Believe it or not, this is full length studio album number twelve from Johnny Hedlund and his bunch of merry men. Considering they’ve had a career spanning over 25 years, I suppose you could say they’ve been fairly consistent to their fans. For me, they’re a band I’ve followed for the majority of their career, from the early classic Swedish death metal efforts, through to what I considered their sketchy barren period of ‘Victory’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Hell’s Unleashed’, back through to the quality of ‘Sworn Allegiance’ and onward into glory. Generally I think you’d be hard pushed to say they’ve stumbled massively in quality for a good decade plus, and ‘Dawn of the Nine’ continues their roll of catchy, chest beating anthemic death metal.
My particular favourite things about Unleashed are all present and correct. Firstly, Johnny’s signature growl (which has gruffness and venom aplenty, yet having the power to cut through for crystal clear lyrical enunciation) is on fine form, leading this album into another great success for “storytelling” in extreme metal form. Lyrically, I think the guy is a master – rousing and inspiring, exactly what I look for in metal. Secondly, the riffage. The DAMN riffage. Tomas Olsson and Fredrik Folkare have to be one of the most under-appreciated guitar duos in extreme metal, rarely failing to dredge out the very slimiest, catchiest riffs for each successive album, even though they’re plagued with the same issue all current songwriters have – the majority of the good ones were already written 25+ years ago.
Opening with ‘A New Day Will Rise’, they instantly find their feet with a threateningly devious riff, the sort that coils around you seductively, before Johnny begins belching his toxic diesel infested ‘Our time will come, a new day will rise!”. Before you know it, all furniture within a 3 metre radius has been upturned and you’re in paroxysms of metal-inflicted bliss. This formula is used throughout to great effect, the band’s greatest asset as far as I’m concerned. ‘They Came To Die’ is a classic Unleashed neck-snapper, high paced and packed with rumbling riffage and Johnny gasping and growling his way through another pounding success story. ‘Where Is Your God Now?” sets ornaments tumbling once more through involuntary limb flailing, such is the massively involving up tempo urgency, ‘The Bolt Thrower’ is a pounding, mid-paced beauty which references a ‘master of war that feels no pain’ setting small creatures scurrying in fear from its bounding energy.
One thing I really recognised upon the first listen that there is no filler here. No downtime, no dull bits – you’re captivated throughout. Best enjoyed with a beer tinged bloodstream, a healthy neck (with a fluid range of motion) and some working eardrums; ‘Dawn of the Nine’ kicks all sorts of arse. The death metal granddads have done it again, wiping the floor with a large percentage of the modern imitators – so drink in the goodness and throw the horns high for another dose of quality death.
(9/10 Lars Christiansen)