Released: 2004, Century Media
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Unleashed are one of the godfathers of Swedish death metal along with Entombed and Grave. They came out in the early 90s with groove-laden songs that contained brutal downtuned riffs and growled vocals. Despite a few bumps in the road along the way, including a five year break between 1997 and 2002 (maybe they were hanging out with Grave?), the band has delivered a solid death metal record that should bring back some fans they lost on 2002’s poorly-received HELL’S UNLEASHED. That album was a less-than-stellar comeback with its subpar lyrics, paint by numbers riffs and overall mediocrity. The band sounds better than ever and Johnny Hedlund’s furious growl tackles you full force. The dueling guitars of Fredrik Lindgren and Tomas Olsson are a potent match up that shred at times, while chug at others. Overall, SWORN ALLEGIANCE has improved in spades on the things that befell its predecessor, but it’s not perfect, either.
“Winterland” is a typical Unleashed track with speedy riffs, punishing vocals and a brutal double bass attack. The band has created a virtual feeling of an “ice cold winterland” to go along with the lyrics. “Destruction (Of The Race of Men)” continues the sensory assault with Anders Schultz’ double bass attack and Tomas Olsson’s rhythms. Hedlund’s growling vocals during the chorus prove he has a unique voice among a sea of death metal sound-alikes. “Only The Dead” is as brainless a song as the band has ever released, but things are obviously tongue-in-cheek as Hedlund bellows out, “I only fuck the dead!” The music is worthy of a neck-snapping headbang or two, but what in the hell were they thinking when putting pen to paper for lyrics like, “You open wide and prepare to receive…you crave hard penetration and order me to cum deep.” “The Longships Are Coming” touches on a popular topic within the Unleashed camp—Vikings. Describing the first known Viking attacks in the year 793, the lyrics capture the fear that the monks must have felt seeing the Norse warriors heading for shore. “Insane For Blood” is a groovy track that showcases the beauty of a Fredrik Lindgren guitar solo, as does “To Miklagard.” “Attack!” clocks in at 1;40, but in that time, Unleashed does a better imitation of REIGN IN BLOOD-era Slayer than even Slayer could do these days! This track is pure aggression and ends all too briefly, but at the same time, its brevity is effective. “CEO” tells the story of a white-collar lecher and its slower tempo really slows down the energy of the album. “Praised Be The Lord” is a scathing commentary on religion and how it has become a big business. “Praised be the Lord/Give us all you can afford”…NICE! “Metalheads” is a good thrasher sure to get the people fired up in a live setting. It is dedicated to the metalheads at live shows who get into the scrum and like to mix things up. The Manowar-like lyrical silliness of the power of metal is horribly cheesy, but at the same time, this song just plain kicks ass!
SWORN ALLEGIANCE is a damn good album, but not without one minor fault. Rather than go for quality, Unleashed seems to have gone for quantity on this record drawing fourteen songs over a scant 44 minutes. Tracks like “Helljoy,” “I Bring You Death” and “One Night In Nazareth” are throwaway tracks that could easily have left off and not missed one bit.
I am extremely pleased by how Unleashed have improved in leaps and bounds over their mediocre last offering with SWORN ALLEGIANCE. It is a big step up over the HELL’S UNLEASHED debacle with better lyrics, better playing and an overall sense of harmony within the band itself. Along with Grave’s FIENDISH REGRESSION, which will be released the same day as SWORN ALLEGIANCE, the familiar taste of brutal old-school Swedish death is coming back with a vengeance by the very bands who started it all.
KILLER KUTS: “Winterland,” “Destruction (Of The Race Of Men)” “Only The Dead,” “Insane For Blood,” “Attack!,” “Metalheads”