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Death Metal - No Compromise! - 92%

Daemonlord, July 17th, 2011

Now THIS is a release I'd been looking forward to, ever since Unleashed's last album 'Sworn Allegiance' hit the shelves in 2004, I really hoped they could re-capture the drive and spirit of that album for their next effort, and I wasn't left disappointed. In the past, Unleashed have been a bit hit or miss really (myself personally much preferring their 'Death metal' side to their more 'Viking metal' approach to a couple of albums around the mid nineties). However, I thought they really found a rich vein of form on their 2004 album, harking to the early 90's Swedish death metal style that suits them best, and I'm glad to say they've continued along the same (left hand) path for this new release, on their new label SPV.

Kicking off with an astronomical kick to the testicles with "Blood of Lies" (no pansy gentle acoustic intros here folks!), the frenetic old school death ravages your eardrums into a state of eargasmic ecstasy, all crushing riff-work and flailing (ridiculously technical and melodic in fact) solos and 'berserker-in-max-rage-mode' vocals – to be honest, I can't understand why they haven't been involved in the recent Entombed/Dismember/Grave tour that's going on, (apart from the obvious Nihilist tribulations between Johnny and Entombed of course!), as they certainly have a fuck load more in common with Death metal than Entombed have in recent times. The frenzied pace throughout the album hardly lets up at all throughout the entirety (apart from maybe the title track, and 'The Witch' both of which slow the pace to a double bass driven, downtuned trudge), so yes; get that neck brace at the ready, because your unfortunate neck sinews are going to be fully stretched to breaking point for this fucker. Seriously.

The thing that really stuck out for me about this album is the lyrics bizarrely enough, Johnny, never one for being the most serious of lyricists in the past, has come up with some corkers this time around (all of which can clearly be heard, not simply due to the sterling production job on the album, but also for Johnny's 'raw but clear' vocal style, check out the 'In Victory or Defeat' lyric of "We are the immortals, from hell we rise, We are the immortals, death metal – no compromise!", yeah - it's cheesy, but at the same time it encompasses the old school, no bullshit attitude that enshrouded the scene back in the days, not to mention helped to form it.

So Unleashed, along with their other country-mates such as Amon Amarth and Dismember seem to be peaking again at the moment, and it's only to serve the benefit of death metal in general. Check this out, you won't regret it.

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com

This is OUR World NOW! - 98%

SoulCancer, November 24th, 2009

Wow. The year is 2006 and Unleashed are doing better than ever! 17 years since their inception, and they would seem to have hit on every cylinder they possibly could with Midvinterblot. This is sure to be hailed a classic by Viking metal fans as well as death metal fans worldwide for years to come.

This is quite a change since the lackluster Hell’s Unleashed (2002) and Sworn Allegiance (2004), in that the songs are back and better than ever!

Instrumentally, this Midvinterblot finds Unleashed using their weapons (instruments) with highly-skilled precision. Some of the outstanding weapons in their arsenal are Johnny’s vocals – proving once again that enunciation in not a bad thing in death metal or Viking metal. Hearing what’s being said? What a novel concept! We must send this memo to Chris Barnes…

Another thing that leads me to love this album is the leads as played by Fredrik. You see, the thing is, he doesn’t just play leads… he makes them sing, in his own way. Waiting eagerly for another great lead, all the while listening to great songs, is a very pleasurable experience!

Musically, this is death metal, plain and simple. There are a lot of cold riffs and minor notes which add to the Viking metal genre: this lets the listener know damn well that this isn’t a “brutal” NYDM release – this is the art of attacking the listener while providing some thought-provoking tunes as well as some silly songs.

You see, as most of us know, Johnny has been constantly brushing up on his historical knowledge, and it shines through on this album more than any of the others. Instead of the typical “fuck Christ” we always hear, we get some logic behind the thoughts. “The Avenger” is about reclaiming the Scandinavian history despite the church’s dominance, therefore extracting revenge on the ones who brainwashed the townsfolk of old. Likewise, “Salvation for Mankind” refers to the bones of the supposed Christ in the tomb, and raises the possibility that, instead of rising again there may have been someone who stole the bones, thus creating the cult we now call Christianity. These lyrics are much deeper than Deicide and any other “FUCK GOD” band have been able to come up with.

Other lyrics touch on honor, pride, tradition (Midvinterblot is about an old Scandinavian tradition not unlike the American “New Year’s Eve”), social commentary (“Psycho Killer” is about how media and politicians use killers to cover up the real news, which would leave normal people enraged)… I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it here.

It would be loathe of me to leave out two more bits that need to be mentioned. First of all, Johnny gives brief descriptions of every song and the thoughts that led to their writing, towards the back of the booklet. For the casual fan and rabid Unleashed warrior alike, this is yet one more great reason to snag this album.

And last? “Valhalla Awaits” is definitely, without a doubt, the most epic song Unleashed have ever, ever written. At 3:34, it definitely feels longer… it is epic in that the power and the majesty in the riffs, and the content of the lyrics, go well above and beyond what bands like Vital Remains cover in 8+ minutes. If you only get this album for one reason, this song is it.

This could be their best work ever. I’ll hold reservation until the next few albums have arrived, but at this point, this is definitely an album you should be ashamed not to own.

Oh, and again, Valhalla Awaits owns everything they’ve ever done!

Tonight is our time to feast - 78%

autothrall, November 23rd, 2009

Coming off a stretch of abysmal offerings in the mid through late 90s like Victory or Warrior, there was only one inevitable direction for Unleashed: to return to their roots, and write the albums that earned their reputation in the first place. After a 5 year hiatus, they began to do so, beginning with 2002's Hell Unleashed, through Sworn Allegiance, and into this 2006 album Midvinterblot. While I can't compose a long stream of accolades for this album (and never could, for any of their work), this was a solid offering which at least had the band full circle to the level they were at with some of their earliest albums. Possibly, even surpassing those. And in contrast so many old school Swedish death metal bands in the crowded field of today, Unleashed were back to sounding like themselves...rather than aping somone else.

Unleashed maintains the same lineup as their previous record, with Johnny Hedlund on the bass/vocals, Fredrik Folkare & Tomas Måsgard on the guitars, and Anders Schultz drumming. Unlike many of their peers, Unleashed have kept a steady roster through most of their career, with only a few changes in the guitar department. These four know exactly what the band should sound like, and through Midwinterblot they hammer out 15 tracks in around 46 minutes. Yes, Unleashed keep things appropriately brief, which suits them, since they aren't exactly moguls in the riff factory. You may get 2-3 solid riffs per track, and a lead, but the band is not in the business of complexity.

"Blood of Lies" and "This is Our World Now" are quite an energetic one two combination to anoint this 7th full-length album, as both possess a thrashing energy and a decent, brief lead. I won't say that either of them is truly catchy, but they're enough to get the blood flowing and fists pounding. "We Must Join With Him" is a Tolkien-inspired track with a rolling verse rhythm, and some nice echo to Hedlund's chorus: We must join with Sauron. The title track is a stomping bruiser, similar to some of the riffs they did on their dull albums in the later 90s, but better. The speed of "In Victory or Defeat" is welcome, and the "Triumph of the Genocide" also delivers a sound beating with some nice thrashy speed along with its Rwanda massacre lyrics. "The Avenger" builds a good groove to it, with a nice break for melodic death in the chorus. "Salvation of Mankind" continues this melodic tendency with a solid charge, the lyrics espousing the clear, anti-Christian stance of the band:

'Yeah, resurrect so I can vomit on the
The body of Christ'

The band continues to build their speed further, with the scorching death/thrashing of "Psycho Killer", before another slowly chugging, groove-leaning track in "The Witch", with some rather lascivious, seductive lyrics. "I Have Sworn Allegiance" gallops along with a renewed fervor, the lyrics serving as a foreshadow to the whole 'Hammer Batallion' fan club schtick that would arrive with the album after this. "Age of the Warrior" opens with some Slayer-like speed chugging, and "New Dawn Rising" is another fist of thrash which occasionally bursts into winding death rhythms. The album ends with two of the stronger tracks of the 15, the rolling juggernaut that is "Loyalty and Pride", and the eerie yet glorious "Valhalla Awaits", which may have been my single favorite in the entire experience.

What you have is a long series of tracks here which are all served well by the honest tones and anchoring crunch of the production. Hedlund's vocals have rarely sounded better than here, and the riffs flowing beneath them tend towards a moderate to decent quality. Individually they might not excel, but they're forged into iron hymnals, and as a result, there are much worse albums you could kill 46 minutes with. The short length of most tracks ensures that they are kept exciting, and Midvinterblot is one of the best efforts in this band's entire career.

Highlights: We Must Join With Him, Psycho Killer, Loyalty and Pride, Valhalla Awaits

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

The Vikings return to very good levels! - 89%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, February 5th, 2009

So, here we are with the eighth Unleashed album if we don’t count the two live efforts. Sincerely, the mid-era Unleashed efforts didn’t shine in aggression or simply in songwriting. The 90s were terrible for most of the bands with the roots on the previous decade and hardcore/groove was the main problem. Even with Sworn Allegiance, Unleashed pushed their lame style to the extreme also because sometimes the structures were redundant and boring. At first sight, even this time with the new Midvinterblot I’ve something to complain (or simply to be sceptical about): the length. As always, conserving the right level of songwriting during this length it’s a hazardous challenge.

However, let’s describe this album without looking at the number of the songs and let’s focus the attention on the pure musical direction (sometimes there are albums that flow incredibly even if the length is more than remarkable). “Blood of Lies” welcomes us in the right way with all the instruments following an impulsive, violent direction. The production is one of the best they’ve ever had and this is good also for the guitars. The unmistakable break is by the middle with a solo too but this time it’s good, with a more melodic vein without losing anything is sheer impact. “This is Our World Now” features a perfect blend of epic influences and massive, fast death metal doses to remain on excellent levels.

“We Must Join With Him” is the first mid-paced (with few up tempo sections) episode but thanks to the very good guitars work it doesn’t result boring at all. So far, the guitars have done a massive work and also the structures seem more various avoiding that sensation of “already listened”. The brutal, powerful vocals by Johnny lead us to the title track that is a perfect mid-paced, epic tune. The few stop and go riffs are mixed with tremolos and the march is really dark and epic. “In Victory or Death” and “Triumph of Genocide” are both great examples of goodness and aggression re-found with always dark passages, good solos and never dull mid-paced breaks. The arpeggios on the second one are very important for the whole atmosphere.

“The Avenger” is a catchy, massive and always dark/epic mid-paced track with few up tempo sections in which the guitars are on tremolo. The intensity never goes down and I’m quite astonished for this improvement! “Salvation for Mankind” follows far more violent directions, with all that hate towards Christianity this band features in the lyrics and I can simply enjoy this style. As always, the refrains are one of the best things here and they are always perfectly recognizable in a song. “Psycho Killer” has a vicious progression, being so violent and dark. No time to rest because the doomy and massive march of “The Witch” is a destroying example of good mid-paced song with fast restarts, without fillers, like it happened in the very recent past.

The pure thrash metal burden of a song like “I Have Sworn Allegiance” makes me so happy. The riffs are dry, simple but so catchy and powerful. In total opposition we find that epic “Age of the Warrior” that, anyway, conserves the right burden of anger that lacked on the mid-paced compositions from the previous albums. “New Dawn Rising” has a powerful thrash metal riffage and more of the good up tempo. The blast beats sections are good to make the refrain stand out in violence as “Loyalty and Pride” follows with martial up tempo sections, furious bass drums parts and an unbelievable epic touch. The slow breaks are just massive and once again the guitars sound is incredibly heavy and crushing.

The last “Valhalla Awaits” is a slow, dark march to end of this great return by Unleashed. It’s been awhile since this band didn’t release such a good effort. Finally, the guitars have acquired the long sough after power and the compositions joy of a new found goodness in terms of catchiness, structures and aggression. A special mention should be given for the lead guitar for the simple but excellent solos on every song. The mid-paced sections are now far more convincing and no more dull or repetitive, achieving the goal of being also massively epic and dark. If the previous efforts by this band let you down, listen to this one and HORNS UP!

Drink To Victory! - 87%

Crank_It_Up_To_666, June 9th, 2008

Swedish death metal stalwarts Unleashed are nothing if not a bastion of the old school – a band devoted to the metal cause, to a disgusting, resolutely unpretty sound and to the faithful legions of the underground. And while applying such epithets to a band can all too often mean that their music lost any ability to excite through a single-minded focus on capturing the sounds of yesterday, this is not the case for Unleashed, who on the superb ‘Midvinterblot’ prove once again to any doubters that they are still capable of taking their tried and tested material and injecting it with fresh, hot, vitalised new blood.

‘Midvinterblot’ is a record that pulls no punches, indulging in the kind of death metal that does not in turn permit itself any form of indulgence, to pummel you with a linguistic trick; the deathly delights here are not crammed to bursting point with progressive curveball ideas or technical oodling, but are all about bludgeoning speed and aggression and nothing else. In other words, Johnny Hedlund and co stick resolutely to the form that has served them and their counterparts such as Entombed, Grave and Dismember well in the past, and they do it very, very well.

On display here is by and large Unleashed at their fastest, with tracks like the thunderous opener ‘Blood Of Lies’ storming out of the gates like the Headless Horseman’s satanic steed, and with tracks such as the equally vicious ‘In Victory Or Defeat’ and ‘Psycho Killer’ more than keeping pace. That said, the band do not simply blast the listener to death, and offer a refreshing variety in song structures and tempos, with ‘This Is Our World Now’ operating at various paces throughout, and the death ‘n roll ode to the Norse gods ‘Midvinterblot’ slowing things down to a mid-paced headbanger’s delight.
Not everyone, likely as not, will get on board with the relatively short run times of pretty much every song on here (none of the fifteen tracks ever progress beyond the four minute mark) but ultimately this works in Unleashed’s favour – their punk-inflected material does not lend itself to unnecessary overextension and the band do their work a credit in bringing things to a violent halt before stagnation is given a chance to set in; concision is the name of the game, and Unleashed are good at it. Admittedly, as is common with material of this nature, some of the songs may pass by as merely unexceptional, but this is reflective of a very minor percent of the material – ‘Midvinterblot’ does not relinquish attention so lightly.

Unleashed as a group here are more than solid, with every element of the band’s sound lent a clearly definable, brutal clout by the sharp, edgy production sound. Drummer Anders Schultz hits and hits hard, complimenting his straightforward (and damned fast) blasting with rolling fills and crashing cymbals, while the dual guitars of Fredrik Folkare and Tomas Masgard provide the material with plenty of filthy grit and crunching bite, not to mention some extraordinary solos. Hedlund himself takes a star turn – while his bass is a largely unexceptional if stolid backbone to the songs, his unique, snarling growl never grows uninteresting, especially with the kind of Viking/metal/Tolkien-worshipping lyrics (listen to ‘Age Of The Warrior’ and see if you can spot all the album references contained therein) he spits out with such relish.

‘Midvinterblot’ is a short, sharp blast of deathly Swedish might, providing nothing earth-shattering but more than fulfilling its promise to be a record of ferocious, uncompromising aggression. With enough variation in the song craft to keep fans new and old engaged and enough skill on their instruments to retain a listener’s interest to the end, Unleashed have delivered a true piece de resistance here. One to check out immediately.

A Commendable Effort - 70%

corviderrant, May 8th, 2007

Unleashed have certainly been around for a while, and I have to give them respect for sticking to their guns as well as they do. They are very much like AC/DC in that they have the "If it ain't bust, don't fix it" attitude, and this is both a good and a bad thing.

It's good because they are damned good at what they do. They write some seriously anthemic tunes and have a very keen sense of songcraft and structure. They don't just mindlessly blast away at random like most bands in the death metal realm do these days, and I appreciate that. And some very strong tunes are on display here, like the title track and "We Must Join With Him", one of their rare non-Viking themed songs (this is actually about Sauron, the Eye of Mordor, a perfect character to write about in metal for sure) . And the lead guitar playing is excellent, very melodic and coherent, with solos in every song showing that even metal this heavy is a good forum for virtuosity.

The production is outstanding as well, with a good amount of low end and bass presence anchoring the guitars, a welcome thing. Even though Johnny focuses more on his vocals a la Tom Araya, he can be heard and he has some ability as well. The drums are clear and not overly triggered, and the guitars have a crisp crunch unusual at this level of down tuning (B). Good showing all around there.

The down side is that, well, many of the songs sound alike and the album tends to run out of steam by the end. One too many songs on here may be partly to blame for that. If there had been 10 or maybe even 12 songs on here, it would've been fine, but there are too many songs on this album and they start to sound interchangeable. This album does kind of overstay its welcome, sorry to say. If they'd capped off the number of songs on the album, that would have helped, IMO.

Overall, this is a consistent but lacking album. Lacking in that little extra something to elevate it higher and make it a classic. Sad to say it, as much as i respect Johnny Hedlund & Co., but true. Maybe next time around will see a stronger and more assured showing?

It's the Age of the Fucking Warrior! - 90%

The_Boss, April 4th, 2007

Wow, what a great release. Unleashed, a death metal band from Sweden makes a great effort in their 8th studio release and boy this one sure is a killer! I think the Viking influences on Midvinterblot are very prominent and I was definitely impressed at how they were fused together with the typical death metal style as noticed in the drumming and excellent vocals. All musicians play well and do not drag down the album in the least bit. The production on this album works well and highlights the skillful musicianship showing the talent on each song.

The songs aren’t very long which is alright because the album makes up for it with having a good number of songs and making almost every song memorable with no fillers. That’s quite an accomplishment with a dozen+ songs!

Midvinterblot is an excellent death metal album with obvious Viking nods and the lyrics make me want to go grab my chain mail, jump on a longboat and sail off to some foreign land and plunder the village and rape the women! Already mentioned are the shortness of the songs but each song has either a decent solo, killer headbangin’ riff or a catchy-as-hell chorus. This approach could even be considered to be a melo-death album or solely Viking metal album even, well maybe not but I don’t see many straightforward death metal acts with this approach; which I might add works perfectly!

I recommend this album to anyone who is a death metal fan, Viking metal fan, or melo-death fan! This album is really solid and proves that Unleashed after 10+ years can release kickass quality music!

Best songs: Triumph or Genocide, This is Our World, We Must Join With Him, Age of the Warrior

Excellent Return For Unleashed - 85%

Morbidreich, February 15th, 2007

Unleashed prove here on “Midvinterblot” they are still a force to be reckoned with in death metal. With their 2004 album "Sworn Allegiance” Unleashed proved they were still capable of producing solid records after a period of somewhat uninspired output.

From the get go this album goes for the throat, awesome heavy catchy riffs coupled with precise drumming and Johnny Hedlund’s excellent vocals prove this band still has it and musically are as tight as ever. As usual Unleashed’s lyrical content centers around Viking themes and Norse mythology that go hand in hand with the atmosphere the music creates. The production here is also worth mentioning which gives the album an even more powerful punch than previous discs and letting every instrument stand out and be heard.

Each track stands on its own but the songs here are best experienced together as an album. There are plenty of melodic leads on here that really fit well with the riffs and complement the aggressive parts and improve the overall atmosphere of the songs. Overall this album is a winner and though its nothing new or really innovative it’s a testament to this band’s staying power and ability to write quality material this late in their career.

HAIL ODIN! - 96%

ViralStream, December 17th, 2006

A true return to form from one of Sweden's great Death Metal bands, Unleashed have just gotten everything right on this 9th release of theirs. This Viking infused outburst of Death Metal will have you marching to your longboat and raiding small coastal villages, as this savage performance is just so enjoyable to listen to.

The album consists of 15 tracks, but is only a shade over 45 minutes long, meaning each of the tracks are just short outbursts of fury. I myself am a bit of a prog fan, so normally, I prefer longer tracks, just so that there can be a little bit more development within the songs, but the short tracks work very well for Unleashed. Each one provides a short blast of fury, filled with a variety of venomous riffs and prog-esque solos. It also allows them to vary their style within the album more. Although each track sticks to a similar formula, each one feels distinctly different to its predecessor.

So onto the album's musicianship. I've already touched on the guitar work, but I really need to say more. The riffing is so catchy, and really does subconsciously force you to bang your head along to the beat. Needless to say, after a week of listening to this album, I almost had whiplash. There's a solo in every song, and they're all of a great standard. The solos cry out over the persistent riffing to provide an epic feel to the music.

The drum-work isn't overly special, but it works well with the rest of the music. It provides the driving force to all of the music, and Anders Schultz really doesn't miss a beat, and just adds to the addictiveness of the sound. He mixes blast beats with some traditional death metal drumming, and there's also the occasional rock 'n' roll d-beat thrown in to add more diversity to the sound.

To add to the sound, the throbbing bass work is quite noticeable in the background, aiding the drums in providing great backing for the rest of the music.

The vocal work does not disappoint. As far as death growls go, Johnny Hedlund has gotten it right. He forms the growls well, and has nice change within his sound, not falling foul to the one-dimensional growl syndrome that plagues many death metal vocalists. The lyrics aren't quite as good as his vocals though. It's almost laughable at times, with cries of "Odin!" littered across most tracks, but it works quite well for the overall feel of the music. It makes the sound all the more uplifting, providing that "pillage a village" feel.

Overall, it's a great release, and it will appease the Viking within all of us. Go buy this album, phone your friends, raid the forest and get drunk; this is what the album was made for.