Unleashed – “The Hunt For White Christ” (Napalm Records)
So, almost 3 decades in and we have the 13th album from Johnny Hedlund and his boys. In a story authored by the founder bassist vocalist comprising of the past, present, and what Hedlund deems as the future of Viking traditions and values, “The Hunt For White Christ” is the 4th release in the continuing story of the World of Odalheim and their Midgard warriors. With all lyrics penned by Hedlund and the music composed by longtime guitarist Fredrik Folkare, the album tells that following the devastation in the south (as depicted by Pär Olofsson’s cover), the Midgard warriors decide to hunt down White Christ all the way to Jorsala. Acknowledged as one of Sweden’s viking death metal pioneers, there’s certainly huge amounts of that making up the 11 meaty tracks here, served up with generous amounts power grooves, lavish nordic melodies and thundering rhythms – so any fans of the original ‘Hammer Battalion’ needn’t worry, concept or not, “The Hunt For White Christ” is an aggressive release befitting its warlike title. However, here and there, there are touches of heavy and black metal, while Folkare delivers some impressive neo classical soloing throughout, not that it detracts but rather adds finesse to the band’s impressive battle sound. From the chopping chainsaw brutality of ‘They Rape The Land’, prepare for huge waves of double bass drumming melded with catchy hooks and not in the least, the crunching bass lines of Hedlund and his beastly roar adding a definite presence and indeed menace to the song! On the title track ‘The Hunt For White Christ’ the tempo slows a little to appreciate the nordic melodies amid a warrior beat driven by pounding drums and the twin guitars slashing with their fast riffs while Hedlund rasps like a hungry beast growling ‘..we will hunt you down..’ before Folkare delivers his neo classical brilliance forever silencing anyone thinking Unleashed uncouth. On ‘Vidaurgelmthul’, it’s massive groove just carries you away as Anders Schultz really starts smashing those cymbals as the twin guitars razor roar on this sophisticated track that also carries a darkly quiet atmosphere enhanced by Hedlund’s foreboding drawls of ‘…call to me…and I will set you free..’ throughout while including variations of clanging melodies, intelligent tempo changes and naturally another Folkare guitar piece – this time Spanish influenced! Following on 3 years after its predecessor, “The Hunt For White Christ” in all regards continues Hedlund’s self penned saga in very fine style indeed….