I could really get used to these years when new albums are released by Swedish death metal progenitors GRAVE, DISMEMBER, and UNLEASHED (as was the case in 2006). Having already been thoroughly impressed by "Dominion VIII" and the self-titled DISMEMBER effort, it was time to check out the new long player from UNLEASHED. "Hammer Battalion" follows in the footsteps of its excellent predecessor, "Midvinterblot", but does not top it.As with the last several albums in particular, UNLEASHED found a formula that works and have stuck with it on "Hammer Battalion". The style is indeed classic Swedish death, but UNLEASHED were always considerably groovier and catchier than its contemporaries (one would have an argument by referencing certain ENTOMBED albums, but the point has validity nevertheless), especially on the last few albums. The riffs are heavy, the pace often fast and furious, and Johnny Hedlund's vocals are immediately recognizable and always intelligible. Add to that songs that follow a traditional format (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo, etc.) and you get an album that is quintessential UNLEASHED, and that's why "Hammer Battalion" is so ass-kickin' and so memorable. As cliché as it may sound, UNLEASHED do what they do and do it extremely well. The main difference between "Hammer Battalion" and "Midvinterblot" may be that the formula has been made tighter with the vast majority of the songs in the three-and-a-half minute range and only the occasional tweak to the formula (e.g. "Carved in Stone"). The familiar topics of Vikings, battles, and the world before Christianity appeared remain and each song comes with an immediately memorable refrain. And that's why we love 'em. It's a formula that works. "The Greatest of All Lies", "Long Before Winter's Call", and "This Day Belongs to Me" are just a few of the highlights and, quite honestly, you won't find a bum track on the album. The solos sound great too. Unless you're one that finds fault with a band that never strays far from its chosen path, it is difficult to believe that anyone would dislike "Hammer Battalion". It's heavy, catchy, and filled with tales of marauding Norseman. What's not to like?
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