Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Unleashed have released another album. And the primary question is, what does this band have to offer you that their peers don’t. Anything? Of course, there is the nostalgia factor, but with this year already having seen releases by Dismember, Bloodbath, Grave, and the various Murder Squad’s of the world, is there really any room in your collection for another album by a band whose previous release proved them tired and past their prime? The answers aren’t so easy, as Sworn Allegiance is by no means a bad album, but one that witnesses the band struggling dearly to rediscover its sound.
For those of you unfamiliar with Unleashed, they were part of the “second wave” of Swedish death metal. Following acts like Dismember and Entombed, the band forged its legacy with the stellar albums, Where No life Dwells and Shadows In the Deep. They were also one of the primary death metal bands to deal with subjects like history and mythology, paving the way forAmon Amarth. After the solid Across the Open Sea, the band sort of faded into oblivion. Subsequent releases were by no means awful, but definitely witness to a perceptible decrease in quality. Those who have closely followed this band throughout its history will be glad to hear that trend has been bucked, as Sworn Allegiance is a marked improvement over the highly disapponting Hell’s Unleashed. However, this album is still plagued by inconsistency. At times, Unleashed are able to conquer the demons that plagued their recent output and create some really enjoyable tracks. But far too often the band continues to make the same mistakes that have driven them into mediocrity.
Sworn Allegiance sports a mostly straightforward production that suits the bulk of the album’s moderate pacing. The guitars are chunky, but don’t emit the ominous buzz of a rusty chainsaw. As a result, the overall sound is rather tame. However, when the band plays to its strengths, this approach works to their great advantage. The galloping riffs, crisp grooves, and melodic solos of “The Winterland,” “The Longships are Coming,” “Long Live the Beast,” and “To Miklagard” all benefit from the moderate heft and clarity of Sworn Allegiance‘s untarnished production. However, the more straightforward tracks on this album are exposed as little more than filler material. Aside from being burdened by some of the most juvenile lyrics ever penned, songs like “Only the Dead,” “CEO,” and “Metalheads” are also rendered sterile by their lethargic pacing and the most cookie cutter of recycled death metal riffs. While other bands like God Among Insects have found success in the “simpler is better” approach, Unleashed’s attempt at dumbing things down lacks the oppressive heaviness of such bands to support their rudimentary songwriting.
Unleashed’s sound is definitely on the mend. It appears as if they have at least found a vague notion of what works for them and when they take advantage of that intuition they actually create some enjoyable death metal. However, it often sounds as if two different bands were playing on this record. One that wants to play up-tempo songs with blistering solos about the supremacy of the Vikings. And the other? The other seems content to lay down tepid grooves and bark mindlessly about the mundane lives of the modern day businessman (“CEO”). And unfortunately it is this band – the one with the boring riffs and lame lyrics – that predominates. As a result, everyone but fanatical collectors should hold off until the day the real Unleashed prevails. .