Ever since Bathory's iconic 'Blood Fire Death' album paved the way for bands to explore Viking culture in Metal, there have been many following their footsteps, creating passionate renditions of Norse mythology and forging epic Viking sagas. While bands like Bathory and Enslaved incorporated a more Black Metal-oriented sound, others like Amon Amarth and Dismember gravitated more towards the Death Metal end of the spectrum. Then there are also bands like Tyr who amalgamate distinct melodic elements in the form of folksy riffs and powerful anthem-like choruses to provide yet another twist to the sub-genre. Although many metal heads argue about the repetitive nature of the theme these bands follow, the passion for their age old traditions and rich cultural values outshines everything else. One such band which stood the test of time and is considered to be the epitome of Viking Death Metal is Sweden’s Unleashed.
Unleashed were formed way back in 1989 during the formative years of the sub-genre itself, and are now set to release their 12th studio album titled 'Dawn Of The Nine' on April 24th this year via Nuclear Blast records. The album promises to be a classic Viking Death Metal offering and continues the story line of their previous releases ‘As Yggdrasil Trembles’ and ‘Odalheim’.
'Dawn Of The Nine' does not waste any time in teasing the listener through a melodic instrumental opener; instead, it assaults the listener's ear drums right from the get-go. The opener “A New Day Will Rise” hits the listener hard with its heavy gallops and pounding drums. The track has a distinct melodic undercurrent that will cement itself in your brain. Frontman Johnny Hedlund hisses and growls away, spewing venom all over the punchy rhythm sections. However, at the same time, he is surprisingly audible throughout the album; you can easily make out the lyrics without focusing too hard.
The band turns up the groove in “They Came To Die”, using a nice thrashy hook to follow the melody-laden tremolo flutters. Anders Schultz delivers an unrelenting performance behind the kit, keeping it nice and intense with his pummeling blast beats. His drum work peaks on “Where Is Your God Now”. He single handedly elevates the intensity levels of that song to manic levels. The thrashy rhythms coupled with Hedlund's massive growl to challenge White Christ to come out of his hiding made me raise those metal horns up (and also scared me a little).
The songs are not overly chaotic in terms of structure. The songwriting clearly takes a more groove-laden, melodic approach rather than being progressive and providing a lot of twists and turns or tempo changes. Fredrik Folkare creates impressive melodic solos on almost every track and teams up well with Tomas Masgard to give us killer harmonies and some lightning-fast thrashy rhythm sections. “Welcome The Son Of Thor!” is one such classic example.
Although the album has its fair share of speed, some tracks do provide a breather of sorts by slowing things down. The title track “Dawn Of The Nine” sheds the manic intensity of its predecessors and turns towards a slower and more sinister direction. However, midway, it surprises you by mutating into a groove monster for the solo before transforming back to its evil avatar. Similarly, “Defenders of Midgard” too trades away speed for groove and dark and atmospheric elements.
Like all Unleashed albums, 'Dawn Of The Nine' has an elaborate plot which is worth mentioning. The story takes place after the great battle of Odalheim at the Uppsala fields. In the aftermath of the epic battle, the warriors of Midgard must rise again to take back much of what was lost in Svithiod. They seek vengeance from White Christ who has now fled to higher ground. Each song in the album is one chapter in this story describing how the warriors of Midgard reclaim their cities back one by one and welcome a new dawn.
To summarize, Unleashed deliver what they promise: 'Dawn Of The Nine' is a pure, undiluted Viking Death Metal offering. It will keep you hooked as the band narrates its epic saga of vengeance and bloodshed.
Recommended Tracks: “Where Is Your God Now”, “The Bolt Thrower”, “Dawn Of The Nine”, Welcome The Son Of Thor”