Unleashed - Hammer Battalion
First off I'll say shame on me for Hammer Battalion being my first Unleashed experience. Whatever kept me from this legendary, long-running (since 1989) Swedish death metal pioneer of a band, I'm so very glad to be discovering them now. I've done my reading up and could have told you prior to learning of the band's history that Hammer Battalion shows a band totally comfortable and able to play their style of music. I love how certain bands age gracefully, refining their sound continually over time to offer new themes on the original ideas. I only know by word what Unleashed were about before, but I think it's clear to see with Hammer Battalion that they've changed very little.
What we've got here is a nice-sized slab of punishing up-tempo and highly melodic death metal, from one of the originators of the Swedish blend of it, which combined the blunt and grunt of early death and black metal acts such as Venom with the more melodic, soaring and technical aspects of the NWOBHM (Iron Maiden, etc). Rarely have I heard this stuff done with so much ferocity and honesty. Every one of these 13 tracks features razor-sharp riffing, solos that blaze away with little room for technical wankery but plenty of room for that feel of chaotic frenzy this type of music aims for. The drums are a constant grounding element, keeping everything in line while Hedlund's desperate and enraged vocals fit the entire affair perfectly. I can't even pick a favorite song, but the first three (especially Your Children Will Burn) and the excellent "Black Horizon" are ones that stood out a little more.
If you're a fan of death metal, you're going to want to be a fan of Unleashed, as well. Hell, they're probably one of the early bands that made it a genre both respected and desired in the hearts and minds of metalheads world-wide. There's no reason why Hammer Battalion should fail to disappoint. While my fandom of this sort of metal is not as deep as the more blackened or thrashy sides, Unleashed have made more of a believer out of me here.
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