CD Review: “The Hunt For White Christ” by Unleashed

Unleashed celebrate its 30th anniversary next year and it is fitting that the Swedish death metal masters release a new record. The Hunt For White Christ is album number thirteen, and is rife with the viking imagery, thrashing riffs and pounding drums the band is known for.

“Lead Us Into War” engulfs the listener in a blizzard of piercing riffs which form a hammer that swings down during the chorus. It is a superb track to open White Christ.Unfortunately the following track “You Will Fall” stifles the album’s momentum. It is not a bad track, but sounds subdued compared to the opening track.

“Stand Your Ground” picks things up with its mid paced main riff and stomping chorus. Vocalist and bassist Johnny Hedlund’s guttural vocals are decipherable and there is an added urgency in his voice as he urges listeners to make a stand and fight. Guitarists Fredrik Folkare and Tomas Olsson lay down some bluesy leads with a classical flair.

The album really picks up on “Terror Christ” with its grinding guitar riffs that sound like a tank descending upon a city in ruins. The guitar leads are again incredible and complement the dark vibe on this track. “They Rape The Land” continues the auditory assault with a galloping thrash riff that causes instant whiplash. This track has several rhythm changes that capture the chaos of battle but it all flows well.

“The City Of Jorsala Shall Fall” is notable for its Middle Eastern inspired chorus riff, which complements the song title as Jorsala is Swedish for Jerusalem. It is another mid paced stomper with sharp riffs that cut at every turn. The title track is a short blast of pummeling drums and bludgeoning guitars that are lockstep with one another. It is the shortest track on the record and the most straightforward.

“Open To All The World” is a blistering track with a smidgen of hardcore for good measure. It rarely relents and concludes the album with a dissonant acoustic guitar.

The Hunt For White Christ shows how impressive Unleashed sounds when it is focused. The album’s second half is almost perfect, as the songs flow well and take the listener on an exciting and bloody journey. That does not mean the first half of White Christ is bad. However, a couple of tracks are rather disjointed and slightly weak compared to the second half. The production is great with special notice to the guitar tones, particularly the solos. The leads are clear and at times possess a supernal feel. The rhythm changes on these tracks are seamless and heighten the overall excitement of the album.

The Hunt For White Christ is the band’s thirteenth album, but it is certainly not unlucky. Unleashed fire on all cylinders for most of the record proving once again its status as a legendary death metal band. Fans will enjoy this record as the few weaker tracks are eclipsed by the entire record. Unleashed should continue the hunt when it results in killer albums like this.

Check out the band’s official website for news and tour dates:

CD Review: “Ascension Gate” by Dawn of Disease

German death metal quintet Dawn of Disease unleash its fourth album Ascension Gate only a year after its predecessor, Worship The Grave. Ascension is an amalgam of melodicism, brutal blast beats and melancholic doom riffs. The Swedish metal influence is apparent on “Perimortal” the album’s initial single. The sharp, baroque guitar riffs chop through the speakers like sabers while drummer Matthias Blasse pummels his kit with few moments to rest. “Leprous Thoughts” is a relentless thrasher with grinding riffs and pulverizing blast beats. The harmonious guitar solo contrasts perfectly with the brutal drumming and riffs on this track. “Ascension Gate” recalls Tales From A Thousand Lakes era Amorphis with its death meets doom metal sound. Tomasz Wisniewski’s guttural vocals match the haunting mood on this track, painting a picture of a gloomy night in the German countryside. A highlight is the eerie guitar line played before the track’s middle section. “Akephalos” is another crushing song that with buzzsaw guitars that could cut through a tank. The bombastic drumming only heightens the chaotic nature on this track.

Ascension Gate is an album pieced from several sub-genres. One cannot lump this record into the melodic death metal bin as there is too much going on during the album’s 50 minute duration. It is equal parts haute, classical bombast while also gloomy and downcast. Still, the band melds everything quite well and the record is not disjointed. The production is slightly muddled which detracts from the musicianship in some spots. However, it sounds superb when the band plays slow, heavy riffs. The percussion is loud and clear allowing the listener to hear all the rhythm changes and drum fills.

Dawn of Disease show its Scandinavian peers that German death metal is no joke on Ascension Gate. This record is both technical and pugnacious without overstaying its welcome. Fans of melodic death metal and even brutal death should enjoy this release. It does not have the finesse of Arch Enemy or Children of Bodom but it is certainly crushing. Dawn of Disease is poised to ascend to the heights of the metal realm with this record.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official Facebook page:

CD Review: ‘Dead Dawn’ by Entombed A.D.

Entombed AD return with a lethal dose of death n’ roll on its sophomore effort, Dead Dawn. This record reminds me a lot of Entombed’s 2003 record, Inferno, both in terms of production and songwriting. The band mixes elements of thrash, death, doom and punk and it makes for a fun recipe. The initial single “Midas in Reverse” has a punkish grit to it. The track is fast paced with a smidgen of death metal. “Down to Mars to Ride” is straight hardcore swag. It is straightforward death n’ roll in attitude, guttural vocals and lo-gi guitar. The dirgey “As The World Fell” lumbers along with sorrowful guitar lines that evoke a deep sense of hopelessness. The band then speed things up on “Total Death” with its razor sharp riffing and L.G.’s somewhat deciperable vocals. This track does not relent for one second and the guitar solo blasts through like a laser. The foreboding “Hubris Falls” combines classical music and doom for a regal, but downbeat ride to Hell. Baroque guitar chords collide with grinding riffs and deranged screams.

The confidence and bravado exuded by the band makes this record so enjoyable. Entombed AD are not trying to prove anything to anyone, the guys just want to play heavy music. The band stumbled a bit on its 2014 debut, Back to the Front. However, any shadow of uncertainty or doubt is nonexistent on Dead Dawn. The songs are diverse and the band does not make the mistake of recycling riffs. Entombed’s longevity is largely attributed to the band’s ability to reinvent its sound. This has drawn criticism from some in the metal genre, but acclaim from others. The band has so much to draw from that the album does not suffer from monotony. Album closer “Not What It Seems” provides a hellish end to this album with its dreamy guitar phases and rolling drums.

In all, Dead Dawn is an improvement over Back to the Front as the guys have rediscovered their confidence. The album is heavier than its predecessor and more adventurous. Entombed was at its best when it plays outside the box and Entombed AD operates in much the same way. Fans of Entombed AD’s first album or latter Entombed records will enjoy this record. The Swedish Death Metal legends are finally back to the front.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s Facebook page:

CD Review: ‘Out Of Respect For The Dead’ By Grave

Swedish death metal band Grave return from the dead with its 11th record. Out Of Respect For The Dead is pure Stockholm death metal, complete with gory lyrics, buzzsaw guitars and manic drumming. The opener “Mass Grave Mass” is a brutal headbanger that does not relent until the final note. “Flesh Before My Eyes” is another thrasher with a macabre breakdown in the middle of the track. The droning, squealing guitars bring things to an unsettling standstill before speeding up again at the end. The Sabbath inspired “Plain Pine Box” is a nice slab of doom metal that is every bit as heavy as the records faster songs. The title track is a suffocating thrasher with an endless spew of riffs and guttural vocals. It is straight ahead, no frills death metal that rips the jugular. The colossal “Grotesque Gory” trudges like a zombie through the graveyard. A fitting end for a record titled as an homage to the dead.

This record’s greatest strength is the balance of simplicity with technicality. Grave is dynamic, but have the musical chops to switch things up when necessary. The record is filled with rhythm changes and complex tempos, but also straight forward metal. This is good as the record is neither monotonous or pretentious. A common problem with new death metal bands are that they place musicianship over songwriting. Thus, the songs are a batch of complicated musical ideas, but fail to translate into songs. Grave never falls into this trap, as the songs sound like songs. Then again, the band has existed for nearly 30 years so it has experience on its side.

Out Of Respect For The Dead is old school death metal done right. Grave once again prove why its one of the most revered and influential bands in extreme music. Grave fans will be pleased as well as extreme metal fans in general. Go out and by the record. The dead will be honored when you do.

Check out the band’s Facebook page for news and tour dates: