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CD Review: UNLEASHED Odalheim

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Unlike other old school Swedish death metal bands like Entombed and In Flames, who have frequently tweaked their musical formula in order to evolve (or stay trendy, depending on your POV), the four members of Unleashed have remained stubbornly resistance to change, sticking firmly to their vintage, mid-paced death sound over the past two decades. Even the lineup has stayed more or less the same over the years, with only one guitarist swap since 1990.

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The upside of that artistic constancy is a fairly loyal fan base, so long as you're maintaining quality; the downside is that it becomes all too apparent when you lose inspiration and phone one in, since there exists an entire catalog of extremely similar material to compare it to. Unleashed found the latter out the hard way with 2010's As Yggdrasil Trembles, which didn't so much receive mixed reviews as consistently mediocre ones.

By contrast, Odalheim finds the group in fine form, batteries recharged, focused on songwriting and quality musicianship. "Gathering the Battalions" and "The Soil of Our Fathers" both boast familiar yet catchy riffs, and it goes without saying that pretty much every major riff on this album is based around the galloping triplet. Unleashed won't gain any new fans here, but they stand a damn good chance of winning back those who were bummed out by Yggdrasil.

Odalheim is out now on Nuclear Blast.

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