Unleashed: Dawn Of The Nine

Viking veterans get older, wiser and meaner

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Although its debatable whether, like their Swedish peers, Unleashed have ever released a bona fide classic à la Left Hand Path or Into The Grave (even if many would agree that both debut Where No Life Dwells and Shadows In The Deep were damn close) one thing you can’t accuse them of is lacking pugnacity, despite a few so-so offerings in the late 90s and early 00s.

As most of their fans would say, as predictable as they are, you can always count on Unleashed to deliver the goods – except that the first part of that assertion is being giving a pounding with their 12th full-length.

Initially, very little seems to have changed since Into Glory Ride and Where No Life Dwells and indeed, even if they were the first Scandinavian band (after Bathory, of course) to fully embrace the whole Viking heritage, their quite straightforward take on those brave men from the north now feels a tad old, especially in this post-Amon Amarth and Ensiferum world.

But just like 2012’s Odalheim, which, not-so-incidentally, Dawn Of The Nine is the official sequel to concept-wise, there’s more than meets the eye here. In fact, Unleashed have gone through some much-needed reassessment. But fear not, faithful warrior, it’s nothing drastic and besides confirming the upgraded brutality and speed factor of its predecessor, the first two salvos feel like business as usual.

But then subtle additions creep in, such as acoustic intros that feel like the calm before the storm, doomier parts or a discreet yet persistent black metal veil make this good old revenge story about Christian invaders one of the more substantial efforts of their 25-year career. That becomes especially clear on the album’s second half, its cinematic edge underlined by their lead guitarist and producer Fredrik Folkare’s evocative solos.

We could have done without such a tongue-in-cheek songtitle as The Bolt Thrower (come on guys, really?) but the surprisingly meaty Dawn Of The Nine proves not only that, like wine, Unleashed do get better with age, they actually have found the magic formula to a second youth. Odin works in mysterious ways…/o:p