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Metal doesn't need to be profound to be good - 68%

Annable Courts, September 7th, 2020

Swedish metal bands tend to be distinctly forthcoming and straightforward. They'll tend to make it abundantly clear what they're about and not lose any time before subjecting the listener to their aural assault. Unleashed particularly fits that description, and this album is no different from any of their previous ones. It starts off with a defiant scream, during the very first seconds, accompanied by a brutal blast beat eruption with a darkly melodic tremolo riff on the opener 'The Greatest of All Lies', which immediately sets the tone for both music and subject matter. The listener understands: this is going to be uncompromising Unleashed death metal, with all of its sheer aggression and obscurely melodic tint. That opening riff; also the chorus for the song; is one of the more memorable ones on the album, but isn't nearly the only catchy hook on the record.

The music is a well balanced blend between thrashy Scandinavian death metal, and black metal. The verses will mostly be thrashy gallops with a nice bass presence and super tight drums, featuring fat power chords and some occasional articulated single note riffing for definition. The black metal aspects would be more of the full chord strumming, at times very tastefully used on choruses ('Long Before Winter's Call') or during the verses, and they bring that nice organic ring of the natural guitar string sound, in the midst of otherwise fast-moving, clinical guitar playing. It gives the guitar work that nice balance and variety in texture and dynamics. The riffing can get intricate at times but the album focuses more on song-writing and pace so the more technical stuff is kept to a minimum. The use of the blast beats is also black metal inspired in spirit, and the vocals might be at the crossroads between death and black metal; they have some lows and girth to them but also sound screamy; so one might consider them one or the other, but they certainly fit the abrasive style. The album never reaches great depth in atmosphere, however it isn't surface level either as it establishes a powerfully driven feel with its martial-sounding/epic yet obscure momentum.

The album, perhaps surprisingly, knows when to mix it up. Heavy verse gallops, short pre-chorus power chords and tremolo picking on the chorus isn't all that's served on here, even though it already makes up for a sweet dish given how it was finely prepared. There are nice breaks that purposely slow down the tempo and offer a bit of breathing space. The one on the title-track 'Hammer Battalion' is a good example as they didn't just go with the cliché tempo breakdown with little happening, there's real composition at work as the interplay between the rhythm and lead guitars, as well as the drums produces a strong result, well conducted from beginning to end.

This album doesn't reinvent the wheel; nor does it remotely claim to given its boorish overall demeanor; but that doesn't prevent it from doing things tastefully and with enough distinction from song to song to be a nice treat. It would be easy to dismiss this as being cheese-metal. It sounds too good production wise; every instrument is really near-perfectly recorded, mixed and audible; and it's too neatly packaged with its nice short song format and pleasant catchiness. It's also nice how it'll be quite vintage sounding in parts, yet sound fresh, and modern and wide at the same time. It's no classic by any stretch, and Unleashed's intentionally plain music puts it in a category of honest, finely produced metal albeit with no great pretension about it. It might be a little long for what it offers reaching just under 45 minutes.

Hammer Battalion - 75%

CarrionGrin, May 25th, 2011

Hammer Battalion offers up unrelenting hymns of war and hatred that are sure to please true diehard metal fans out there.

Going strong for almost 20 years, the Swedish death metal veterans continue keeping their straight forward unwavering vision of true death metal and their punishing brutal assault with no remorse. Hammer Battalion spews forth grinding riffs and tastefully played leads by guitarists Tomas Masgard and Fredrik Folkare that will keep your fist pumping and head banging. Opening tracks, ‘The Greatest of All Lies,’ ‘Long Before Winter’s Call and ‘Your Children Will Burn,’ rip all beliefs of The Passion as Johnny Hedlund growls his unrestrained hatred and scorn for organized religion.

Continuing the ongoing rally cry for warriors everywhere, ‘Hammer Battalion,’ ‘This Day Belongs to Me,’ ‘Marching Off to War’ and ‘Home of the Brave,’ summon the inner strength, courage in all those who dare to stand up and fight. Thunderous drumming by Anders Schultz and good engineering give Hammer Battalion that deep and heavy crunching sound sure to blast a hole through your speakers and head when you crank this album to the maximum!

A fistful of death metal in your face - 78%

Lord_Lexy, March 29th, 2010

After hearing We Must Join With Him on the local metal radio show, I got interested in Unleashed. I found Midvinterblot, and liked it very much. Groovy death metal, with clean (when compared with other death metal) vocals. After a live gig in 2009, I decided to get myself the Hammer Battalion album. With hopes of reviving the mighty feeling I had with Midvinterblot, I plugged the disc in my CD-player. What I got was something very close to Midvinterblot, but Hammer Battalion misses a little special touch I found on the previous record. But nonetheless, a very decent death metal album, filled with killer songs.

What attracted me in the first place were Johnny’s “clean” vocals (harsh but understandable). Most of the time, one understands the lyrics without reading the booklet. That’s a fine thing, which proves death metal isn’t all “random riffing” with some “barking dog” vocals. But by singing in this kind of vocals, the lyrics themselves gain in importance. The content of the songs thus has to be good. Vikings, spitting on Christianity, revenge of Mother Nature and pride are good choices. Unleashed avoid the gory and violent lyrics some associate death metal with. I made this association too, but Unleashed proved me wrong.

Most of the times, the guitar tone is rather low with here and there a little unpredictable step out of the riff. It breaks the uniformity of the guitar sound, adds a little surprise when you hear the songs for the first time. The riffs are not generic, but heavy, deep and groovy. They have some echoing sound to them, which is good and adds to the quality of the music.

But describing what the separate ingredients are like doesn’t give a complete impression of the album. The Greatest of All Lies (a song Johnny dedicated to Jesus Christ) begins with screams, some very fast drumming and riffing. It’s like a fistful of death metal straight to your face. “Prepare for some killers!” that part says. Great way to start an album. We get some more Christ-bashing with the uptempo Long Before Winter’s Call before we get to an absolute Unleashed favourite of mine: Your Children Will Burn. A midtempo melody, with guitars and drums kept back a little. That builds up to Johnny screaming:

“Destruction! Hatred! Terror! You’ll bleed for me!
Destruction! Hatred! Terror! Your children will burn!”

An awesome, brutal but honest chorus. In no time you’ll scream this part along and bang your head. The song is about the revenge of Nature on mankind, as explained in the booklet. We messed with our planet for too long, and now we get all of our mess back in our face. Unleashed succeed in capturing the feelings one associates with this idea. The music backs up the lyrical contents, and not only on this song.

Hammer Battalion Unleashed is one of the more faster songs, with the smaller drums being pounded at high rate. This Day Belongs to Me is more or less a song in the slow but intense rhythm of Your Children Will Burn. Further on the album we find Carved in Stone, definitely one of the slowest songs on the album. This song is even more intense, as Johnny sings about the glory of fallen brothers in arms.

Hammer Battalion is thus an album offering a variety of death metal with harsh yet understandable vocals, songs ranging from slow and intense to fast and aggressive. A must-buy for fans of Midvinterblot. My favourite songs on this gem: The Greatest of All Lies, Your Children Will Burn,This Day Belongs to Me.

Unleashed - Hammer Battalion - 80%

ThrashManiacAYD, October 21st, 2009

Swedish Death Metal legends (perhaps used rightly so in this context?) Unleashed are so Death Metal it hurts. Not as in the fastest, most melodic nor most brutal, but as much as Paris Hilton is a pathetic anorexic peroxide-blonde excuse for a human being - that Death Metal. "Hammer Battalion" represents their 9th LP, and like all their previous releases you know what you're going to get on an Unleashed record: semi-fast groove-laden DM featuring tales of Viking mythology, anti-religious sentiment and glory to Metal, guaranteed to get your fist pumping and head nodding. To me, the only band going who are so reliably good are Bolt Thrower...

Little has changed since the Swedish DM-glory days Unleashed were an integral part of, however changes can be picked out. As one would have expected from a career of nearly two decades, improved musicianship amongst the band has borne some brilliant riffing and soloing from guitarists Tomas Masgard and Fredrik Folkare, far superior to some of the soloing of their early '90s material, with possibly "Carved in Stone" and "The Greatest of All Lies" being the finest examples. As if to back-up the band's unwavering dedication to all things Metal, a hint of Black Metal-fuelled riffing can be found in the "Black Horizon" and "Midsummer Solstice" choruses, serving to create some damn catchy mid-sections in the process. Vocalist(/bassist) Johnny Hedlund sounds furiously brilliant and still uniquely recognisable in a world of guttural DM-growlers with decipherable lyrics growled from a throat-full of gravel, enabling authentic Scandinavian passion to be felt in his homage to heroes past: "Now as I carve their names in stone/ Of those who died so far from home/ I leave you these words to bring them pride/ As time will pass their deeds will never die!"

"Hammer Battalion's" strength comes from the fact there are no identifiable weak tracks on the record as song after song brings catchy riff after catchy riff, none vastly different from the one before but all joining to create an album greater than the sum of its parts. With a solid production, especially in the drum department, giving crisper definition compared to older albums, Unleashed have added another reason for why everyone into any form of Extreme Metal should enjoy them. In complete contrast to Origin whom I reviewed just recently, Unleashed offer an excellent access route for anyone curious about real Death Metal and "Hammer Battalion" serves only to back up their reputation as one of the finest in the business.

Originally written for

The Subtle Luxury Car Of European Death Metal - 80%

Shirt_Guy, August 4th, 2008

The first thing I noticed about Unleashed is that unlike all the other old-school European death metal bands, they simply don’t run out to pelt you with all the elements that can make a band superficially heavy. They don’t have a buzzin’, double distortion, “Sun Studio” guitar tone, nor do they attempt to play at inhumanly fast speeds before shifting into the slowest possible sludge lurches. The vocals are a growl, but not really very low, or as harsh as possible. Instead, Unleashed gets their point across with legible, clear screaming, sharp guitars, and snare drum hits that crack like baseball bats, all with an atmosphere that draws you in with hooking riffs, catchy vocal rhythms, and just a tad bit of underground reverb to get a little hint of their favourite demos.

Who were the bands to influences old-school European death metal? Why Black Sabbath with their gloomy slowness, Iron Maiden with their harmonized whipping, and 80’s thrash metal with galloping rhythms, all included here in evolutionary form. There’s a few points where you can hear the obvious nod to the aforementioned bands and genres, but those moments only reinforce the overall connection of metal to other metal.

The cover is adorned with swords and axes that are well-worn, but still highly effective without going over the top with say, the biggest, craziest looking weapons possible. What does that mean to you? Well, I guess it’s like comparing to Unleashed to a luxury car with a subtle sense of class, rather than trying to stuff the whole vehicle with wood and leather, which translates into focusing on the most important aspect - the writing of the songs to draw you in.

Originally posted at

Another death metal Victory!!! - 95%

MrLapinKulta, July 4th, 2008

I can't really think of any other band in death metal that has always stayed at the top of their game in the same dominating fashion as Swedens Unleashed. Over the course of nearly two decades they've only suffered slight dips in quality during the mid-90s (Victory and Warrior are great albums but not brilliant as the rest of their discography) and unleashed (hehehe...) tons of classic death metal tunes. I mean, who can argue with stuff like Onwards Into Countless Battles, To Asgaard We Fly, Death Metal Victory, Destruction (of the Race of Men), We Must Join With Him and so on!? Pure death metal classics and that's just a small, tiny percentage of their greatest tunes.

With this, their 9th, outing they continue their march relentlessly and hammer out another batch of future classics. Swedish old-school death is what Unleashed are about and have always been about but they are definitely not afraid to incorporate other influences to further enhance their sound. Touches of thrash and black metal are sprinkled all over for effect and the end-result is an old-school yet fresh sounding attack of extreme metal with melodies to die for. I could start ranting and listing song titles again but that would be quite meaningless. Each and every song on here is a killer in its own right. If you like death metal you must love Unleashed. A pure death metal victory and definitely a contender for album of the year when 2008 comes to pass!