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Unleashed - "Dawn Of The Nine" (CD)

Unleashed - "Dawn Of The Nine" CD cover image

"Dawn Of The Nine" track listing:

1. A New Day Will Rise
2. They Came To Die
3. Defenders Of Midgard
4. Where Is Your God Now?
5. The Bolt Thrower
6. Let The Hammer Fly
7. Where Churches Once Burned
8. Land Of The Thousand Lakes
9. Dawn Of The Nine
10. Welcome The Son Of Thor!

Reviewed by on April 23, 2015

"'Dawn of the Nine' brings more of the aggressive, yet limited, old school style that stays true to the band’s formula, but is no less effective."

If there is one band I would choose to personify the Swedish death metal scene in all its purity, it wouldn’t be Entombed or Dismember, as much as it is Unleashed. With “Dawn of the Nine,” the classic viking themed quartet celebrate a 12th full-length effort and 25 years of riff bolstering greatness. It also marks another release of predictably enjoyable death metal, one indicative of the band’s “we don’t give a shit, this is who we are” mentality.

Long before Amon Amarth made Norse mythology a lyrical cornucopia for a newer generation, Johnny Hedlund was preaching the word of Asgaard through his trademark serrated, though crystal clear, intonations. Death metal and Norse – it’s a match made in Helheim, even though I imagine the subject matter is a bit overplayed these days. Ever since 1993’s “Across the Open Sea,” Unleashed has been paying tribute to the All Father, treading between great, landmark, and mediocre releases like “Victory” (1995), “Midvinterblot” (2006), “As Yggdrasil Trembles” (2010) and the stunning “Odalheim”(2012). “Dawn of the Nine” brings more of the aggressive, yet limited, old school style that stays true to the band’s formula, but is no less effective.

If you enjoy your death metal played with a touch of grind, luring riffs, and a whisk of melody, then Unleashed is definitely your band. Longtime fans of the Swedish horde expect no intricate sophisticated wankery….just start the riffs and charge forthwith into battle. “A New Day Will Rise” does just that – it jumps right into the fray as if the tape from the previous release was cut off like a season ending cliffhanger. No slow build up, so you can just start smashing right away.

If there is one thing about “Dawn of the Nine” that separates it from 2012’s “Odalheim,” it is the pure accessibility. In the same hair raising manner on “Midvinterblot,” the songs draw in the listener from first blush, whether it is through the coil-strike-recoil riff of “Defenders of Midgard,” the punitive machine gun bass drum blasts of Anders Schultz in the well-placed pauses at 0:52 of “Welcome the Son of Thor,” or the punishing gallop at 3:22 of “Dawn of the Nine.” This is just a small sample of the highlight moments. The song that steals the entire release is the damn near perfect death metal victory of “The Bolt Thrower.” Admittedly, the title was an instant draw, but I dare anyone to find a better old school death metal tune in terms of riff bait and overall ferocity.

Twin guitar team Tomas Olsson and Fredrik Folkare do more than just provide punishing riffs, as byzantine solos caged within raging dirges like “They Came to Die” and “Where Churches Once Burned” will attest. Stirring solos are the only chunks of “Dawn of the Nine” that surmount the Paleolithic cave dwelling death bombardment. That bombardment comes in the form of clean, clear, and crisp production.

Where does “Dawn of the Nine” rank in terms of Unleashed’s back catalog? Probably near or towards the top. It may not capture that youthful rookie gem “Where No Life Dwells” or the blasting chaos of “Odalheim,” but with clean clear riffs, super charged production, Hedlund’s cloudless vocal delivery, and compact accessible tracks, it stands in the upper echelon. For those seeking more elaborate melodic or melodramatic Scandinavian death metal or have grown weary of the Viking motif, Unleashed is not for you. However, respect for this original should be given by all, because not many can pull it off with as much power and grace.

Highs: Infatuating riffs, crisp and clear production, and Hedlund's perfect death annunciations. "The Bolt Thrower" is more than just a great band now!

Lows: Proto-typical old school death with little to offer those seeking progression.

Bottom line: Unleashed delivers one of the most accessible, albeit typical, old school death metal albums.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)