April 23, 2015 Unleashed – Dawn of the Nine (Album review)
For fans of Swedish Death Metal, Unleashed has been the standard by which all others have been held. Sweden’s Death Metal scene emerged in 1989. One of the first bands credited with its creation was Nihilist, of which bassist Johnny was a founding member. Nihilist disbanded after Johnny left to form Unleashed with Guitarists Fredrik Lindgren, Robert Sennebäck, and Drummer Anders Schultz. Unleashed recorded two demos, Revenge and Utter Dark, which caught the attention of the German label Century Media Records. Rhythm Guitarist Sennebäck was replaced by Tomas Måsgard in 1990. Hedlund and company released their debut, Where No Life Dwells, in 1991 and their follow-up Shadows in the Deep in 1992. Themes of Viking culture and Norse folklore inhabit the music, along with pre-Christian world recollections. Their next releases were Across the Open Sea in 1993 and Victory in 1995. It was after that, that Lindgren would leave the band and would be replaced by Fredrik Folkare on lead guitar. Folkare played guitar on the bands fifth record, Warrior (1997). The band went on hiatus to pursue education and other personal projects. In 2002, after a reissue of their classic music, they released Hell’s Unleashed. The band was once again working hard and released seven more records, one roughly every two years, including Odalheim (2012), the bands first concept album about the aftermath of Ragnarok, written by Johnny, and their forthcoming release via Nuclear Blast entitled Dawn Of The Nine.
Simply put, Dawn Of The Nine is a ten song blitz of classic Viking Death Metal. The artwork for this, their twelfth studio album, was created by Pär Olofsson (Immortal, Exodus, and many others). Recorded by Guitarist and Producer Fredrik Folkare in his own Chrome Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, this record picks up where Odalheim left off. A great Viking battle has just ended and their quest continues. “A New Day Will Rise” is an epic opener that grabs the listener from the beginning riff. Johnny elevates the song with a huge vocal presence that engulfs the listener, leaving no escape. “They Came to Die” is a driving, precise Death Metal attack led by Folkare with blistering leads. This track describes the fate of a vanquished foe. As the story unfolds, “Defender of Midgard” is a more deliberate track with relentless double bass and the pacing of an approaching army. This track represents a transition for our heroes. After that, the question is asked, “Where is Your God Now?” with ripping blast beats from Schultz and complex chord progressions from Måsgard. This song describes the pursuit of the enemy. “The Bolt Thrower” leads this army in its relentless mission to win freedom. In it, Johnny growls and snarls with intensity, allowing the listener to feel every word, thus dragging them further into the story.
The breadth of this record is immense because of epic songs like this, “Let The Hammer Fly” and “Where Churches Once Burned,” which speaks of marching across the north, taking back the land once held by Vikings, and leaving burning churches behind. “Land of the Thousand Lakes” begins with a guttural bass as a harbinger of the fiery, accelerated groove to come. A journey across the Baltic Sea is chronicled by this crushing, classic Death Metal song. “Dawn of The Nine” is the heaviest track on this record with a slow, solemn feel. Johnny delivers gravitas as he speaks of the skills, courage, and pride of a warrior of Midgard. With haunting guitar work from both Måsgard and Folkare, this is a track that delivers huge impact. Celebrating a new age, “Welcome The Son Of Thor!” closes the record with a tinge of hope in a brutal and savage world. Schultz and Hedlund combine for a deep foundation that never wavers below the onslaught of Folkare and Måsgard; each piece fitting perfectly together to create chaos and beauty.
Dawn of The Nine is a fantastic tale of Viking lore, expertly crafted by Hedlund and beautifully told by all of Unleashed. The many layers of this record convey the exquisite complexities of war and the seduction of death. The production by Folkare is high level and effective. A great follow-up to Odalheim, Dawn Of The Nine fits perfectly into the ongoing tale of Unleashed, a band that began an entire genre and continues to define it to this day. CrypticRock gives Dawn of The Nine 4 out of 5 stars.