Unleashed

Warrior

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Born out of a death metal scene that quickly abandoned its brutal origins to embrace incremental, oftentimes questionable amounts experimentation, Sweden's Unleashed distinguished themselves for their steadfast defense of the genre's original purity and simplicity of spirit -- i.e. good, old-fashioned head banging, not head scratching. And it always served them well; each of the quartet's increasingly successful albums offered ever more memorable and accomplished songwriting within their self-imposed parameters -- no small feat! But the formula finally began to sound a little tired and repetitive come studio album number five, 1997's Warrior, which, coincidentally, found vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund having to take over all songwriting duties in the absence of former contributor, guitarist Fredrik Lindgren, who'd been surreptitiously replaced by one Fredrik Folkare. Therefore, while occasional winners like "Warmachine," "Mediawhore," and "Death Metal Victory" retained the basic, uncomplicated (even punky!), but effective riffs and grooves responsible for Unleashed's magic of yore, another large portion of songs ("In Hellfire," "Born Deranged," "I have Returned," etc.) felt like another dull day at the office, uninspired and unexciting. They're not enough to completely scuttle the album, which offers at least one final irrefutable highlight in the reliably Viking-themed "Hero of the Land," but the symphonically introduced instrumental "Longt Nid" definitely overstays its welcome. As, apparently, had Unleashed, who used Warrior's final number, "The End," to announce the beginning of an extended, five-year break, effective immediately.

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