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December 7, 2023

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Hell's Unleashed (Century Media)

By: Jeb Branin

After a far-too-long absence, UNLEASHED makes a triumphant return to the international stage with the latest addition to their legendary catalog called "Hell's Unleashed." As one of the undisputed gods of first wave Scandinavian death metal, UNLEASHED have spent well over a decade gathering their legion of diehard fans. Their remarkably stable lineup has allowed them to fine tune and hone their musical barrage in a way almost unprecedented in death metal. In spite of a multi-year gap "Hell's Unleashed" picks up right where its classic predecessor "Warrior" left off. The album is a combination of blistering explosions of rapid fire death metal and harsh mid-paced tunes that are more restrained, yet bear that distinctive UNLEASHED brand. Throughout the entire album there is an undercurrent of melody that is brilliantly counterpoised by a relentless use of breakneck staccato rhythms. All enhanced, of course, by the leather lunged, and amazingly decipherable, roar of Johnny's vocals. The only drawback to the project is the de-evolution of the lyrics. Surprisingly, UNLEASHED have, for the most part, abandoned the epic and intelligent lyrics that have been their trademark for years and fallen back on generic death metal imbecility. Sure they have always had misanthropic lyrics about revenge, hell, cruelty, and hate, but there are far too many songs on "Hell's Unleashed" praising demonic rampages, being a spawn of hell, surrendering souls to Satan, eating human flesh, killing Christians, rape, etc. That crap has been tired and trite in the death metal scene since day one. Other than "Fly Raven Fly," there is almost no reference to Viking lore, something that UNLEASHED fans have come to expect. Also, where are the songs with the lyrical depth of "Hero of the Land" or the biting social criticism of "Mediawhore"? I suspect there was a conscious effort by UNLEASHED to write lyrics that were a throwback to the roots of death metal... It's just hard to believe the band that wrote these lyrics is the same band that wrote the lyrics on the "Across the Open Sea" album.
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