Released: 2012, Nuclear Blast
This is my first review of Unleashed for Metal-Rules, which is odd because of the Big Four of Swedish Death Metal, (Dismember, Entombed, Grave, Unleashed), Unleashed has always been my favourite by a hair. I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys. Entombed drifted in death and roll, Grave is inconsistent, and Dismember trail just a bit behind the prolific and powerful Unleashed. I don’t know why I like them the best, maybe it’s the consistent lineup for almost 20 years, maybe it’s because they were one of the first bands to do the whole Viking thing, maybe it’s just the songs, but in any event, to me Unleashed truly represent the best of Swedish Death Metal with their new album, OLDAHEIM.
OLDAHEIM is the band’s 11th full-length and their second album for Nuclear Blast. Everything is intact. The lineup is the same: John, Tom, Fred and Andy have come together for the eight albums in a row. The album was recorded in the same studio they have used for the last ten years. We get another semi-distinct black and white cover art, slightly reminiscent of Gorgoroth’s DESTROYER and of course, the album has many songs about war. They even have the same logo, upside-down cross and all, which seems a bit…quaint… in 2012. However if they changed it now, of course I’d be complaining as well. We critics are never satisfied! If you want consistency, Unleashed is your band.
Instead of stagnation, the bands consistency contributes to their success, it is like a winning team, indestructible and undefeated; OLDAHEIM is another 11 song, 42-minute display of crushing Swedish Death. Thematically, lyrically and spiritually OLDAHEIM is a continuation of AS YGGDRASIL TREMBLES. The booklet has a long and fairly involved narrative that explains the theme behind the album. It’s not a ‘concept’ album in the traditional sense of a story with a protagonist and antagonist that have a conflict resolution, but a thematic album of the Oldaheim (the Vikings) and their relentless battle against the White Christ (the Christians). All of this metaphor is framed, lyrically speaking, by battles throughout the ages, both modern and ancient. I think it is quite well done although it is a bit of a stretch to think the vikings made it all the way down to South America (‘The Rise Of The Maya Warriors’) but it is still cool nonetheless. My favourite track is ‘By Celtic and British Shores’ which takes the lyrics of Winston’s Churchill’s famous ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ speech, originally delivered to Parliament on June 4th, 1940 during World War II. You may know the speech better as part of the intro to ‘Aces High’ on the 1984 album, POWERSLAVE by Iron Maiden. The point being, the band has taken the words of the historical speech and woven in the lyrics into a great Death Metal song. The cadence of the short, simple phrases accentuate the delivery of the Death.
Musically speaking, Unleashed is as heavy and fast as they have ever been. All the hallmarks are there…the requisite ‘buzzsaw’ guitar tone, guttural but still distinguishable vocals, cannon-like drumming, all of it intertwined into a pummeling, relentless Death Metal attack. Again, speaking to the consistency, the bands grinding, signature sound is fully intact. The production is rough and ready, the band charges along, never too fast although opening cut almost verges on blast-beats…almost. It’s a fine distinction but this might be one of their faster albums, if you stacked the last half-dozen albums side by side it would be hard to tell which is ‘fastest’ or ‘heaviest’, as if that even matters. OLDAHEIM stands tall and proud along side anything in the bands long and distinguished career.