Friday, July 24, 2009

Unanimated - In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead (1993)

In May 1992, Unanimated entered Unicorn/Moose Studio and then finished recording in Noble House Studio, the following month. The result was a lethal dose of Swedish Death Metal known as In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead. Released in 1993, this record was a bit different than many of the other albums coming out of Stockholm, in the years that preceded it. Somehow, the atmosphere was more bleak and the sound shared small similarities with Black Metal. Of all the Swedish bands, Unanimated was more closely related to Necrophobic, rather than Entombed or Grave. That said, this band has a sound of their own, which is easily identifiable.

"At Dawn/Whispering Shadows" begins with a somber intro piece, including an acoustic melody and some whispered vocals. The feeling is quite depressive and mournful in these opening moments. This drags the listener down, deeper into the great nothingness, before unleashing a violent assault. After a minute or so, you are plunged into a merciless maelstrom of blasting drums, tremolo riffs and raspy vocals that convey a sense of death and agony. The vocalist possesses a good sound, giving the impression that he is half-rotted. The song has its faster moments, but the main pace is a little more subdued. It is melodic, while being forceful as well, and serves as a powerful opener.

"Through the gloomy night
The silent shadows
Reach out in the cold
And tear the dawn away"

A distant tremolo riff begins the next song, "Blackness of the Fallen Star". This is joined by a louder one, before transitioning to a completely different riff and a deep solo. Peter Stjärnvind keeps things together with the drumming, complimenting the guitar playing of Bolin and Mellberg. Daniel Lofthagen's bass is not a major factor, here. Of course, Micke Jansson's vocals adds a deathlike quality to the whole album. They're difficult to fully describe, as it isn't a high-pitched approach; rather, he utilizes a lower range but maintains a severe corpse-like raspy sound. There's a lot of variation in the temp, including faster moments and more mid-paced ones.

"Fire Storm" is next, beginning with the sounds of a funeral organ. This adds a nice effect, and is most likely the doing of Jocke Westman, the keyboardist. Following this brief intro, the song really blasts forth with an intense pace. By the time the first verse hits, things are a little more restrained. One can, clearly, hear similarities with some of their fellow Swedish Death Metal peers. It's not terribly obvious, but their origins are never in question. By the middle, there's a break where a keyboard melody is accompanied by a tremolo riff. It is reminiscent of the Phantasm theme, but not an exact replica, as used by Tormentor, Entombed and others. After this, there's a pretty decent solo. It's neither the best nor the worst; in other words, it works but there may have been some room for improvement.

A somber atmosphere is present in the earliest moments of "Storms From the Skies of Grief". It starts with a sorrowful lead solo, with an acoustic passage played underneath. This is, more or less, an instrumental. There's a single verse that is whispered and screamed, simultaneously. All of the solos serve a purpose, as does each acoustic note. An aura of sorrow and regret permeates your mind. At this point of the album, the whole atmosphere darkens.

"Through the Gates" begins with intense drumming and furious tremolo riffs that possess a cold feeling. This is a total contrast to what came before. They keyboards are utilized more than on the other songs, to add to the dark aura. As the song progresses, the pace slows down a bit. This is only for the refrain. Production-wise, the album sounds fairly clear, though not overdone. It's not quite as professional as an early Tiamat album, but it's done well enough. As the song reaches its conclusion, the pace returns to full speed.

"Black clouds in the sky opening my eyes
Dark reflections dancing before me
Light of the moon caressing the sky
The air that I breathe is so cold… so cold"

"Wind of a Dismal Past" has a slower tempo, in the opening moments, along with a sorrowful lead solo. This atmosphere doesn't last long, as the pace becomes more intense, for a bit. As the track goes along, it alternates between fast and mid-paced. The beginning and end possess more melodic elements than the song as a whole.

This is followed by a brief interlude, "Silence Ends". This is a keyboard piece, serving to create an eerie feeling. There are some strange sounds, giving the impression of damned souls wailing in the depths of the abyss as freezing winds cut through them and others, condemned to servitude, labour away for eternity.

"Mournful Twilight" wastes little time in getting right to the point. One of the riffs seems reminiscent of American Death Metal, of the Florida style. This is counteracted by the pure Scandinavian style with the razor-sharp tremolo riffs and even some horrific keyboard section to add to the wicked feel. There's a lot of tension in the riffing, and one almost wishes it could have been expanded. The track then ends with the sounds of thunder and rain, fading into nothingness.

Next is "In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead", which picks up where the previous one left off. It begins in an atmospheric and melodic manner, before increasing in intensity. The lyrics are almost more in line with the Black Metal bands of the era, rather than many of their Death Metal contemporaries. There is, definitely, something darker about them than the approach that some bands had adopted, by that point.

"See the candle of life
Burns out before your eyes
Like a mirrors reflection
Death is what you see"

The last song on here is "Cold Northern Breeze", which features the lyrics and vocals of Johan Edlund, of Tiamat. This one possesses a slower, more epic pace than some of the previous tracks. The atmosphere is one of sorrow and death. Johan seems to wail, in the distance, in a clean and anguished voice. Some of the riffs seem almost appropriate for Doom Metal, as the lead guitar adds some very nice touches. If this same mentality had been utilized throughout the entire record, it would have been even more enjoyable.

All in all, this is a good debut album. There are some moments where the band seems to hesitate to pull the trigger on an idea, moving on to something else before it was fully developed. However, that's only one person's opinion. In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead is one of those forgotten albums that you rarely hear about, these days, but certainly one worth seeking out.