Company: Nuclear Blast Release: 2015 Genre: Death Reviewer: Greg Watson
Destruction and splendor
Ahhh...another Unleashed album that I can find comfort in like a broken in...wait just a damn minute. What the hell is this? THIS is Unleashed?!? And that friends is what my brain started screaming to me as the opening track off Unleashed's "Dawn of the Nine" assaulted my ears. Unleashed, in my opinion, has long been underappreciated and undervalued for what they bring to the table. For 26 years and 12 albums, you know what you're getting when Unleashed puts an album out. With "Dawn of the Nine", they have sort of reinvented themselves a little and found new life.
Opening track "A New Day Will Rise" is classic Unleashed with a bit of a nod to Bathory thrown in for good measure. Johnny Hedlund's vocals are still the clearest and easiest to understand in death metal as far as I'm concerned and he hasn't lost any of his anger at all. The riffs on this track are flesh-flaying and the thunderous pace of the music is a call to Thor himself. "They Came To Die" is another classic sounding track that just continuously needles your brain till your brain stem starts slapping you in an attempt to register some sort of coherent function out of you. "Defenders of Midgard" is where the changes and subtleties begin to take shape and the reinvention kicks into gear. A very surprising acoustic intro welcomes you to this track before the electric guitars kick in with a bit of a doomy sort of riff that builds to the grooving that Unleashed are familiar too. However, the doomy riff doesn't disappear altogether as it reappears in the chorus and really pulls everything together. Then the song ends with a slight jazz breakdown before returning to that calming acoustic riff.
"Where Is Your God Now" kicks in with a hell of black metal sounding riff and Hedlund doing his best black-ish vocals. The trademark melodic guitar work is heavily present and it is easily my favorite off the album. Evil and heavy as hell, what's not to love about it? "The Bolt Thrower" and "Let the Hammer Fly" are both straight up bangers. Classic death metal tracks through and through, "Let The Hammer Fly" almost won out as my favorite track on the album just because of the lyrics describing Thor as this vengeful badass riding his chariot and throwing Mjollnir, his hammer, to and fro causing death and destruction. One thing is for sure, this isn't Hollywood's depiction of Thor here. "Where Churches Once Burned" is another track that has a slight veil of black metal to it and is somewhat slowed down pace-wise. The lyrical ferocity on this track is just insane. You can really feel the venom and anger directed at the "White Christ" as Hedlund screams "And so we chase the White Christ off our lands and burn their churches to the ground. We take back all that was first given to us and reinstate the Hammer now!" If this track doesn't get your blood pumping and make you want to fight or break the shit out of something, your soul is lost. "Land of the Thousand Lakes" brings back the doom feel again and I have to say, I really like those elements that Unleashed use on the album. It makes the music feel more oppressively evil, like a physical darkness worming its way into your very being.
"Dawn of the Nine" again hails the doomy feel to it and is arguably the defining track on the album when it comes to Unleashed's evolution and subsequent reinvention. The Iommi-type riffs and guitar work that populate this track are just stunningly heavy and beautifully dark. Hedlund's slower paced vocals add to the overall desolate feel as he says "I am death...I am the shadow, that chill down your spine". Incredible, incredible track here. "Welcome the Son of Thor" closes the album out with a solid dose of melodic death metal and what we've all come to love and expect from Unleashed.
The production on this album is stellar as always. The album continues the story from 2012's "Odalheim" and I found myself just as enraptured with the evolving story on "Dawn of the Nine" as I was with its predecessor. The land is in flux and moving back towards its rightful shape and awaiting the arrival of a champion to complete the necessary changes. Will that champion appear? Will the land regain its stolen glory? Will Johnny Hedlund use clean vocals? To find out the answers to the first two questions, listen to "Dawn of the Nine". If you need an answer to the last question, you clearly don't know Unleashed.
After multiple listens to this album, I think that it is easily the band's finest album in years, if not ever. I'm sure people might think I've gone crazy with spring fever or something but I am totally blown away by this album. The feel and the atmosphere on "Dawn of the Nine" shows that these Swedes clearly have more to offer and I'm very glad to know that. So fill up your flagons of mead, sit comfortably in your throne, witness the newfound power of Unleashed and prepare to say an oath to the "Dawn of the Nine". If you don't, you might just be swept away in the destruction and splendor of Thor!
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
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