Swedish death metal Vikings Unleashed have returned. 3 years since their last stormer, Dawn of the Nine, the band’s latest opus is set to continue the Odalheim album saga. The Hunt for White Christ picks up from where its precursor left off, with the son of Thor leading the Viking soldiers across Europe to rescue the goddess Idunn from Jerusalem and destroy her Christian captors. The Vikings capture Jerusalem and declare it open to all following the defeat of the murderous and racist Christian soldiers.
The Hunt for White Christ launches into opening track “Lead Us Into War” with straight-up charging death metal riffs. The song is pure Unleashed, showcasing many core aspects of their sound – simple and catchy guitar riffs, memorable melodic moments, and cold black metal atmospheres.
The trend continues across the album where Unleashed know they are the masters of their craft. However the band never sound like they are rehashing tired tropes, with flashes of fresh ideas lighting up the album in places. The eerie arpeggios of “You Will Fall”, the stomping verse and groovy syncopation throughout “Stand Your Ground”, and haunting atmosphere of “Terror Christ” are prime cuts which keep the ear interested as well as the head banging.
Unleashed’s black metal edge comes to the fore often throughout The Hunt for White Christ. There are cold chords and dissonant intervals, as well as relentless blastbeats on show which work well with the band’s meaty drum and bass sound. The production of the album seems to be Unleashed’s most polished yet. The drums are prominent and punchy, especially the kick which has verged on sounding too “clicky” on previous efforts. The bass is also particularly prominent, with its quaking rumble creating a thick heaviness together with the biting guitars. Frontman Johnny Hedlund’s vocals sit well in the mix as his distinctively clear growls and barks tell the album’s tale, and guitarists Tomas Olsson and Fredrik Folkare’s fingers’ fly across the fretboard in some of the duo’s most shredding solos to date. .
The latter half of the album features more memorable Unleashed riffing with the thrashing “They Rape the Land”, the swinging groove of “Vidaurgelmthul” and the melodic middle of “By the Western Wall”. Closing number “Open to all the World” is a particular standout, particularly with its main harmonised melodic riff and neck-breaking death-thrash throughout and mysterious-sounding outro.
The Hunt for White Christ flows well as a concept album with plenty of varying dynamics and tempo shifts which when coupled with Hedlund’s narrative (told from both first and third person viewpoints), feels like a sonic journey. Unleashed have outdone themselves again with another solid release overall. The Hunt for White Christ doesn’t reinvent the wheel, however it is pure Unleashed – aggressive, heavy and incredibly catchy but with cool ideas cropping up throughout that makes the album more than just more of the same. Unleashed know their craft well as proven by the Odalheim saga, and with another awesome addition in The Hunt for White Christ, the next album is certain to be victorious.
The Hunt For White Christ is available now via Napalm Records.