REVIEW: UNLEASHED – “The Hunt For White Christ”
Considered one among the Big Four of Swedish death metal, Unleashed have been around nearly three decades delivering some great death metal music since their demos, landing them on radars of some big names be it record labels or touring acts. They have a reputed and well received discography of twelve studio albums predominantly focused around themes of Norse folklore and Viking Culture which include the likes of debut record Where no life Dwells, or the post hiatus Hell’s Unleashed. In a 2015 interview with Metal Wani bassist, vocalist and founding member Johnny Hedlund promised to deliver “Pure Viking Death Metal” and delivered “Dawn of the Nine”. Three years later, lets find out what’s in store for us in their 13th full-length studio album– ‘The Hunt for White Christ’
Artwork is vivid in nature and has a typically Unleashed vibe to it with its dark Nordic aura in an almost oil-painted finish. The album wastes no time with build ups and teleports the listener to a medieval stage with ‘Lead us into War’. The album follows progression which makes you feel immersed in its world as if you are one among the Midgard warriors being led into what will be a bloody battle. Guitar work comprises plenty of tremolo but has some good old hard chugging riffs completing the explosive double bass giving you an old school death metal tone slightly tipped onto the black metal side.
‘You will fall’ starts slower than with some melodic guitar bits but quickly hurtles you down a frantic spiral of sound. Drummer Anders Schultz’s blast-beat game is on point and sounds effortless on his part. The third quarter of the song slows down and has guitarists Fredrick Folkare & Tomas Olsson utilizing more ominous elements and some great guitar solo work too. Did I mention Hedlund sounds like an absolute beast? He has a ripping growl prominent in the chorus’. ‘Stand your Ground’ introduces groove patterns and has a heavy-metal feeling in the verse. ‘Gram’ very seamlessly merges the groove element with black-metal essence. Got to love how the guitars split riffs across different octaves adding depth to the layers.
From this point on the album takes a groovier approach. Terror Christ’ has some interesting breakdowns and a bluesy solo which sounds fabulous. I like the fact that it’s not blatantly Antichrist, rather it lets the essence linger around it. ‘They Rape the Land’ & ‘The City of Jorsala Shall Fall’ have a more narrative approach, with melodic and black metal riffs trading punches with each other. Mind you there’s no shortage of lead guitar, an absolute treat and they’re well structured. Title song ‘The Hunt for White Christ’ is the shortage song in the album at 2:36 but delivers a very powerful musical performance with all members are dialed to max. Second half of the song has probably the best breakdown and solo in the album. Surprisingly this track does not feel short to listen to considering how much it has going on. ‘Vidaurgelmthul’ and ‘By the western wall’ sound more heavy-metal and are slower on the pace giving you the feeling that you are reaching the end of your journey. The album ends with ‘Open to all the world’ which sound more thrash than death metal and has plenty of tempo changes, breakdowns, a shredding solo, and some more of that splitting riffs across octaves masterfully and closes with some elemental effects that slowly fade into an acoustic bit which ends in a bit of a cliff hanger!
This record comes courtesy of Napalm Records and the audio is polished and well produced. It continues to build from the world of Odalheim and while it has an exemplary sound the musical journey of the story its trying to tell doesn’t really land towards the end. Is it a good album? Well, it’s a great death metal album, but you tend to feel a little less immersed in the story as you did in the beginning. The experimentation of black and death metal with groovy bits tip over to a generic sound halfway through the album leaving the listening yearning for a little more.
‘The Hunt for White Christ’ is a continued story line in the world of Odelheim and delivers itself to be a great album solidifying the bands impact to Swedish death metal and paving a red carpeted path to the bands 30th Anniversary.