff from Frederik, is heard.
Midvinterblot
Here's a patented tank-like crusher full of old-school Swedish groove. Thor and the other Norse Gods are praised in this musical version of a pagan celebration of the winter equinox. I can envision grim-faced Vikings marching to war while this rumbles in the background.
In Victory Or Defeat
To make up for the title track's slower pace, this one quickens up to a blistering pace. The chorus is super catchy and chest-thumping: "We are the immortals/From Hell we Rise/We are the immortals!/Death metal...no compromise!" Truer words were never spoken. It’s an iconic Unleashed cut.
Triumph of Genocide
There's a more ominous feeling hanging over this tune right from the start. It begins with ethnic strings that soon merge with a choppy thrash assault. Breaking with the band's usual subjects, this is a harsh condemnation of how the world did nothing during the horrendous genocide in Rwanda in the early 90's. This is a little moodier and more involved than most of the other cuts. "The United Nations stood aside/And watched the triumph of genocide!"
The Avenger
This is one of the most average songs on the album. It's typical medium fast Unleashed death metal...not bad at all, but lacking some of the fire heard on "In Victory or Defeat" or "This is Our World Now.”
Salvation for Mankind
The band sounds like they were in a bad mood when they wrote this withering condemnation of Christianity. The lyrics are among the most blasphemous they have penned and are easily understood. A great wailing guitar solo helps this fast belter stand out.
Psycho Killer
This one rips and tears like the blade of Jack the Ripper...fast, simple Swedish death metal at its angry best. Sounding a bit like fellow countrymen Dismember, this is short and sweet.
The Witch
This is more of a mid-paced bruiser with a guitar sound that's thicker and heavier even than the usual Unleashed. The pace picks up in the middle before returning to the original tempo.
I Have Sworn Allegiance
This travels pretty well worn ground both musically and lyrically. In fact, the band's last album was called Sworn Allegiance. This is another thrashy scorcher not far from "Psycho Killer" in tone. The drumming is about as tight as you can get in this genre.
Age of The Warrior
Like a pendulum, the album again swings back to a slower, more deliberately paced crusher. What kills this one is a blatant steal of the riff from Slayer's "Post Mortem.” I know Unleashed's brand of death metal is not rocket science, but you should still try to avoid a theft this blatant.
New Day Dawning
It’s very typical Unleashed here, but boy, does it kick. Great galloping rhythm and a killer morbid riff on the chorus define this neck-snapper. There's still a slower "breakdown" in the song, though I hesitate to use that word because of the association with bad metalcore.
Loyalty and Pride
By now, the album is starting to sound a little samey. The Conan-like lyrics help here: "With a spirit forged from steel/to become a man who never kneels.” I do like the dual harmony guitar work on some of this.
Valhalla Awaits
Beginning slowly and ominously, this is another dark "war march" with a galloping pace. More Viking lyrics make an appearance. I would have probably pruned this one and "The Avenger" and possibly even "Age of the Warrior" to make a more streamlined album that didn't repeat itself so much.
 
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