Where No Life Dwells



by Branden William Byrd USER (12 Reviews)
May 4th, 2017 | 3 replies

Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A Swedish death metal classic that exhibits everything lovable about extreme metal.

Sweden has a long and storied history of having some of the best metal bands arguably to have ever existed. Whether it's the blistering black metal of Bathory, Dissection, Watain, and Dark Funeral, the progressive beauty of Opeth and Edge of Sanity, or the melodic "Gothenberg sound" pioneered by Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At the Gates, Sweden's metal scene is a true testament to all that is great about heavy metal. One of the country's most evocative scenes was its pure death metal scene, which evolved around the same time as the USA's death metal scene in Florida. Bands from this scene are today viewed as many of the best the genre has to offer, including Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Carnage, and of course Unleashed. One of the big four of the Swedish death metal scene, Unleashed were formed by bassist/vocalist Johnny Hedlund (formerly of Nihilst, which would later become Entombed) and were notable for their lyrics focusing more on Viking culture and folklore rather than being hopelessly obsessed with gore and death. Their music was heavily influenced by Swiss extreme metal innovators Celtic Frost and by Heldund's time in Nihilist, and their unique take on death metal is best displayed on their debut album, Where No Life Dwells.

The album opens ominously with its title track, a 40-second acoustic piece that sets the stage for the wrath to come. Once these 40 seconds slip past, Unleashed unleash their full power, with each song managing to batter your eardrums with a vicious assault of tremolo riffs and Hedlund's beautifully harsh and raw growles. It's impossible to not immediately notice the perfect placement of riffs and fantastic structure to every somg. The writing throughout the album as a whole is notable in that it depends mostly on solid riffing and pacing rather than cramming all the solos into the album that they could or constantly shoving technicality down your throat. It's heavy enough to make you feel as though every note is beating you down, yet melodic and groovy enough to make you want to headbang and break every bone in your body from moshing in your bedroom too hard (I can't be the only one.)

The individual songs themselves on this album are fantastic as well. For me personally, the very beginning and very ending tracks of this album are the best songs, but there is barely a dull moment on here. Some of the catchiest songs on here include "Before the Creation of Time," "Violent Ecstasy," and a very interesting and well-executed cover of Manowar's "Into Glory Ride." These songs in particular have riffs and choruses that get into your head the most out of all of the songs on here, but every song has its catchy moments. The fantastic riffing is best displayed by the band's self-titled song and by the final track, "Where Life Ends." There is certainly no shortage of great guitar work on here, but these two songs are beyond exceedingly great. The only negative that is really possible to interpret from this album is the fact that (like every pure death metal album ever) there is an overarching idea of repetitiveness among each song. True to its genre, blastbeats, growles, and all of your typical death metal fare are all consistently displayed throughout the album. However, rather than giving it a repetitive, droning feeling, the consistency works to provide this album with a sense of cohesiveness and unity, and the runtime barely exceeding 35 minutes helps as well. Sure, it may take a few listens to really get into, but this also works to the album's advantage, adding immensely to its replay value. It's a classic in every sense of the word.

Where No Life Dwells is a prime example of a band that, while still very early in their musical life, were able to channel their energy and passion for a then-emerging genre into a classic work of art. While not as well known as Death's first few releases, Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, or even Entombed's Left Hand Path, it still has its place among them as a milestone for extreme metal, and perhaps even the genesis point of viking metal. The epic riffs, perfect pacing, raw vocals, and all around great musicianship make it an unforgettable experience that no fan of metal should bypass. If you haven't listened to this album, I urge you: go now and treat your ears to the brutal beauty that is this album. This is where no life dwells... and where indisputably classic death metal reigns supreme.

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user ratings (302)
other reviews of this album
CaptainDooRight (3.5)
A solid first release by one of Sweden’s well known old school death metal acts....

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 4th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

a 5 is a bit of a stretch but any dm fan worth their salt should know this essential bad boy

May 5th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

"...and perhaps even the genesis point of viking metal"

Unleashed didn't have viking lyrics or imagery until Across the open Sea. The only viking themed song on here is them covering Manowar, who can be considered the originators of viking metal.

May 5th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

Valid point.

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