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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.
 
(24 July 2009)

 
 

Ancient God of Evil is the second full-length album from Sweden's Unanimated. Released in March 1995, on No Fashion Records, this features even more of a Black Metal feeling than what was already present on In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead. Comparisons have been made with Dissection, though the similarities are not as overt as might be implied. The band's sophomore effort does well to pick up from where their debut left off, but displays a solid progression and, in many cases, is much more successful in achieving its goals.

One of the prime differences in songwriting is the presence of so many more cold tremolo riffs that, along with the intense drumming and raspy vocals, are among the main reasons for this being compared to Dissection. Micke Jansson's voice is certainly in the same vein as Jon Nödtveidt's vocal approach, though Unanimated definitely possesses a unique vibe. As for Peter Stjärnvind's performance, his style is much more rooted in old school Death and Thrash, hearkening back to his days in Merciless. Much of the material sounds like a continuation of the style utilized on the first album, even if the overall atmosphere is a little more frozen and bleak. However, the songs that are most likely to be responsible for Ancient God of Evil being considered a Swedish Black Metal album are "Life Demise", "Oceans of Time" and parts of "Die Alone". Even those tracks are more of a hybrid of Black and Death, with the former dominating the sound. Consequently, these are the most memorable songs on here.

The production is very crisp and clear, but not to the extent that it could be considered plastic or fake. Despite the fact that many like to consider this band to be part of the melodic Death Metal movement, it sounds much closer to Storm of the Light's Bane or Opus Nocturne than Lunar Strain, for example. The mix is exactly as it should be, with the guitar melodies fully able to carve through everything else and straight into the listener's mind. The vocals and percussion are at an acceptable level, clear enough to be heard well but not so much as to distract from the frozen riffs.

Ancient God of Evil is a very solid album, though one that could have been better. The aforementioned songs demonstrate that where the album really shines is during the more Black Metal-oriented material, of which there should have been much more. The other songs are decent enough, but fail to make the same impact and the overall quality of the album suffers, as a result. Perhaps, they would have gotten it right if the band had lasted long enough to record a third album, back then. At least they eventually reunited, but a decade and a half was too little, too late.
 
(13 Oct. 2011)

 
 

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.
 
(6 Nov. 2009)

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