Unleashed

Dawn Of The Nine

Written by: AP on 02/08/2015 19:40:46

The last Unleashed album to receive a review from us was 2008's "Hammer Battalion", which - if you ask our hibernating extreme metal aficionado Ellis 'EW' Woolley - stems from the fact that the two records preceding this latest offering "Dawn of the Nine" never managed to pique his interest. And listening to "Dawn...", a regrettably bland piece of music, it is easy to follow his argument. For such a long standing institution (Unleashed were formed in 1989, and are credited as one of the first death metal groups to distance themselves from the genre's typical subjects of death and gore in favour of Scandinavian heritage and history), the album signifies a tragic burning out from being innovators and genre heavyweights, to a rather ordinary death metal act outfought by today's wave of young and forward thinking newcomers to the genre.

Although the term 'viking metal' is readily attributed to Unleashed, the association exists only in the lyrics. That is to say, whereas there is a tangible sense of epic quest in the instrumentation of the quartet's countrymen in Amon Amarth, Unleashed prefer a more purist style of death metal with a blackened edge, not unlike Behemoth or Vader. You won't find a viking ship on stage, nor a drinking horn dangling from bassist/vocalist Johnny Hedlund's waist when the Stockholm veterans perform live, and the uncompromising, no-nonsense approach to doing things has earned them an extremely loyal, and populous following. 24 years since the release of "Where No Life Dwells", Unleashed are still churning out unbridled, yet straightforward death metal thunder that frankly, has run its course. The riffs of guitarists Tomas Olsson & Fredrik Folkare are delivered with knife's edge precision, yet for gentlemen with such experience on the belt, the banality of the ideas utilised here is a little bit disturbing.

Honestly, the majority of “Dawn of the Nine” plays like it was written per automata. Diehard fans and death metal truists will not mind of course, as the familiar weaponry of staccato riffs, groovy chugs and headbanging opportunities galore leaves little to be desired as far as metal epitomies go. But whether it is opener "A New Day Will Rise" or lead single "Defenders of Midgard", the majority of songs that comprise "Dawn of the Nine" pass by without causing much of a ruckus. They are palatable, but lacking both surprises and cutting edge - like your favourite steak at TGI Friday's. Indeed, this excessive reliance on traditionalism coupled with Hedlund's often cringeworthy lyricism (his themes of mythological war and norse gods are explored with a shuddering lack of eloquence) have left Unleashed sounding like a relic in their own genre; like a poor man's version of Amon Amarth, if you will.

In spite of the indifference that "Dawn of the Nine" awakes in me, however, some credit must still be extended as Unleashed remain true to their ideals. No pretenses are made about being anything other than a straight-up metal band, and in places it is still possible to unearth songs and parts of songs that appeal even to the casual listener. The marriage of eerie blackened grandeur and dense pummel in "Where Churches Once Burned" and the successful deployment of an At the Gates-esque riff in "Land of the Thousand Lakes" serve as fine examples, just as does the blistering groove of "The Bolt Thrower" earlier on. The record is not deserving of the hammer, but like Morgoth's comeback album "Ungod" earlier this year, it is unlikely to appeal to anyone but the most devout connoisseurs of death metal.

6

Download: The Bolt Thrower, Where Churches Once Burned, Land of the Thousand Lakes
For the fans of: Amon Amarth, Behemoth, Grave, Vader
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Release date 20.04.2015
Nuclear Blast

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