Hell's Unleashed

During the Swedish death metal explosion of the early ’90s, after the initial assault of Entombed and Carnage and Dismember, a second wave of acts erupted. Grave, Seance and Unleashed found the coattails, and promptly were taken for a ride. Each act attained some kind of recognition and status, with perhaps Unleashed being the most prolific of the three. However, all three eventually went away, and were tucked in the annals of death metal history.

However, with Grave reforming and about to release a “comeback” album of sorts, Unleashed saw fit to beat Grave to the punch and release their own comeback album, their first in over five years. I wish they hadn’t. As much as it pains me to say this, Hell’s Unleashed varies from mind numbingly average to downright terrible. Like a punch-drunk veteran boxer stepping into the ring for one last shot, Unleashed put on an embarrassing showcase that ruins an otherwise superb legacy. And as the hot new young acts put on impressive musical displays that dance rings around a once proud warrior, the embittered old man can simply stumble around aimlessly swinging with wild abandon and maybe connecting once or twice from sheer luck.

Johnny Hedlund and company have been at this for a decade now, but quite simply the genre has advanced and passed them by. Some acts such as Dismember and Bolt Thrower are able to still produce solid material, but to be honest its positive reception is as much to do with admiration for their past work. Unfortunately, Unleashed were never considered great or spectacular in their prime, always in the shadow of their peers, and so their past work, while solid, never achieved the recognition of others of the era; and so leaves you wondering was this album really necessary?

Onto the album: Fourteen short unimaginative squirts of by-the-numbers chunky mainly mid-paced death metal. That in itself normally wouldn’t bother me, but what is so disturbing is the utter predictability, and even more so the suddenly banal lyrics. Gone are the epic Viking hymns to war, hell and the Allfather. Sure there is the odd reference to ages past in “Fly Raven Fly”, “Demoneater” and “Demons Rejoice”, and it’s no surprise that these are the better songs on the album. Especially, when compared to inane attempts a semi-humorous gore lyrics (think Pungent Stench) of “Joy in the Sun”, “Dissection Leftovers”, and “Your Head is Mine”. Add to that attempts at more real world concepts like “Mrs. Minister” and “Triggerman” and Unleashed simply fall flat – the overall outcome comes across like a rushed joke, rather than a serious attempt at a true comeback album.

It’s as if quarterway through the writing process after writing a few good tunes, they just ran out of ideas and said, “Fuck it” let’s have a laugh. This really is a shame ‘cos “Fly Raven Fly” is a solid song that harkens back to Victory and Warrior, and shows what these mighty warriors were capable of. Then, frankly after the utterly cheesy and sorry attempt at sordid love of “Joy in the Sun”, the truth of the matter sets in: crap’s Unleashed. To hear Johnny belt out “Awsoooome!” with his now very mellow death vocals is sheer disappointment. “We’ll Come For You” makes a valiant attempt at redemption with a galloping “Shadows in the Deep” style main riff that pounds along, nice and simple. But much of the other material is so simplistic two riff chugga-chugga style, it makes Massacre look like Nile; drummer Anders couldn’t have even broken a sweat during recording. Ok, “Piece, Piece by Piece” has a little thrash edge to it, but at barely 2 minutes and it’s over too soon, and gives way to yet another boring gore song, “Burnt Alive”.

I hated writing this review, as Unleashed were at one point one of my utter favorite bands, and to see someone responsible for part of Nihilist and indirectly Entombed (Nihilist split and formed Entombed and Unleashed, respectively) make this drivel saddens me. It’s painfully obvious that Century Media got a little too greedy on this one, and I can only hope the upcoming Grave album doesn’t suffer the same results.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
April 29th, 2002


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