Just one of the reasons I love metal is that it frequently has me looking up historical, mythological and religious references to better understand what I’m listening to. No pop or easy listening record can boast that! While the mighty Google and her librarian sister Wikipedia were helpful in this case, it was actually a dusty hardcopy tome from my own shelf, a children’s book entitled Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology by one Brian Branston, that was most helpful to me when listening to the new release from Swedish Viking metal outfit Unleashed, As Yggdrasil Trembles.
Yggdrasil (pronounced eeg-DRAZ-ill) or “the World Ash” is a tree that holds the world together. According to my trusty source, “its branches overhang all the nine worlds and spread out above the sky … To mortals Yggdrasil may be invisible, but let me tell you, without the support of the great Ash Tree everything would disintegrate and explode into infinity”.
OK, so Yggdrasil trembling is some serious shit. What about this record? Underneath the Viking veneer, this is good solid death meal. Unleashed are Swedes and have been around with a mostly stable line up since 1989, As Yggdrasil Trembles being their tenth studio release.
The first track lays down a blueprint for the rest of the album. After atmospheric noise effects – long enough to add interest but short enough to avoid boring the listener – Courage Today, Victory Tomorrow! takes off at a rollicking clip, strong riffs with a solid bass and driving drum line beneath. Founder and bassist Johnny Hedlund adds some ominous but easily intelligible growls and then there’s an expansive guitar solo from Fredrik Folkare, supported by really memorable rhythm guitar work from Tomas Måsgard. More subtle atmospheric elements end the song.
The other songs follow this template. The riffs are catchy, as are the choruses. Drummer Anders Schultz pushes everything along at a nice mid-pace that would suit fist pumping and windmilling – I bet these guys are great fun live. Unlike many bands with harsh vocals, it’s easy to make out the lyrics (although I did initially mishear the title track chorus, which seemed odd until I realised it was a call to ‘battalions of the world’ not ‘Italians of the world’). And in case you were unsure what you were listening to, Wir Kapitulieren Niemals (German for ‘we never capitulate’) makes it plain with the chant “Viking death metal”.
While it wasn’t included in the promo version, the official release includes a Death cover, Evil Dead.
For fans of death metal and Viking metal alike, this is a solid, thoroughly enjoyable album. The playing is top notch, the songwriting strong if not overly weighty in the lyrical department, and the production clean without being soulless. A worthy addition to your collection.
Unleashed's As Yggdrasil Trembles is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot.