Unleashed

As Yggdrasil Trembles

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Swedish "Viking metal" band Unleashed have been plowing their particular groove since the dawn of the 1990s; indeed, they were the first band to marry the downtuned Stockholm sound of Entombed, Dismember, et al., to swords-and-longships lyrical themes. On their tenth studio album, very little has changed. Lyrical references to Yggdrasil (the Norse "tree of life"), Thor, and the Einherjar (dead warriors who live in Valhalla, waiting to fight at the final battle, Ragnarök) abound. On other songs, bassist/vocalist Johnny Hedlund's concerns are more earthbound -- combat, basically. While the songs all fit into a basic mold of downtuned riffing, punk-thrash drums, and hoarsely shouted vocals, there are occasional eruptions of instrumental virtuosity. Lead guitarist Fredrik Folkare offers fluid, coherent solos and even adds some moody, almost psychedelic introductions to a few songs. Perhaps this album's greatest virtue, one common to Unleashed's catalog, is that within the parameters of Swedish death metal, it's pretty catchy. The riffs are a midtempo chug rather than offering the staccato bludgeoning of more technical styles, and the band rarely downshifts into ultra-slow sludge-noise, preferring to keep the music moving forward. Some death metal has moved almost entirely beyond the realm of blues-based rock, mutating into some sort of electrified modern classical music with blastbeats. Unleashed, for all of their distorted guitars and thundering rhythms, retain an essential rock-ness that keeps their music accessible.

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