Victories in blood

UNANIMATED: Victory In Blood

Release year: 2021
Label: Century Media

Unanimated belong to the original breed of Swedish death metal: having formed already in 1988, they were certainly among the earlier purveyors of the genre. Whilst they definitely have a following, and a deserved place in the canon of Swedish extreme metal, the band never rose to be one of the major players in the genre. And, in retrospect, it’s understandable: though musically entirely fine, even good, the band never managed excel like some of their more illustrious colleagues. Even their minor classic, Ancient God Of Evil (reviewed here) can’t hold a candle to a band like Dissection who, by and large, existed in the same ballpark.

Folding in 1996, Unanimated made a comeback in 2007, releasing an album in 2009 titled In The Light Of Darkness. Since then, apart from an EP, Annihilation, in 2018, it’s been quiet. Until now.

Is Victory In Blood death metal? That’s a good question. To be sure, already during their original run Unanimated gravitated from pure death metal towards a considerably blacker expression. Now, on their fourth album, musically a lot of the time there’s more black metal than death metal in their music. Not only that, but much of the material does gravitate more towards black metal also on the atmospheric side of things, I feel.

But of course, it doesn’t matter – especially not when the album is as strong as Victory In Blood is. Black metal, death metal – this is good metal. Topped with the absolutely vicious, throat-tearing vocals of Micke Broberg, the Swedes tear into a 48-minute assault of blackened death metal, deathly black metal and what have you. Aggressively shredding, tremolo picking riffs, dark and ominious melodies and a balanced combination between slower, heavier, more atmospheric sections and passages of speedy galloping or outright blasting, Victory In Blood sounds hungry. Confident. Strong. It sounds like a band that doesn’t feel the need to prove anything or to stick to an old recipe to appease old fans: instead they’re doing what they want to do. And that is laudable.

One thing is for sure, though: this does sound Swedish. It’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly why, although of course speedy aggression combined with guitar-driven melodicism has always been a staple of both the classic Swedish death metal and black metal sound. But it goes deeper than that. In a nutshell, though Unanimated have musically come some way from their 90’s sound, which was quite standard fare for that day and age in Sweden, there’s that elusive spirit that remains. This sounds like a band from that era – but one that hasn’t remain stuck in that era.

And so, Victory In Blood is no nostalgia trip. It’s a strong and vicious entity in its own right, standing on its own legs. One does not need to have heard previous albums to be able to appreciate this. This isn’t one of those “pretty good for a bunch of old guys” albums, or one of those that desperately tries to relive the glories of yesteryear. With Victory In Blood, Unanimated prove that they’re still genuinely relevant today.

2021 has seen two new releases by Swedish death metal bands of the old guard I’ve paid particular attention to: At The GatesThe Nightmare Of Being, and this one. Both are strong albums, and though they are musically different in many ways – At The Gates threw themselves into a more experimental mood, where Unanimated are still pretty straightforward despite having slightly shifted gears – they prove one thing: there’s life in this old scene yet.

You know, this just might rise up to become one of my favourite Unanimated albums. I don’t know if it’s quite the equal of the aforementioned Ancient God Of Evil, but it doesn’t fall far behind.

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