Review Summary: Dissection meets Grave or a smattering of Stockholm death metal running head on with Norwegian black metal in an epic Scandinavian battle deciding once and for all who reigns as #1.
2009 introduced me to an unexpected albeit quite welcome in my book brand new album from old school Swedish heavyweights Unanimated. The band, forming in 1988 would go on to release a couple of demos and full length albums before going on hiatus some time in the mid 1990’s. As the band died out with members heading into opposite directions such as Therion and Dismember, a reunion with a new lineup and a brand spanking new album fourteen years after their last release was something I hadn’t quite expected to see emerge from the pitch black shadows. Nonetheless, Unanimated are back from the dead and this time they have brought the goods in “In The Light Of darkness”, a scorching display of blackened death metal intent on kicking back and laying the world to waste.
So first things first. Are Unanimated a death metal band playing black metal? Or are they a black metal band playing with death metal. I’m going with option A. The base of “In The Light Of Darkness” reeks mightily of the early Stockholm death metal scene. The gritty production, the buzz saw riffs, the pounding drums, the meaty rhythms, and guttural growling techniques are all there with a noticeable melodic Gothenburg slant. On the black metal side of things we have abundant distortion, the standard but generally always effective tremolo picking, the heavily tried and true blast beats, and a higher pitched raspy snarl to complement the growls. The fusion of black and death metal isn’t a particularly new or unique invention but when done right, it can be one of the most guilt free and delightful pleasures on earth.
The guitar player Jojje Bohlin grounds and pounds the listener into merciless submission with cutting edge rhythms and chunky mid-tempo grooves invoking the Viking spirit in all of us. Power, majesty, control, Jojje commands the listener with intense riffery making you realize you’re not listening to some mediocre melodic death metal/ pan flute based folk metal hybrid album but instead something raw and vicious. The tremolo picking is displayed at it’s best on the track “The Endless Beyond where the listener is greeted with a brutally moving wall of guitar. This pattern is repeated throughout the song making this one of the most memorable standouts on the record. Soloing is present and tastefully executed, never presenting itself to fill up two minutes of running time but instead to add to the power of the song. The vocals are completely evil sounding thanks to Micke Jansson’s fierce delivery. Shifting from the aforementioned deep, guttural growls to the raspy snarl, Micke keeps things interesting enough from sounding too stagnate. Drumming is particularly violent with Peter Stjarnvind’s snare drum progressively getting harder and louder by the second. His kit patterns are speed based primarily using the convenience of double-bass and blast beats to add to the music’s aggression. Bass is well toned just low enough to barely leave an impact under that down-tuned wall of guitar. I can’t really say much here as the impact of the bass isn’t really that mind-blowing. How Dethklok of them, to pull a William Murderface like that.
Production is murky and thick enough to capture the heaviness that Unanimated were attempting to create. Aside from the bass playing being tuned low the double bass is lost at times in the mix. But I suppose I would rather take my helping of double bass served on the side rather than a full meal as many band drummers these days come off as obnoxious with their triggering and at times dominating the rest of the instruments. The songwriting on In Light Of Darkness is quite efficient in lending a certain kind of catchiness and charm, well to as far as blackened death metal allows it to be any who. Picture Grave meets Dissection. Or early Bathory eloping with Dismember and Sacramentum. Fans of death metal and black metal alike should enjoy this equally as this album boast’s the particular traits that gave rise to these powerful sub genres. Go forth and…………..head………bang…..