Sworn Allegiance

I think most metal fans will agree that last years supposed “comeback” effort, Hell’s Unleashed was a laughably bad joke of an album, that one can only blame on the band’s inactivity or some form of cruel practical joke. So it was with some trepidation I approached this album, wondering if one of Sweden’s death metal stalwarts was now a pitiful has-been. However, I’m happy to report that Unleashed are in fact back “properly,” with their best album in years and possibly their best effort ever (disregarding the first three’s influence and legacy).

Based on material alone, Sworn Allegiance is a superbly old school Swedish death metal onslaught that smartly includes Unleashed’s Viking propensities as well as their tongue in cheek, rock ‘n’ roll frivolity that surfaced on Warrior and was so horribly implemented on Hell’s Unleashed. With a shiny new production courtesy of Chrome Studios, that equals anything by Berno or Abyss, Unleashed’s new found vigor is rendered with a tight and razor sharp modern take on their classic sound. But it’s the songs that really show Unleashed’s new found energy. Within the first three songs alone (“Winterland,” “Destruction (of the race of men),” and “Only the Dead”), there are enough killer riffs and classic Unleashed moments to wipe away the taint that was Hell’s Unleashed. However, when “The Longships are Coming” crashes to shore, you remember why you liked Unleashed so much in the first place; simple, effective, memorable riffs, free from technical overload. The chorus alone will get your blood pumping, guaranteed. “Helljoy” is the one of newer themed non-Viking type tracks that arose on the last album, but above its mindless lyrics, remains a stoutly thrashy ride. Even the rudimentary “Insane for Blood” and “I Bring You Death” canter with the classic Shadows in the Deep era pace, despite their Autopsy-lite lyrics. The pure adrenalin thrash assault of “Attack!” is pure throwback, but effective. “CEO” is a slight turn for the worse with the wretched lyrics and some riffs that could have come from the last effort, but luckily the groove of “One Night in Nazareth” makes up for it. “Metalheads” is mildly retarded in scope but undeniably catchy and sure to be a pit favorite.

I won’t bore you by rounding out the albums last few tracks, but rest assured, they all remain of a high quality, even if the Viking flag isn’t flying quite as high (although the surprisingly deep “To Miklagard” gives a impressive historical perspective on Viking exploration), Unleashed’s newly developed social conscience isn’t their forte, but they have shown that can still rock out with the best of them, and have gained some of their lost luster. Sworn Allegiance isn’t the fastest, most brutal or even one of the best albums of 2004, it is however a direly needed vindication for a band that was teetering on the edge of sellout shittiness, and has a little more urgency than fellow Swedish elder statesmen, Grave and their recent Fiendish Regression. I’d like to welcome Johnny Hedlund and Co. back into the halls of respectability, now let’s just remove all records that Hell’s Unleashed ever existed and pretend it never happened, as this is truly Unleashed’s comeback album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
July 26th, 2004


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