Unleashed - Hammer Battalion
SPV
Death Metal
13 songs (44'34")
Release year: 2008
Unleashed, SPV
Reviewed by Alex

The last couple of weeks our old-fart over 30-pushing 40 soccer team has been challenged by the young guns who started showing at the same field at the same time when we play. Yours truly was never an offensive star, but back in the days when my stamina was better the intensity helped with my defensive game, enough to be considered a valuable backstop. So, here in the face of the wave after wave of the offensive skilled onslaught we gritted teeth and held up in the back, while counterpunching in a timely fashion. Grey-haired strategy in the end prevailed.

Similarly, it seems staying true to the core and doing what they do best works for some older generation Swedish death metallers as well. The field never withered away, but 2008 can be labeled a strong year for the genre with Dismember, Unleashed and Grave putting out new albums. I have passed my opinion on Dismember last album already and I am yet to digest Grave, but this week we have Unleashed on tap.

Frankly, and sadly, right around Sworn Allegiance I thought that Swedes might be better off packing it in. Then with Midvinterblot the shot of energy struck upon Johnny Hedlund and Co., and Unleashed fortunes began to turn around. The happy fan in me is ecstatic to report that with Hammer Battalion the Energizer Bunny keeps on going. Without a compromise Unleashed again managed to put an album together with songs centered on a couple of catchy and heavy riffs with just the right amount of distortion mixed in. Unleashed fans have come to see crisp, intense and very legible, almost singable, brand of death metal when their favorite band is at their best. Well, Hammer Battalion is just that kind of album. Ripping off from the start with The Greatest of All Lies and the thrasher Long Before Winter’s Call Unleashed will get you swooning with their predictable, in a good way, headbanging feel, all the way to blasting, almost fleeting on some painkiller high, title track. Reaching their first peak on that song, the band simply can do no wrong thereafter.

If the first half of the album shows no love for Christ and all things related, then beginning with Marching Off to War Unleashed reminded all fans of Viking metal that they were truly there first way before Amon Amarth came along. Pulsating and majestic, Entering the Hall of the Slain, has practically an exaltation moment with the warrior’s chant sensing Valhalla’s closeness. If on Midvinterblot the latter half did contain a little filler, on Hammer Battalion Unleashed manage to have the ship sailing strong to the very end with helicopter chops of Carved in Stone and I Want You Dead, as well as breackneck Swedish death-thrash of Home of the Brave and, dare I say, almost danceable riffs of Midsummer Solstice. The transition from the Christ demeaning theme to Viking attitudes is perfect, reminding us that the Norsemen never acknowledged that lonesome weak sacrifice demanding god, while always staying fearless and mocking in the face of danger.

Clear crunchy very slightly downtuned production suits Unleashed to a tee. While brutally heavy the band is very melodic, and if at first I thought that the solos on the album were simple short squeals, then from Marching Off to War on out the band proved me wrong paying a lot more attention to them. Johnny's vocals are practically made for growl-along given the lyrics are rather easy to decipher with no need for a booklet.

It seems that the old warriors of Unleashed not only managed to hold on in the face of incoming waves of modern death metal, but they are readying the world tour counterattack which is about to prove decisive.

Killing Songs :
Long Before Winter's Call, Hammer Battalion, Marching Off to War, Entering the Hall of the Slain, Midsummer Solstice, Home of the Brave
Alex quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Unleashed that we have reviewed:
Unleashed - Midvinterblot reviewed by Alex and quoted 87 / 100
Unleashed - Sworn Allegiance reviewed by Jack and quoted 40 / 100
Unleashed - Hell's Unleashed reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
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