Unleashed, of course, has never released a duff album in its life as a band, so it must be hard to know what to do to top the likes of Hammer Battalion or Where No Life Dwells for impact and intensity. The answer it would seem, is not to try, but to simply ratchet up the brutality and offer more of the same.
That’s what they’ve done here on Odalheim, and I sure as hell ain’t complaining. From the opening savagery of Fimbulwinter onwards, Johnny Hedlund and his war party of ravaging henchman deliver just what we’ve come to expect from them over the course of nearly a quarter of a century of no-nonsense face ripping. Hedlund himself sounds particularly energized, his guttural roar belching out over every song with the kind of deathly power and control many aspire to but few can master.
Unleashed are one of those great bands who offer continuity between their releases, kinda like Manowar but more dangerous; there’s much talk on Odalheim of ‘Hammer Battalions’ and ‘Open Seas’, all the lyrics brought hellishly to life by Hedlund’s tortured growl. Special mention should also be made of the contribution of lead guitarist Fredrik Folkare, who solos throughout like a demon. He’s not afraid to put a bit of tunefulness into his work either, which as a contrapuntal antidote to the aural Armageddon exploding all around him works every time. The solo he rips out on Rise of the Maya Warriors in particular makes you down tools and listen carefully to what he’s doing, before resuming headbanging as the song picks up its lurching, beastly thread once he’s done his bit. He’s at it again on By Celtic and British Shores, and his refusal to indulge in mindless divebombing and assorted other Slayerisms sets him apart as one of death metal’s most pleasing axemen.
Unlike many bands these days Unleashed don’t lose interest towards the end of their album either. I could name quite a few releases in this genre that have lost interest and/or energy and inspiration by the time the last couple of tracks come around, but not this lot. Penultimate track Germania is delivered with as much bite and bile as the opener, whilst closer The Great Battle of Odalheim has all the majesty and epic feel that its title suggests.
Another prime serving of steel from Unleashed then, another fine album from a band that just doesn’t seem to know when to stop churning out the good stuff. Odalheim will be in the MaF office stereo for a while to come yet, but I’m already looking forward to the next one too. Immense stuff.