There is no real difference between Dawn of the Nine and an album from a more mainstream Viking themed death metal themed heavy rock band (which, at this point in the history of the universe, means Amon Amarth). Sure, Unleashed is less consonant and theoretically more chromatic, but you’re still listening to an especially standardized and formulaic pop music product, even if Unleashed arguably sticks closer to their original sound than the rest of Nihilist’s progeny. Still, Dawn of the Nine is at least one way to feed metalheads the infamous “death’n’roll” sound without them complaining… at least not immediately.
On this album, like others before it, Unleashed sticks to the arena rock end of the pop sphere. Consonant, monophonic melodic riffing over generic drumming, no real bass, and unvarying vocal technique probably brings to mind many of the other generic, basal Swedeath styled albums we’ve rejected over the years. The songwriting here, though, is unusually fixated on the repetition of simple choruses to a degree that few bands dare approach, even when they’re just as obvious. Therein lies the tragedy of Unleashed, at least in the present – the guitarists have developed a sense of melody and rhythm that would be well suited towards writing good narrative (albeit probably more traditionally styled) metal. At points, there are some genuinely interesting musical elements being thrown around, but rarely if ever are they developed upon because, shockingly enough, it’s time for the song’s chorus. Other times, the musicians toss around extremely basic musical ideas for what are presumably commercial reasons, but that at least is common throughout the industry, and even then you can justify the occasional basic break in the middle of a track as part of an effort to write a more dynamic and interesting song.
What particularly strikes me about my own opinions on Dawn of the Nine is how close they are to previous site writings on new Unleashed recordings. The emphasis on tired, overly basic rock tropes weakens the entire album beyond what its also predictable strengths of musicianship and production can recover. It’s usually not this incredibly obvious on the recordings of this band’s contemporaries, though, but someday they too may need to pander especially hard to the blockheads to retain their underground cred.
The most recent album from Unleashed, Odalheim, is simultaneously the best and worst of days for this band. On the plus side, Unleashed have improved at editing down their material so it all flows smoothly and doesn’t ramble. On the downside, the band have adopted a style that is equal parts Dissection and The Haunted, which makes for an almost satisfying heavy metal experience ruined by kiddie rock band style antics on the level of nu-metal.
Let us be honest: djent is nu-metal for people who like jazz fusion. It’s slightly more subtle. The djent influence filtered into metal through The Haunted after At the Gates (just down the street from Meshuggah, who are the progenitors of djent). When metalcore came about with The Haunted, it wrapped djent, math rock, and melodic speed metal into one package. The result is a binary rotation between some really excellent heavy metal riffing with melody and the kind of bouncy daycare-sensibility music that made speed metal get dumb and wrecked death metal wherever it appeared.
People who need lots of internal rhythm of a similar sort to keep their interest are dumb. This is why we laugh at bands who overplay their drums in an attempt to conceal basically boring songs. If it sucks, just add lots of internal syncopation and delay your final beats just a sixteenth past audience expectation. It’s like Pavlovian terriers watching the mailman arrive. This part of this album is dumb. There is no other word for it, thus this is the best term: dumb. Repetition disguised as surprise. Only for idiots.
Odalheim is thus the album we wish Unleashed had made years ago. Tight, efficient and beautiful. If Shadows in the Deep had been more balanced, it might rise to this level of clean impact; if Where No Life Dwells had this amount of melody, we might find it mesmerizing. However, the glitch is that this album is barely death metal, but more like a mix between melodic heavy metal and bounce-metal, itself a proxy for nu-metal.
Albums like Odalheim are why black metal railed against trends: no mosh, no core, no fun, no trends. Odalheim obediently chases the late black metal trend, the melodicy heavy metal trend, the metalcore trend and the djent trend. These musicians do a great job of linking them all together, but the end result is like soup made by tossing every ingredient in your fridge into a pot of boiling water: muddled, disgusting.
That means that, while I can admire aspects of this album, I never want to hear it again. The dumb parts drown out the melodic material and the lack of definitive style obliterates its efficiency. There is almost nothing communicated here, only a background mood composed of beauty and bounce. It repeats itself. Nothing changes. Like heat death in a crowded room, Odalheim slowly dominates by repetition. And then? And then there is no will to resist. Nor to enjoy.
Although AC/DC and Motorhead have been putting out basically the same album over and over for 30 years, fans of these two bands never blamed them for not being different.
Instead the audience continues to cherish this phenomenon, as this straightforward, wild and raw music style is the trademark of these bands. Risen from rock music and propelled by underground metal, this kind of music stands for the desire of liberation, freedom and simplicity in this plastic world. It will never go out of time.
In the realm of death metal, there is a band which greatly influenced by AC/DC and Motorhead also has a constant style of music. This band is Unleashed.
Unleashed was formed after the disbanding of Nihilist. Unlike the other key figures Entombed and Carnage whose members were in Nihilist, Unleashed brought the roadhouse rock style of AC/DC and Motorhead into death metal. However as a death metal band, Unleashed has more creative ideas than the old classics. You can tell that by just looking at the names and covers of their albums, each one is as exciting to look forward to as a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The scent of fighting in their music also demonstrates that death metal ponders on our existences in world.
The mystic and adventurous sense of Unleashed comes from the extension of the typical “verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus” structure the phrasal riffs of death metal. Under an emphasized theme, each phrasal riff acts like a puzzle and combine into an epic scenery. Therefore Unleashed’s musics are richer and more narrative comparing to AC/DC and Motorhead (Before the Victory which completely lost all apprehension of mysticism). To the fans of AC/CD, Motorhead who also enjoy underground metal, do not miss Unleashed.
Translated from this post.
Candlemass and Entombed were both highly influential (I actually even liked Clandestine for its goofy humour), but SRM’s list inevitably provokes a (short) DMU list.
In no specific order, I consider the following as a Top 6:
At the Gates — Mix the depressing avenues of Gothenburg with these fellows’ beautiful minds and you get the ultra-melodic, twisted art showcased on Gardens of Grief and The Red in the Sky is Ours.
Dismember — Their first album (and their demos) may have been their only worthy contribution (all right, Pieces is definitely not bad), but it takes them a long way. Like an axe-wielding ballet dancer, its impact is relentless yet sensual.
Therion — At first listen, Beyond Sanctorum may sounds like a random rock album, but pretty soon you’ll realize you’ve stumbled upon one of Metal music’s most magical releases, with riff upon riff flowing like an endless stream of imagination.
Unleashed — Described as “an exercise in the rhythms and textures of the battlefield in musical form” this anti-psychological, windswept creation might very well be the soundtrack of any ancient Norse saga (and, yes, we’re talking about the first two albums).
Carbonized — An almost forgotten side project. Their first two albums and their early demos are excellent. While For the Security paints a nightmarish world of the Swedish welfare state (or so I assume), Disharmonization flies into space forging its own interesting world. Like some Hamlet, it may seem insane on the surface.