posted on 11/2006 By:
I dunno if it’s the buzz-happy guitars, the simple song structures, the growled (rather than gurgled) vocals, or greater emphasis placed on the riff (rather than speed or complexity) that does it, but I’ve got a gigantic soft spot for this kind of death metal. Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Carnage, Edge of Sanity, you name it—if it comes from Stockholm and sounds Skogsberg-y, I’m likely to eat it up. It should come as no surprise, then, that the latest from Swedish diehards Unleashed is treating me quite well. Johnny Hedlund and company have done…well, more or less exactly what you’d figure they’d do. Mindvinterblot is certainly much superior to the band’s mid-nineties-era work, and is at least equivalent—in pretty much every way—to 2004’s Sworn Allegiance.
If that doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, it might be because Unleashed are suffering somewhat from poor timing. 2006 has seen a number of very strong releases from Unleashed’s immediate peers. Dismember, Amon Amarth, and even Grave have all released their best albums in several years, and Mindvinterblot seems a little flimsy simply because it’s not a marked improvement over its predecessors. But this band has never been much concerned with progression, and as far as I’m concerned, they don’t need to fix what ain’t broke. Unleashed plow through forty-five unbroken minutes of thunderous, groovy goodness here—not even a sample slowing up the riffs on this one—and they’d be at serious risk of pissing off their fanbase if they didn’t. Even those who love this style as much as I do might start to drift after the tenth or eleventh three-minute thrash-informed tirade, but Mindvinterblot isn’t exactly an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish. This is best taken little bits at a time; throw on a track or two, soak in the massive grooves, choppy Slayer-isms and the hairy-chested soloing, and move on before you start thinking about how great Like An Everflowing Stream was.
Not that any of this means a damn thing to Johnny Hedlund; dude was in Nihilist and as far as he’s concerned pretty much anyone else is a death metal newbie by comparison. And it’s tough to discount that veneration here. Tracks like ridiculously Tolkien-inspired and ridiculous catchy “We Must Join With Him” show off the band’s ability to craft instrumental hooks (check that chorus!), and “Valhalla Awaits” gives Amon Amarth’s “Valhalla Awaits Me” a serious run for its coinage. And, of course, there’s the rollicking midpaced crushers: “Mindvinterblot,” “The Avenger,” “The Witch,” and “Age of the Warrior” all bring that endlessly enjoyable buzz in spades. Though this was produced by Fredrik Folkare at Chrome Studios instead of by Skogsberg at Sunlight, Mindvinderblot sounds authentic through and through—which, arguably, is what this album’s all about. Unleashed almost certainly won’t be recruiting many new fans with this one, but those of you who long for the pre-Wolverine Blues days of Stockholm death metal (and I know you’re out there) will dig this for sure.
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As Yggdrasil Trembles