Welcome Back: Unleashed

Unleashed are one of those rare beasts: a Swedish death metal band from the dawn of the genre who are still going, still good, still playing death metal, still with a recognisable lineup, and haven’t split up for extended periods of time. Now they’re about to release album 12, the excellent, foully brutal Dawn Of The Nine.

“For the reason we keep on going, you have to go back to day one,” says the band’s founder, bassist and vocalist Johnny Hedlund. “We formed the band as a way of life. We were metalheads who wanted to take metal music to a more harsh level and be a little bit more revolting. And also we wanted to put the Viking traditions into death metal – we saw it in heavy metal, we saw it in black metal, but there was nobody doing it with death metal. I think all of that is something that we still agree on.”

That answers the ‘why?’ but not all of the ‘how?’ they are both still going and still good. The umpteen implosions and lineup changes that afflicted many of the Stockholm death metal bands from the early 1990s bypassed Unleashed, who haven’t had a lineup change in 20 years. Part of it is the passion Johnny spoke of, but that’s not the whole story.

“In order to have some kind of band democracy, every band member has to contribute, and that’s the core thing,” Johnny explains. “It doesn’t matter if it’s interviews or keeping the practice room tidy – small things like that – everything needs to be shared out. It can never be a one-man show, because if that happens, that guy’s going to want to make all the money, then it goes to shit.”

As for Dawn Of The Nine, Johnny says it’s another concept record based on his story, with the cover art representing the battlefield that marked the end of previous album Odalheim. “We started the concept on the previous album because of the storyline of the book that I’ve been writing for some years now, set in the world of Odalheim,” he explains. “The previous album and this album are connected in that way, because the storyline is continuing from song to song. The book is obviously a lot wider and a lot bigger, so every song represents a small adventure!”