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Late-Career Masterpiece - 98%

volvandese, October 24th, 2012

The Megadeth of Swedish death metal have returned with their 11th full-length album. Unleashed have been churning out Viking-themed death metal goodness for over two decades, and back in April Odalheim became the newest addition to one of the great legacies in the genre.

Something I've always liked about Unleashed is that they don't sound like any other member of the Swedeath royal family. Rather than the chunky buzzsaw guitar, their riffs have always sounded sharp, cutting, and cold. It's like they somehow capture the frozen hostility of black metal without actually sounding anything like a black metal band. I don't know how to explain this phenomenon, but what I do know is that it's in full effect on Odalheim. This is the coldest sounding death metal record I think I've ever heard. The riffs rip through the winter landscape with a frenzied energy matched only by the blistering leads. Galloping drums propel every track forward relentlessly. And Hedlund's hateful bellows blast the listener with a ferocity most imitators can only dream of attaining.

Beyond the energy and aggression, though, is a level of practiced mastery. These guys have been doing this for so long that they know exactly what they're doing and exactly how to do it. On this record, rather than the re-hash of familiar territory that so many veteran records become, the band sound like they've put all those years of lessons to use in creating something even better than its predecessors. Basically this sounds like a culmination rather than a derivation. It's amazing to say this about a band that has been around for so long, but I honestly believe this is the best record Unleashed have ever released.

This band could sleep through an album and produce better material than 90% of the death metal bands out there. Instead, they really poured themselves into it and they have created a staggeringly brilliant record. Savage, cold, and powerful death metal done perfectly by one of the genre's true masters.

(Originally published on beardsetc.blogspot.com)

Unleashed - Odalheim - 95%

DeathTrax666, October 8th, 2012

While the album "As Yggdrasil Trembles" was a little bit slower here you get the full blow of Death Metal.

The promo track “Rise of the maya warriors” did not shine with very good Lyrics but at first I read some comments on Youtube that complained what a Battleship has to do with Vikings. Well as far as I understand it “Odalheim” is a sequel to “As Yggdrasil Trembles” in which the modern world ended and Odalheim is sort of a new beginning for Humanity and that many people now followed once again the norse mythology.

Enough about that and let’s get to the Music. This is in my opinion Awesome it sound modern but also raw and brutal. Every song tells a story about the Vikings fight against “the white christ” and they lose in "The Hour of Defeat", so they go on a journey around the world to "Gather The Battalions" in "Rise Of The Maya Warriors, Vinland, By Celtish and British Shores, Germania" to defeat “the White Christ” and the last song “The Great Battle of Odalheim” tells us that the battle is about to begin.

So are the Lyrics bad? I’d say hell no! Maybe this is only me but I find the concept very interesting to tell a Story with every song. As I said before the music sounds modern but also raw and brutal especially “Fimbulwinter” “Vinland” and "Germania"

The Guitar work is awesome the solo’s are amazing and some song’s like “Germania” and “The Soil of our Fathers” begin with an acoustic part which surprised me at first but after a few listens I loved it.
The Vocals are typically for Unleashed: raw and aggressive and i love it. The drums are very good and are very powerful.

This Album is my Death Metal favorite of this Year. If you are fan of Unleashed you have this album already. To everyone who loves Death Metal and vikings. Get this album now!

Recommended Tracks:
-Fimbulwinter
-Germania
-The Soil of our Fathers
-Vinland

Immortal Battalions, Bearded and Brave - 94%

Left Hand Ov Dog, September 30th, 2012

When you think of Viking death metal, I’d be willing to bet the majority of you immediately and unerringly bring to mind Amon Amarth. However, the more deeply involved in the scene will be quick to point to another distinct entity, a marriage of those sky-seeking melodies and the decrepit rollicking of early Entombed, one who has been toiling away to perfect this style for years before their more popular Viking-styled countrymen even began, and indeed, when the scene was still a fledgling, defined by only Bathory and a handful of others. To my knowledge, they were the first example of pure-blooded Viking death metal, using the trademark buzz-saw melodic nature of the Swedish scene to bring forth Norse battle cries unlike any other. The band I speak of is Unleashed, whose 11th and newest record is just as good as anything their melodic or (now) death n’ roll counterparts have released, but with a blazing tenacity that acts as a dynamic middle ground to those more widely recognized soundscapes.

Constant comparison is largely a lazy review style, but bear with me, I beg, as it’s just so fitting in this case. There is a decent amount of crunch one would find in the typical Amon Amarth song, but there are layers of riffing here that exude a more complex flow of melody. The songs are not as anthemic or accessible, but contain an unflappable ferocity that burns its way into your gray matter and sets the spirit aflame. If Amon Amarth exemplifies the even, rhythmic pounding of Thor’s hammer, than Odalheim is a lightning storm straight from Odin, punishing the whole world over. However, despite differences in delivery, they provide innately similar experiences, grim-bearded brothers carrying different weapons to the same battlefield, prepared to fight and die to protect the glory of Yggdrasil. The ceaseless, pounding march of Odalheim's chugging, gloriously violent melodies also draws parallels to the formative works of Dismember and Entombed, and indeed, Unleashed main-man Johnny Hedlund was actually a part of the latter in the early days, when they tearing up the underground as Nihilist.

The compositions lean toward flowing layers of fast-paced, windy melody, much more so than the chunky, muted slabs you may be used to, though those certainly manifest themselves more than a bit as well. The riffing is simply glorious, and there are roughly 3 zillion to choose from, so you never end up bored, or feeling like a section is too often repeated. It’s like a roaring river (or an ever flowing stream), or a blazing fire, essentially constant, yet ever-changing.

Fimbulwinter blasts like a storm of ice shards, its driven proclamations of winter savagery immediately vicious and infectious. The titular Odalheim is a hammer-pounding call to arms, flowing with melodious anger into a soulful, memorable solo and another spine-tingling chorus. White Christ is a testament to the historical inhumanity of Christianity, and alternates between a choppy, rhythmic stomp and cutting layers of riffing that veritably shave the skin off your bones. The Hour of Defeat is gallops hard into the angry Gathering the Battalions, where guitar leads blow through panoramic mountains of pounding, muscular notation. Rise of the Maya Warriors has an amazing dual-harmony near its end, and The Soil of Our Fathers is a blazing march for glory and revenge. Every song here is memorable in its own way, concise and epic to the nth degree.Of this short 43 minute length, every moment achingly sweet, the simple purity of spirit belying the thoughtful, intelligent song construction, each riff carefully placed for the maximum possible impact.

Johnny Hedlund’s vocals are somewhere between the barking drawl of LG Petrov and the lion-esque roar of Johan Hegg, having evolved from the simple, percussive death grunts of the early years to a more scarred, clearly enunciated delivery, snarling in both lower and medium-high octaves, his natural pride and venom matching the spiritual weight of the notation pound for pound. He also pulls off an impressive performance on the bass; nothing overly technical or insane, but boasting a nice, warm, audible tone, and he doesn’t miss a beat in providing a thick, warm pulse for the guitars to rest on as they cut like a winter wind. And indeed, they are the star of the show here, an inspired array of chilly, battle-ready note progressions that slice through the snow with a bead drawn on your throat. I’d even go so far as to call this lightly blackened death metal, as Odalheim practically oozes ice, both in notation and clear, crisp production.

I’ll admit, both to you and myself, that I never gave Unleashed quite as much credit as they no doubt deserved, always playing second fiddle to other, more visible Swedish death projects, but all that’s changed now. It has led me to re-examine some of their other albums I hadn't given enough time to sink in, and I’ll likely review them all at some point. More important and immediate, though, is Odalheim, one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, very nearly as infectious as the new Kreator, and somehow eclipsing it in terms of sheer excitement. Their signature sound is like a call to battle, stirring the Scandinavian in my blood and imparting mental imagery of galloping warrior hordes, of severed Christian heads lining the stained crimson snow, and epic, valorous war wrought by hordes of axes and snarling storms of ice.

If there is anything negative here, it's that a few of the melodies and choruses feel similar to each other, and this sense of familiarity does hold the album back from being perfect, but it's a testament to the overarching quality that it does very little detriment to the end result. The level of magnificence in each track is astounding, but just a bit more differentiation could have made Odalheim truly immortal. As it stands though, it's still impeccable, a fucking monolith of battle-hardened, memorable material.

Many are keen to compare Unleashed with their more lauded adversaries, and not always favorably. This is particularly true of Amon Amarth, a practice I obviously can’t condemn, and while this is rather inescapable, what with their gigantic popularity and the obvious similarities native to both, I like to think of them as savage warriors championing the same cause, side by side rather than rivals, crushing your feeble skull for the glory of Asgaard. In conjunction with the flowing melodies, the pure violence and often crashing pace are redolent of the very best aspects of works like Left Hand Path and An Ever Flowing Stream, and this easily eclipses the competition as the best unerringly Swedish death metal album I’ve heard in years, melodic or otherwise.

Odalheim is the most resounding, savage, epically memorable attack these warlords have summoned thus far, and will likely stay in my rotation for years to come. Frosty, bearded, and hammer swinging with divine fury ‘til the bitter end, Viking metal just doesn’t get better than this.

-Left Hand of Dog
http://reaperdivision.blogspot.com/

Glory and victory await. - 95%

hells_unicorn, September 20th, 2012

The very nuanced and complex relationship between death and black metal is no stranger to the Swedish scene, and has often crossed borders on both sides. Going all the way back to the grand days of mid 90s glory via Dissection and Unanimated, this notion of splicing together the massive, Goliath-like production tendencies and drum majesty of death metal with the lighter, almost misty character of blackened tremolo riffs and melodies has been sought out with various results. To a great extent, this very delicate balance was again realized via a newer German outfit known as Thulcandra, but didn’t quite hit as hard as the original Swedish version did 15 years prior. But interestingly enough, it’s a long standing contemporary of the two former blackened death masters straight out of the early 90s death metal scene in Unleashed that has managed to successfully channel that same unique spirit into the present scene without losing any of its subtle delights and technical proficiency.

Granted, Unleashed has pretty consistently lived up to its name when it comes to making an immediate impact and also leaving a lasting impression. But “Odalheim” is arguably one of the most viciously cold and glorious efforts into the middle ground dividing the two most intense versions of extreme metal, culminating in a towering monument of a work that rivals both the technical flair and brutality of early Deicide, as well as the atmospheric depth of Enslaved. In spite of all the intricate moving parts exhibited by the guitars, this album functions as a cohesive, megalithic whole and proceeds to stomp the shores of the north like a grand legion of frost giants ready to challenge the Aesir. And while the Norse themes have always been present in the band’s work, here they are given a level of prominence that rivals the consistent imagery exhibited by Amon Amarth, but without the formulaic and, at times, cliché melodic hooks.

In many ways, this album functions like a traditional death metal album, with borders from one song section to the next clearly defined and a subtle hint of the early thrash roots of the style. The lead guitar work, in particular, keeps to the distinctly sectional approach inherent to Death’s early 90s work, occasionally popping in for a repetitive, flowing set of licks as heard on “By Celtic And British Shores”, but largely being consigned to a specific guitar solo section after the mode of Slayer-inspired bands such as Morbid Angel and Deicide. Likewise, Johnny Hedlund’s vocals don’t attempt to emulate the higher pitched, blackened character of the Gothenburg sound, nor do they really attempt to incorporate the super-low, ogre growls heard out of recent Behemoth offerings.

However, at other points, such as the mid-paced, shuffling riff monster “The Soil Of Our Fathers” there is a subtle hint of earlier heavy metal influences, with even a slight hint of Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” buried in the mass. These moments prove to be a welcome contrast and don’t really detract from the controlled chaos and frequent blast sections that dominate most of the listen. Similarly, acoustic guitar passages that are somewhat reminiscent of what a Viking metal band after the traditional Bathory model would employ for atmospheric effect (though the character is very far removed from the NWOBHM-like tonality that Quorthon inherited from Manowar). Taken as a whole, these nice little subtle elements do well to vary the album without robbing it of its core, a pitfall quite common amongst more technically oriented death metal outfits.

It might be a bit hasty to say at this point, but “Odalheim” is arguably the best death metal album to grace the decrepit masses in 2012. All the right elements are here to rope in adherents from two often mutually exclusive scenes, and also have enough nuances in its presentation to keep the younger fans of crisper production values coming without sending the old school packing in the process. It could be said that every Viking oriented band is a bard of sorts, and while Unleashed doesn’t carry the stereotypical sound associated with Nordic themes nowadays, they have upstaged most of the better known purveyors of Norse lore.