Unleashed - Dawn Of The Nine 01Steel Druhm and I often yarn about how old we are. To give you an idea just how ancient, I was running a fanzine when Nihilist splintered off into Entombed and Unleashed. I received promos (on cassette!) of the first two Unleashed albums in my P.O. box, NOT my inbox. I interviewed Johnny Hedlund 23 years ago over a land line using a mini cassette recorder. I loved their early works, but lost some of my passion after Across the Open Sea, and Unleashed definitely shed a few teeth in the ensuing years, even briefly succumbing to the death n’ roll craze, but somehow they managed to avoid drifting into irrelevance. 2004’s Sworn Allegiance was a return to a ballsier form and subsequent albums saw them slowly ascending back to the lofty halls of Valhalla, finally perfecting their sound on 2012’s Odalheim; a virtual Ragnarok in Unleashed‘s career. Can they continue on this upwards path with Dawn Of The Nine or do they fall back down in the seemingly Sisyphean task of trying to remain relevant after 25 years in the game?

While Dawn Of The Nine is not the broad axe to the skull that Odalheim was, it’s what a veteran band with over a quarter century under its tunic should sound like – refined and confident; brutal yet sophisticated. Opening track, “A New Day Will Rise” firmly establishes that Unleashed are in fine form, with a marching feel and Hedlund’s distinct vocals as guttural, yet more decipherable than ever. Meanwhile, guitarists Tomas Olsson and Fredrik Folkare layer parts and create an atmosphere so haunting over such brutal music with nary a keyboard anywhere to be heard, and Anders Schultz is a monster behind the kit and knows when to make a flesh wound and when to go for the throat.

“Where Is Your God Now?” opens with the trademark Hedlund scream. If you don’t know what I am writing about, you aren’t an Unleashed fan. Typically Hedlund screams to the rafters and a blast beat immediately ensues. You know it is going to happen, you can feel when it’s about to happen, and like the Fonz going, “Heyyy,” you just can’t wait until it does.

Unleashed - Dawn Of The Nine 02

I’m a big sucker for a song that starts with bass, and “Land Of The Thousand Lakes” opens with a monstrously deep, slow, clanging riff before taking a jarring right turn into a double bass gallop. Perhaps their best moment, not only on this album but perhaps their whole career, is the title track, which may be the slowest they’ve ever been, but oh what a menacing, plodding beast it is. Hedlund delivers one of the most emotive vocal performances in all of death metal, and it’s even more impressive because you can understand every word. Never accelerating over the mid-paced chug of the solo break, this is the longest and most repetitious track of the album, but also the most effective.

Unleashed fans of old will raise a chalice in honor of the great Swedish warriors continuing their battle with more ferocity than ever. Those of you not even born when their debut was released, take a page from the history books and learn that Unleashed, despite their elder status, are not resting on their laurels and remain bloodthirsty. With Dawn Of The Nine, they’ve taken the best elements of all they’ve done thus far and blended them into a cohesive whole to produce a career-defining record as good as almost anything they’ve done. With the bevy of death metal bands trying to emulate the Swedish masters of old, it’s refreshing to hear one of the progenitors come along and wipe the floor with the new bloods. Truly one of the best albums of Unleashed‘s career and undoubtedly one of the best death metal albums of the year.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 276 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: UnleashedOfficial | Facebook.com/Unleashed
Release Dates: EU: 2015.04.27 | NA: 05.04.2015

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  • Monsterth Goatom

    Speaking of interviews, it seems the last one here on AMG was back in 2012, unless I’m mistaken. Any plans for future interviews, or does AMG not do that anymore?

    • Only in special circumstances. Interviews are a lot of work and they rarely get extensive reads.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Gotcha. Thanks. I guess I’ll stop hoping for that Jorn interview.

        • I think that would fall under the special circumstances exception.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Well, given your love of, and long listening experience with, Riot, I would definitely read an interview with them if it showed up here. I’m sure your questions would be better than the usual “so, like, how do you guys write songs?” variety.

        It would be great to hear them reflect on the metalverse and the changes they’ve seen since the days when you had to hand-crank the amps to get them started (joke).

      • I think that all depends on who you interview Steel! I’m sure if you had a one-on-one with Vanilla Ice you would get a s-ton of hits. Who’s with me?

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Hopefully I didn’t scare everyone away after hijacking the comments with my query about interviews. Sorry, Al. This post deserves more comments because… Unleashed! Looking forward to hearing this.

    Still not entirely sure what’s meant by “death ‘n roll” (Ha! Newbie!) and why it’s disliked. I love the new Tribulation album, but Fisting used that term in his review.

    • Check out Entombed’s Left Hand Path and then give their Wolverine Blues a listen for an idea of the death ‘n roll transition.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Thanks, Al. Will do.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Odalheim was a beastly record, can’t wait to hear this one. Moreso now after reading the review! As always, great read Al. That cover art rules too.

    • Thanks!! I am glad someone else appreciated Odalheim for the beast it is!

      • Hammer Battalion is still my favourite, but Odalheim is a very close second. Glad to hear this new album is killer too. :)

  • strychnin

    If more comments are deserved…

    I liked them when they cited to Saruman. The linked video is a great music, but why they differentiate between some god and ancestors lyrics I cannot grasp

  • Wilhelm

    All these old Death metal bands – Hypocrisy, Unleashed, Obituary, etc. putting out the same album over and over and that might be somewhat cool if the music wasn’t so compressed and damn audibly disappointing. I just can’t listen to it more than once; why would you when they put out the same type of album with mega dynamics and superior songwriting in like 92?

    • Martin Knap

      Would you put also Dismember – Dismember into that category?

      • Wilhelm

        I’ll admit I never heard it, but I just checked it out a song on youtube and it seems to have an uber compressed guitar sound.

        • YouTube tends to compress everything.

          • Wilhelm

            There’s data compression which youtube does, and dynamic range compression which is part of the mastering process. This site had a cool article on it a short time back.

        • Martin Knap

          So what do you think is the secret of the mixing on early Swedish DM albums? Is it that they make just the guitars very loud and punchy and the rest not?

          • Wilhelm

            That might be along the right lines, I suppose you mean the Sunlight Studio sound, with Skogsberg? I read somewhere that the “sound” came from the combination of pedals and the way the amps were placed that gave it that extra crunch. Adequate compression and a decent mix job resulted in classic albums. I like the way that there was a certain sound everyone wanted, but the results of every band and every album recorded there were different. Today you can probably dial up an Entombed plugin for pro-tools, but it’s not going to be the same but everyone using it will sound the same.

          • Martin Knap

            yeah, I meant albums like Left Hand Path or Like An Ever Flowing Stream. To me it’s all very interesting and mysterious at the same time. I guess the way Dan Swano is mixing/producing albums, especially death metal (Entrails), is a way to go if you want to have extra crunch and not sacrifice DR…

          • Wilhelm

            I’m not sure about Swano, the Entrails albums only have a DR5 score, which isn’t so hot – I’m looking at some of his other recent mastered albums and none are very dynamic. Before the loudness war his work was pretty impeccable.

          • The Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal was the key to that buzzsaw guitar sound that was a trademark of most of the great early Swedish DM albums.

          • Martin Knap

            Ok, so it’s the actual guitar sound more than compression. I have to listen to it carefully again and compare it with some super compressed CD which gives me claustrophobic feelings…

    • The audio of the version I have is way cleaner than the embedded video. I just listened to them back to back. The video is much more compressed and flat. There are a lot of dynamics on this album, especially compared to what Obituary have been doing since the first three.

      • Here’s Johnny

        Youtube sucks for audio quality.

  • Tom Hardy

    I must confess, I can’t listen to anything they’ve produced since Shadows in the Deep. Being an old timer meself, curious to know where you’d put this release in the grand scheme of Unleashed albums, Al Kikuras? I’m having a bit of a hard time with the preview track posted since it’s of a 2-riff fare with a forgetful lead composition in the middle with a mindless purpose of either extending the track’s time or some hocus pocus.

    • I was in the same longship as you, Tom, until I heard Odalheim. I gave brief listens to the albums before it and after Shadows but nothing grabbed me. Odalheim was such a hungry, nasty album with some almost black metal-ish elements that it floored me. In its wake, going back I was able to listen to some of the middle era albums like Midvinterblot and As Yggdrasil Trembles with a new appreciation though, still, when I wanted to hear Unleahsed I went with the first two or Odalheim. I always respected Unleashed for staying the course through that period when so many bands went soft (although Hell’s Unleashed is the one real turd in their punchbowl). With Dawn Of The Nine they harnessed some of the madness of Odalheim, brought back elements of the great classic albums and penned some catchy songs with enough virtuosity to keep it interesting. What really grabs me about it is parts like the chorus of “Welcome the Son of Thor” where the layered guitars have a grand atmosphere. You could swear they are using keyboards but there are none to be found. To actually answer your question though instead of rambling on further, I would put Dawn Of The Nine in with my go-to Unleashed albums that I will listen to, and for a band to release another album that stands up to their classics after 25 years is impressive.

  • Alexandre Barata

    Can’t really say that I love this song above. The only things that I got from it, after a couple hearings, are some kinda annoying classic heavy metal solos and a nice impression in my ears that there it comes a new otitis, cortesy of the overly compressed sound. It reminds me of that sensation you have when you get an half-way sneeze that just doesn’t want to come out. It’s somewhat somehow a nay for Mr. Me

    • Like [HKK] Hell pointed out above, the audio of that video is especially compressed. Check out the HD version.

      • Alexandre Barata

        Thanks for the heads up! Yep the HD sounds sooo much better. Still the lead riff is not my cup of tea, but now at least I won’t have an headache after hearing to it. The guitars don’t make an impression on me, but at least are different than what I’m used to hear in every modern DM album.
        The vocals are kinda Hardcore-ish, or something in that vein. It’s refreshing but also makes me want to hear some low growls :P Gotta put my hands on the full version, but I don’t believe it’ll make my, already too extensive, to-buy list :)

  • I have not been able to like anything other than Where no life dwells from these peeps. I think I gave up trying after Yggdrasil trembles. I’m not really feeling the embedded track either. A 4.0 merits at least one listen whenever it popups on Google Play though.

    • I just mentioned in another comment that the audio of the MP3s I reviewed was way less compressed, I played them back to back, it’s cool you noticed as well and thanks for coming back to clarify. Be sure to check our Odalheim. It really is the album from them that re-sparked my love for the band and made me appreciate the albums before it (particularly Midvinterblot and As Yggdrasil..) more, as well as Dawn Of The Nine.

      • Thanks, I actually passed on Odalheim. Strangely enough, it didn’t even make a blip on my radar. Will remedy that soon.

    • Francesco Bordoni

      I can’t say I have a good feeling about this one either, but if you haven’t checked out “Odalheim” yet, you should definitively do it: that album it’s simply killer, both musically and conceptually.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I don’t like how the vocal sits in the mix particularly during the verses they seem to sound ‘detached’.
    Also I think the song writing is a little bit lazy in the embedded tune. For the chorus he just repeats ‘Where is your god now’ in exactly the same way 4 times in a row…Its pretty unimaginative… Its a dramatic lyric that should have a big punch, but because theres no narrative lead up and he just repeats it over and over again, it doesn’t.
    So rather than sounding like a Viking about to do something nasty, it sounds like he has tourettes.

    • “So rather than sounding like a Viking about to do something nasty, it sounds like he has tourettes.” That is great!

    • “Where Is Your God Now?” is definitely one of the more by-the-numbers
      tracks on the album. Check out the title track, as I mentioned in the
      review, it is a slow, doomy affair unlike anything else I have heard
      them do. While I couldn’t go into every track due to the fact that I tend to write WAY too much, “Where Churches Once Burned” is a good example of a more dynamic track. Give the rest of the album a listen if you can.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        That comment sounded harsher than I meant it too…I really should’ve mentioned i was nitpicking. Overall I think it’s a pretty cool tune with some bits that could be better or didn’t work for me.
        I’ll definitely check out the album. I always appreciate bands that can stick it out and still make quality music…No easy feat!

  • OzanCan

    Renewed appreciation for the Elder Wolves! Totally blew me away m/

  • Glad to see I’m not the only one blown away by the excellence of Odalheim. This is a band that established themselves as titans with Shadows in the Deep, lost their way somewhere around the mid 90’s (as many bands in those days did), and have now not only come full circle, but have surpassed all their early works to reestablish themselves at the peak of the genre. I can’t think of any other band from those days that is putting out the best material of their career – great to have them back.

    • Odalheim was a slight departure but worked so well because of it. Dawn is a definite return to form with just enough of what they did on Odalheim that it isn’t like they reverted. They just expanded their game.

      • Very much looking forward to hearing it, I’ve enjoyed many of your recommendations, and Unleashed generally, so can’t miss with this one. I thought Odalheim had a very fresh sound to it, but I don’t remember hearing much awareness of that in the few reviews I read. Thanks for the great review.

        • That’s what we are here for. And to drink beer and eat beef. Dawn Of The Nine doesn’t have quite the fresh sound Odalheim did but makes up for it in good tunes.

  • Holy crap, I barely remember that! What a find. I can’t even figure out what that webzine was called!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Johnny Hedlund sounds uncannily like Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg.

    I went back and listened to Odalheim recently. There are a couple of spots in the title track where it sounds like he’s singing “Hammered Italians of the world, stand up! This is our time!”