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On its way into oblivion - 72%

Felix 1666, December 11th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Century Media Records

I have always been a great fan of "Before the Creation of Time" since I have heard it for the first time. This song of the debut alone was reason enough for me to await the second full-length of Unleashed eagerly. "Shadows in the Deep" redeemed me and generally speaking, the album met my expectations. The quartet did not release an overwhelming classic, but a good album. Back in 1992, I really enjoyed it, but I must say that it did not stand the test of time in all respects.

Okay, it was always obvious that Unleashed's kind of death metal has a certain pop appeal. This is not to say that their songs could be embedded in the disgusting program of your local radio station. The Swedes deliver the fundamental brutality and power in order to hold high the banner of their sub genre. Nevertheless, the showpiece of the full-length, "The Immortals", combines primitiveness with catchiness in a nearly embarrassing manner. It sounds like the death metal counterpart of "United" or "Living After Midnight", only a little bit better. However, Unleashed do not need this overly simple, almost greasy structures. They also have written good pieces which do not focus on a drunken open air crowd that wants to be entertained in the most simple manner.

Especially "Onward into Countless Battles" with its impelling riff shows the real skills of the group. Sawing guitars and a simple melody form a mid-tempo verse which is followed by an eruptive instrumental part. The middle section is enriched with atmospheric sounds of raging waves, before the verse reappears. One might say that the song does not hold anything special, but everything fits together and paints a coherent picture. For those who prefer a more furious kind of death metal, I recommend the straight, short and swift "Never Ending Hate" and "The Final Silence". Without any detours, they attack the listener directly. But frankly, this is no album for speed maniacs. Unleashed have recorded tons of mid-tempo sequences and the strength of this work is rather its ominous aura than an overdose of velocity. No doubt, the bone-breaking "Crush the Skull" hails the Gods of speed, but all in all, the album has some very viscous tunes as well. Even after more than 25 years, I am still undecided whether "Bloodbath" is quite casual or just boring. The deep, more or less dull sound tends to the latter. This results in an album which fails to spread a really vibrant aura.

Be that as it may, "A Life Beyond" with its drilling guitar at the beginning and the fast outbreaks should be part of your "Best of Swedish death metal" compilation. Here are no signs of mainstream death metal. Instead, pure darkness prevails and the title track runs in the same vein, although it could have been optimized by giving it some rabid sections. However, if one likes the upright approach of Unleashed in general - Johnny's raw, sometimes slightly uninspired voice, a relatively low degree of brutality, easy but suitable patterns and no integration of foreign influences -, "Shadows in the Deep" is, as mentioned in the first paragraph, a good album.

Unleashed - Shadows in the Deep - 62%

KriegdemKriege, February 8th, 2014

Unleashed is a Swedish death metal band well-known for being one of the genre’s pioneers, forming in 1989 and playing a large role in the influential early Swedish scene alongside fellow death metal acts Dismember, Entombed, and Grave. Unleashed is especially notable for vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund’s involvement in the seminal death metal band Nihilist, essentially the founders of the Swedish scene. After being fired from Nihilist in 1989, Hedlund created Unleashed to start making music on his own, while Nihilist continued making music as Entombed. Unleashed has had a lengthy and surprisingly steady career, releasing eleven studio albums of consistently brutal death metal to date. Excluding a period of hiatus in the late 1990’s, the band has released a new full-length at least once every two years.

Shadows in the Deep, Unleashed’s sophomore effort, is very much a direct sequel to the group’s 1991 debut, Where No Life Dwells. It serves as an excellent demonstration of the early Swedish death metal sound, combining heavily distorted guitars, guttural vocals, and a strong emphasis on tremolo-picked melodies to create a work that is as well-crafted as it is heavy. While the songwriting and performance on Shadows in the Deep is overall not as strong as what was demonstrated on the band’s excellent debut, the album remains an important part of the Unleashed discography and should provide a satisfying listen to any fan of classic death metal.

Like every album in the band’s discography, Shadows in the Deep is an uncompromisingly heavy work, even judging by today’s standards. You will not hear any acoustic interludes or nature samples on this record; Unleashed decided to abandon all ambient elements to create an album with an emphasis on nothing more than sheer brutality. The band even refrains from including any guitar solos on the album, with only two minor exceptions on the tracks “Never Ending Hate” and “Crush the Skull”. Both of these tracks include a solo, although they are both extremely brief and entirely unnecessary. The solos are contribute little to the strength of the tracks or the album at large and could easily have been left off. It should be noted that just because the album eschews ambience and melody for aggression, this in no way means that it lacks diversity. Album opener “The Final Silence” has a distinct trash influence, and the excellent “Onward into Countless Battles” bases its verses on an incredibly catchy up-tempo groove. As a further surprise, one of the album’s best tracks is the included cover of Venom’s “Countess Bathory”. While the Unleashed version is essentially just a heavier version of the original, it is a very fun track that demonstrates that the band is at their best when they are enjoying themselves.

Addressing the band’s performance on the album, there is really not much to criticize. Hedlund’s vocal performance is excellent, and represents the vocalist in his prime. In the band’s early years Hedlund contributed a much more deep and guttural vocalization than what can be found on later albums. While his vocals are still powerful on later recordings, the rough growls found on Shadows in the Deep fit the band’s style better than the more refined vocal performance seen in the band’s later career. Both the percussion and guitar work demonstrate a high level of musicianship, even though they are never really given any time to shine through solos. The album also has surprisingly good production, allowing all instruments and vocals to be heard clearly. The only point of criticism that can be made for the album’s musical performance is that while the bass is clearly audible, it often just mirrors the guitar work in an unimaginative way. While this is typical of early death metal albums, some inventive bass lines would have been a welcome contribution, serving to break up the constant emphasis on guitar riffs.

There are several negative aspects to Shadows in the Deep that must be noted. Perhaps the biggest drawback of the album is the inclusion of several lackluster songs, songs that are largely forgettable and serve no real purpose on the album. Some examples of this are “Never Ending Hate” and “Crush the Skull”, ironically the only two songs on the record that include guitar solos. While these are not necessarily bad songs, they come across as filler and take away from the integrity of the album as a whole. A reason for the inclusion of these filler tracks may be due to the extremely short length of time between studio albums in the band’s early career; Shadows in the Deep was released exactly one year after their debut. Besides lackluster tracks, the album also includes one song that is downright bad. This is the second track, “The Immortals”. The song is marred by an extremely annoying riff that repeats itself frequently throughout the song, and the parts that exclude the riff are simply uninteresting. One last negative point to be made about the album is that many of the tracks overstay their welcome, going on for far too long and repeating segments over and over unnecessarily. This gets tiring after a while, and unfortunately takes away considerably from the album’s replay value.

While there are several negative aspects that combine to detract from the album a fair amount, Shadows in the Deep is by no means a bad record. There are several brilliant tracks present on the album, and Johnny Hedlund delivers what is perhaps the best vocal performance of his career. The album also has historic importance as being one of the early examples of Swedish death metal, which would go on to be incredibly influential for the scene at large. Overall, Shadows in the Deep is a fun listen that deserves to be heard at least once by anyone with interest in the genre.

Continuing on the right way - 88%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, November 6th, 2008

I’ve always considered Shadows In The Deep as the darkest and gloomiest album Unleashed ever released in their quite long career. The debut made them jump on the big swedish death metal train and now, just one year after, they are back with this album to annihilate us once again through really heavy and dark music. Unleashed has always been quite different from the other death metal bands from Sweden and especially from Grave, Entombed, Carnage and Dismember. These last bands all have a conductive line that binds them together: a sort of primordial brutality bind to a certain swedish death metal standard, with massive, chainsaw guitars and different patterns.

Unleashed is a band that was heavily influenced by punk music and partially by the thrash metal and the traditional metal in the structures, the riffs and the sounds. Everything sounds a bit less morbid, gore and less distorted if we want and if we compare this band to the ones I cited before. By the way, let’s enter this album to see how it is. “The Final Silence” is more than representative for its sudden explosion through up tempo parts and a screamed beginning. The vocals are nasty and really malevolent and the music follows. The doom moments are dark and really well-done with long notes and some heavier riffs.

The production is glacial, bleak and dark. All the instruments are really cold and essential in their distortion. The guitar sound is not excessive in volumes but absolutely low-tuned in its more classical and less distorted production. It’s essential but extremely gloom and the drums are on the same style with essential approach and sounds. Everything seems bare-bone and conceived to transmit a sense of suffocation and darkness. The mid-paced progression of “The Immortals” is symptomatic of this quest for dark passages and doom moments, while with “A Life Beyond” we return to faster patterns. The tremolo picking style on the guitars is cold and massive like a black monolith.

During the up tempo parts we can notice that certain punk attitude in playing even if we are in death metal. The title track is not excellent because features the same three riffs on mid-paced progression and after awhile it’s a bit boring, but we find the good cover “Countess Bathory” to increase in intensity. “Neverending Hate” is full of up tempo parts and it’s among the most impulsive outputs here. “Onwards into Countless Battles” is full of those galloping riffs that are a true characteristic of the Unleashed sound. This is where the thrash metal influences come out and a hint of epic style is required also. This track shows also a new conception for lyrics, now more based on the Vikings era and their wars.

“Crush the Skull” is another song that takes no prisoners for its fury. All the instruments are charged and ready to explode. By the way, we can always fall into some more mid-paced moments in these songs, so they are not “one way” and that is good. There are some solos too, to fill this sound and they are done properly. “Bloodbath” is a slow, massive march of the North Hordes with lots of doomy parts and long notes. The last “Land Of Ice” displays more canonical swedish death metal parts with violent progressions and fast riffs. It’s a perfect song to finish this album.

Overall, this Shadows In The Deep remains on good levels and presented us a band in shape. The aggression of the fastest parts is always well-balanced with the unmistakable doom moments and the mid-paced stops. This is another good effort for them.

One of their best efforts - 90%

Dark_Mewtwo1, August 1st, 2008

You know what you're gonna get with Unleashed: songs which alternate between fast/slow and mid-tempo, galloping, almost punk-like songs, Viking and anti-Christian lyrics, and, for the most part, precise and well-written songs. So if you've heard any Unleashed album before, don't be surprised that this album also follows their tried and true formula. However, what Shadows in the Deep has, which many of their other works do not, is total quality, from the first to the last track.

Fans of Where No Life Dwells will listen to this and immediately realize how similar many of the songs are on this record. It's amazing that, even this early in their careers, Unleashed knew it had a good thing and stuck with it. The AC/DC comparison isn't far off for Johnny and Co. But fortunately, there's a great sense of songwriting ability within the band. Songs like The Immortals and my favorite Unleashed song, Onward Into Countless Battles, combine excellent lyrics with Unleashed's steady formula of riffs, consistent drumming, and not-flashy/not-brutal yet very effective vocal work. To me, this songs get a big boost from the production value. While their debut was a little rawer, this one is a lot clearer and fuller. The guitar tone is ultra-thick and chunky, which gives a lot of these songs power. The drums sound GREAT on this record, which was my only complaint from the first album. Anders Schultz gives his usual performance here, with lots of variation between up-tempo thrash beats, blasts, and mid-paced gallops/beats, but the drum tone really sets it apart here. The snare drum sounds particularly richer, a real nice touch. Johnny's vocals sound about the same, which is perfect, but unfortunately his bass work doesn't shine through, although that's to be expected.

The only real drawback to this album is the similarity between the material, and the arrangement of the tracks. They stuck a pretty decent over of Venom's Countess Bathory in the middle of the album, right after a mostly mid-paced title track. It tends to drag on a bit, but thankfully they come back with Never Ending Hate, a scorcher of a track. And after having an excellent one-two punch with Onward and the punishing Crush the Skull (seriously, that riff in the middle of the song does exactly that!), they drag the album down quite a bit with Bloodbath, possibly one of my least favorite Unleashed songs.

Even with that slight misstep, you can expect the goods from this album. The material is top notch, with some real classic tracks that the band still performs to this day, and an excellent production effort. Fans of Unleashed, and of death metal in general, will find a lot to like about Shadows in the Deep. Recommended!

Huge! - 82%

Snxke, July 7th, 2004

"Shadows of the Deep" is another slab of muscular "Viking death metal" from Johnny and co. that manages to entertain as much as anything else they've done. It's bottom-heavy attack still has more riffing and simple hooks than a meat factory and the production/sound is as classic to the bands design as ever. Sure, much like AC/DC it seems like Unleashed don't change...but at the same breath like AC/DC they really AREN'T writing the same songs over and over again. Nobody does what Unleashed does better than they do (well, at least on THIS record) and this record is a dose of Viking styled brutality that is a must-have for any Unleashed/Viking metal fans respectively.

The lyrics are the same old same old, the Viking chants against Christian weakness/morality or the old Swedish mythos as per normal for those interesting in their folk beliefs. Musically, the band has changed nothing of what made them work as a killer unit. There may be no "Before the Creation of Time" on this but the work still stands out as thick and moving. They never blast out of melodies, and they keep it throttling enough to imagine the wind in your hair as you're riding on your longship to crush some Monks skull. (Ha!)

Unleashed may have gotten strange in their older years, but this record marks their sound in the classic form that most of us grew to love them for. Slightly less violent than before, a tad more thought but still brutally viable that band keeps on chugging here. I love Unleashed, I really do...and this CD may be only for Unleashed fans but no fan will go dissapointed.

If you're a hairy Viking at heart, this CD should hit the spot correctly. Blast the title track, grab a beer (or a wench...or both) and rock out to this.