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"Across the Open Sea" is a triumph of death metal songwriting. The Viking atmosphere/artwork and the bands performance make this CD an epic in hiding. Sadly, the production and sound are a bit flat compared to the bands other great works but the songwriting is more consitent and the mood even stronger than ever before. Hedlund and co. really put a good deal of thought into this record, despite the somewhat poor sound quality. (The rich, bassy tone is terrible flat on this record which Johnny commonly blames on a lack of new gear.) Whatever production flaws may exist though, the band plays like a bunch of barbarians at war and the songs are imaginative and full of great death metal riffage.
One may note that the Viking theme in the writing may have inspired the great songwriting on this record well beyond the lyrics. The lurching riffs, brutal pick up sections and the fact that not one song is truly without something unique makes this a landmark in death metal songwriting. The riffs sound like an epic film battle put to music, without all the fruity keyboards and choirs. (Not that there is anything wrong with those things if Bathory happens to do them, as a side note.) This is flesh against flesh and steel against steel. The music and lyrics lock together to forge the perfect mental imagry of the Viking in heated and hopelessy grim battle. This is something few supposed "Viking" bands have done and Unleashed deserve credit for putting the work in to create such a monster.
The only obscure note is a strange cover of Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law". I don't know what the band were thinking...it's just...very...strange.
I have no qualms in suggesting this to EVERY death metal fan alive. Despite it's "iffy" sound the band is in fine shape here. I dare say this ranks with the Deicide, Entombed and Morbid Angel classics as a great record that MUST be recognized by the death metal community for it's brute force, amazing songwriting and amazing entertainment value.