In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead
12/1/2011 - Review by: Etiam
In brief, 'In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead' is a minor classic in the 90s Swedish metal canon, notable for its liberal fusion of melodic black metal and hairy death metal. But, as with virtually every band from the good ol' days in Konungariket Sverige, the real story is much more involved. On this record in particular, Unanimated share more with Dissection than with Nihilist, et al, despite hailing from the death metal stronghold of Stockholm. The record is rife with melancholy tremolo leads, anguished and rasping vocals, occasional keyboard underpinnings, and even expansive, predominantly instrumental interludes that would fit naturally in the middle of 'The Somberlain'. But 'In The Forest...' is not all grim minor strophes--the production is too raunchy, the guitars too burly for that, and there are still enough 'Left Hand Path' whole note chord progressions for Unanimated to earn their death metal accreditation. But calling Unanimated the Stockholm strain of melodic death metal would be too easy, and too shallow an interpretation; Unanimated are too far down in the doldrums to put up with their Göteborg contemporaries. Instead, 'In the Forest...' is what we could expect from Dawn if they had recorded a record between the death metal days on 'The Eternal Forest' and the sweeping black metal of 'Naer Solen Gar Niber For Evogher', with no time for 'Lunar Strain' in between.
And this does follow, given that Unanimated's Peter Stjärnvind and Richard Cabeza combined spent more than 20 years in Entombed and Dismember. It is true that Cabeza does not receive playing credit on this record (Daniel Lofthagen), but he is listed alongside Micke Jansson as a lyricist and composer, and would officially take over on bass for the next record.
This LP, which first appeared in '93 on the cult label No Fashion, has been reissued by Unanimated's current representatives at Regain Records. It features an impressive remastering job courtesy of Peter In De Betou and has the 1991 demo 'Fire Storm' tagged onto the end for good measure. The production on this older material is quite poor, and all the songs were re-recorded for 'In the Forest...'; aside from satisfying any completionist urges it mostly helps us appreciate the remastered sound of the LP that precedes it.
And there is quite a lot to appreciate. While many Swedish artists were growing awkwardly into their own (we can love 'Gardens of Grief' but still acknowledge its catastrophic construction), the scope and continuity of 'In the Forest...' belies its composers' adolescence. Beyond just the technical chops--not extreme, but setting a higher bar than some of their sloppier contemporaries--the record is full of tasty licks, surprisingly diatonic solos, and efficient structures.
Although 'In the Forest...' is not so essential as the greatest pillars holding up the Swedish metal pantheon, it is certainly a linking keystone of sorts. While Dissection, Dark Tranquillity, Grave, At the Gates, and all the rest of those seminal names plied their disparate trades, Unanimated connected the dots. 'In the Forest...' distills the essence of Swedish heavy metal without committing exclusively to a single school.
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