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Unleashed - "As Yggdrasil Trembles" (CD)

Unleashed - "As Yggdrasil Trembles" CD cover image

"As Yggdrasil Trembles" track listing:

1. Courage Today, Victory Tomorrow! (3:54)
2. So It Begins (3:24)
3. As Yggdrasil Trembles (4:52)
4. Wir Kapitulieren Niemals (3:26)
5. This Time We Fight (3:02)
6. Master of the Ancient Art (3:48)
7. Chief Einherjar (3:41)
8. Return Fire (4:04)
9. Far Beyond Hell (3:18)
10. Dead to Me (2:47)
11. Yahweh and the Chosen Ones (3:52)
12. Cannibalistic Epidemic Continues (4:59)

Reviewed by on April 27, 2010

"Long-time fans will know what to expect, but virgin ears will discover a rough-and-tough death metal album loaded with zesty Viking flavor."

It’s not everyday that a band can say that they invented a sub-genre of music, but Sweden’s Unleashed pioneered the concept of “Viking death metal” during the mid-90’s. There were Viking metal bands and death metal bands, but the two never seem to correlate very well before Unleashed came around. Even if a band attempted a version of Viking death metal, it wasn’t anything close to what Unleashed could do with it.

As Unleashed rows past their 20th anniversary, a new album has come out of the choppy seas. “As Yggdrasil Trembles” continues in the musical direction the band has been heading in since they came back after a five-year hiatus with 2002’s “Hell’s Unleashed.” Long-time fans will know what to expect, but virgin ears will discover a rough-and-tough death metal album loaded with zesty Viking flavor.

What this means is that even when the band reaches the breaking point on the “blistering” meter, there is an epic feel in the air, akin to sailing into battle on the high seas. Anthems like “Courage Today, Victory Tomorrow!” and “This Time We Fight” get the fists pumping and the blood boiling in feverish anticipation. The whole album is one large battle cry, signaling the uprising against oppression. Energetic choruses on each song help immerse the listener into this mindset with limited resistance, though the lyrics aren’t exactly the most intelligent.

In fact, some songs are absolutely laughable from a lyrical perspective. “Wir Kapitulieren Niemals” is like a death metal version of Megadeth’s “Back in the Day,” complete with nostalgic lines such as “We took you all for a ride/As 20 years were passing by/Viking death metal.” The only thing missing is the rundown of all the random places the band has toured over their career. The band has never been exactly Shakespearean with their words in the past, but a few clunkers become apparent on “As Yggdrasil Trembles.”

Good thing that the music is strong to make up for the weak lyrics. Unleashed returns to their roots on the blazing “So It Begins” and the Obituary-inspired "Dead To Me." A few wrinkles are thrown into the formula with the clean intro to the relentless “This Time We Fight” and the slow start to “Cannibalistic Epidemic Continues,” which erupts into mass anarchy. All of this pale in comparison to the bouncy stoner groove of “Master of the Ancient Art,” which is as experimental as the band gets with their sound. It’s one of the weaker tracks on the album, but credit is given for the band trying something different.

This incarnation of the band has been together for over a decade now, and the musicianship shows a strong chemistry between the four members. Lead guitarist Fredrik Folkare, who was also in the producer’s chair for the album, outdoes himself with a solid blend of outright shredding and melodic undertones. Even when a few songs begin to fall apart, he comes out of the background to take the reigns and lead things back to normal. The rest of the band maintains their usual output, with vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund touting his gruff growls.

After ten albums, Unleashed is sitting comfortably in control on “As Yggdrasil Trembles.” This is an album that will not only please the die-hards, but is the perfect gateway into the world of Viking death metal. Even with a few weak songs and hilariously-bad lyrics, Unleashed can play wicked death metal as well as someone half their age.

Highs: Strong blend of Viking metal and death metal, lead guitar work stands out, anthemic feel to many of the songs.

Lows: Laughable lyrics, a few weaker songs in the middle.

Bottom line: Potent Viking death metal done by the flagbearers of the genre.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)