Friday, November 6, 2009

Unanimated - In the Light of Darkness (2009)

In 1996, after releasing two full-lengths of Black/Death Metal, Unanimated finally lived up to its name and was no more. In the years that passed, much has changed in the Swedish Metal scene. However, it seems like many of the old demons have been rearing their ugly heads once more, crawling from forgotten graves to assault unsuspecting victims. Over a decade following their premature demise, Unanimated rose from the foggy graveyard to unleash darkness once more. They've done this in the form of their first album in 14 years, In the Light of Darkness. Released in April 2009 through (who else?) Regain Records, this album destroys any doubt as to whether or not the band can still deliver.

It begins with "Ascend With the Stench of Death, featuring dark arpeggios and a feeling that is quite similar to Watain, oddly enough. However, once the solo kicks in, this kind of passes. This intro does well to set the tone for the album, giving warning that this will be a much darker affair than Ancient God of Evil.

"Retribution In Blood" slowly builds up, creating some epic feeling that is reminiscent of Dissection. After a minute or so, things get moving at full speed and the trademark Unanimated sound is ever present, though a little blacker. The frozen tremolo riffs surround you like a murky fog, while the powerful drumming pounds your skull to oblivion. The production is very strong, but not overdone. The guitar riffs are clear and piercing. Micke Jansson's vocals have lost absolutely nothing, as they're as venomous as ever. Sebastian Ramstedt, of Necrophobic, handles lead guitar duties on this one. After a vicious assault, the song then returns to the more eerie sounds found at the beginning, before fading into the next one.

This is followed by "The Endless Beyond", which opens with more icy tremolo riffs. The pace of the song is varied, going from fast parts to more mid-paced sections with the typical Swedish Death Metal groove, for lack of a better word. Thankfully, the haunting tremolo-picked melodies continue to weave throughout the song, giving it life. Later in the song, there's a quieter part that is kind of similar to "The Light That Burns the Sun", from Watain.

"Diabolic Voices" starts out with an eerie sound, before bursting through the gates at full force. Micke really sounds like he's attempting a similar style to Jon Nödtveidt, vocally. Of course, there's nothing at all wrong with such a thing. Sebastian's presence is, again, felt on lead guitar. You can really sense the Necrophobic style bleeding through during the solo. Come to think of it, this album manages to tie together many of the Swedish elite; There are obvious Dissection and Watain influences, the Necrophoic guitarist and, of course, Unanimated themselves.

The title track is more mid-paced, beginning with some nice solos before going into a plodding main riff. Truly, it is quite apparent that this band mainly shines when the tremolo melodies are being utilized. That's not to say that the rest is bad, but those are the most memorable moments. Here, the solo work adds nicely to the atmosphere and the vocal performance is excellent. Surely, with repeated listens, it will grow on me more. The refrain definitely sticks with you, even after the first time.

"The Unconquered One" features Set Teitan on lead guitar, and returns to a faster pace and includes some nice tremolo riffing. This song has a nice frozen atmosphere, standing out from the last several. It's dynamic, utilizing a variety of tempos, but maintaining a dark feeling throughout, making it one of the highlights of the album.

Necrophobic's guitarist is, once more, taking care of the lead guitar on "The Enemy of the Sun". Cold winds accompany the acoustic guitar intro, blowing so hard that you can almost feel them freezing your skin. Soon enough, a crushingly heavy riff comes in, but soon gives way to more acoustic guitar and some distant lead work. The set-up works very well. Once the riff returns, the scathing vocals enter the scene and provide a nice effect. The lead solo is very well done, adding kind of an epic feeling.

"Serpent's Curse" rises from the darkness with another freezing cold tremolo melody. The opening moments really remind me of Casus Luciferi (as a matter of fact, so does the cover art). After the initial moments, the pace slows down and the approach is a little less frozen. There are limited bursts of speed, as the song progresses. Later in the song, the tremolo melody returns. Micke's vocals sound particularly possessed, here. This is far more raw and dark than their last album, while still retaining a good sense of melody.

"Death To Life" gets better as it goes along, being fairly slow but having a memorable chorus section. I can't place them, but some of the riffs sound familiar. The solo work is exceptional, but that should be no surprise since this is another song with Sebastian Ramstedt on lead guitar. The song builds in speed and intensity for a bit, interrupted by a slower section that darkens the atmosphere even more, before raging toward the abyss. As the song ends, everything slows down once more and a haunting solo fades into the nothingness.

The album ends with "Strategia Luciferi", an somber acoustic outro. Mid-way through, a distant tremolo melody can be heard, as if from another plane of existence.

In the Light of Darkness cannot claim to be the most original piece of music, as Unanimated is really showing several of their influences here, but this does not take anything away from the fact that they created a very enjoyable album. This is much closer to what I wanted them to sound like, long ago, anyway. With any luck, this won't be some one-off reunion deal; it would be far better if this was more like a rebirth. If you're a fan of Dissection, Necrophobic, Sacramentum or, of course, Unanimated, then there's not much to think about. Buy this.