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Unleashed > Before the Creation of Time > Reviews > we hope you die
Unleashed - Before the Creation of Time

Axiomatic death metal - 80%

we hope you die, May 14th, 2024

Unleashed sceptics are wont to approach this compilation of early material wondering what exactly they are supposed to glean from it. It’s fascinating to discover the genesis of genuinely unique artists within metal to plot the development of genre and individual style. Morbid Angel’s ‘Abominations’, Grotesque’s early material documented on the ‘In the Embrace of Evil’ compilation, or Thou Shalt Suffer’s ‘Into the Woods of Belial’. All provide essential documents of artists that would alter the landscape of metal (and arguably music itself) throughout the 90s.

What could one possibly expect to learn from undertaking a similar exercise with Unleashed? A serviceable but second rate Swedish death metal outfit by any sensible metric, with barely enough quality material to peek the interest across their first two albums.

In more ways than one, Unleashed are on odd prospect. Despite retaining a celebrated spot in the canon of formative Swedish death metal, their early material exists almost in spite of the idea of slowly fashioning a unique identity in the way their peers did. Consciously eschewing the instinct to whittle away at finding a niche, always reaching for the most direct, down the barrel articulation of death metal typical of each era of their existence. One wonders how revered they would be today were they not early adopters of Viking-chique, an absurdly popular conceptual playground within mid-tier funcore extreme metal of any stripe. But this affectation extends no further than the lyrics themselves, allowing listeners to ignore or indulge it at their leisure.

In terms of the immediate sound we are confronted with on an Unleashed album, blunt simplicity is the order of the day, even more so than early Nihilist that Hedlund contributed to before the split into Entombed. And compared to the calibre of the material his former bandmates were putting out by 1990, alongside Carnage and Dismember, Unleashed’s insistence on swimming against the developmental tide looks like an act of bold defiance in itself.

But for those craving the graceful backwardness offered by Swedish death metal in its purest state, standing in opposition to the graceful melodic currents that would eventually run through ‘Like an Ever Flowing Stream’ or ‘Dark Recollections’, Unleashed are undoubtably the go-to choice. There is something clearsighted about their insistence on stripping death metal back to an almost satirically basic level. Something they achieved far more convincingly than the runt of the litter in Grave. The bare rudiments of rhythm, riff, and vocal intonation are expressed in axiomatic form. At least, that’s certainly the case for their first album ‘Where no Life Dwells’. The follow up, 1992’s ‘Shadows in the Deep’ is a slightly limper iteration of the exact same formula, arguably even more predictable in its proto pop posturing, but still able to scratch that itch for a Swedish version of hyper primitive germinal death metal.

The reason many favour the feral energy of the debut could lie in the material collected on this compilation ‘Before the Creation of Time’, which brings together all Unleashed recorded works prior to the release of ‘Where no Life Dwells’, most of which landed up on the debut in re-recorded form. The string of early demos and the ‘And the Laughter has Died’ EP contains multiple early versions of most of the material that was to make up the debut, and in this sense it proves highly instructive.

Approaching these earlier versions of familiar numbers as a fan instead of a scholar, it’s clear that it lacks the ambition of Grotesque, the novelty of Nihilist, or the dark romanticism of Carnage. That being said, the unfiltered, barbaric power on display on the demo format and the Bielefeld sessions really…unleashes the power of this formative Swedish entity. Different facets of what at first appear to be unashamedly one dimensional material are revealed, reengaging the listener in the interchange of riffs and basic but effective accents. In particular, the different versions of ‘The Dark One’ unpack a workhorse of classic Swedish death metal, indebted equally to Celtic Frost, hardcore punk, and heavy metal trappings, coming together into a tight, crisp entity of distilled metallic energy. Repurposed Autopsy riffs complete the picture with hints at the nightmarishly surreal energy unique to death metal.

Unleashed’s strength was always in their ability to strip away the fat and reveal the aching truth behind death metal’s germination. For all the esoterica, technical deviations, progressive turns, and traverses into the avant-garde the genre has taken (and was flirting with as early as 1990 when this material was recorded), one must always be mindful of the irreducible core at the heart of this music. Not barbarism in the purest sense. But an ordered, patient project of world building that creates the conditions for violence, chaos, and nihilism whilst submitting such impulses to the dictates of an internal logic. A degree of astute control is retained despite the will to entropy displayed by these artists still embroiled in the fiery youth of creation. Tracks like ‘Dead Forever’ bear this out. A simple, catchy, hook driven groove collided against simple, fast paced gallops of basic extreme metal. But bringing together in totality a profound and (at the time) unheard potential foundation for new vistas of ambition within the metallic form.

Originally published at Hate Meditations