Sunday, February 26, 2023

Unanimated - Victory in Blood (2021)

Sweden's Unanimated has never released a bad record, and it wasn't about to start when time came around to release their fourth full-length in 35 years of existence. Victory in Blood reads like a tour de force of the black and death metal aesthetics heralded within its scene, leaning much heavier onto the former for the actual music, where the vocals are the element that straddles the line. This is an aggressive rush of a record, sometimes a bit predictable in its rhythmic ideas as are many bands who love to blast away, but nonetheless atmospheric and well-produced with a few memorable surprises waiting in the depths of its aggression. The band has not sought to reinvent itself by any means, you can trace the direct line of how they got from In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead to this one, nor do they stand out far from other groups like Marduk or Dark Funeral, but they approach this new material with brazen confidence and blazing competence.

They really like to emphasize the speed here, but tunes like "As the Night Takes Us" prove that they can play about in a mid-tempo sandbox, and they can even pull off another interlude piece in the acoustic "With a Cold Embrace" and its surprising clean vocal harmonies of some quality. The riff construction isn't terribly progressive, and they don't often stride into some epic chorus that will blow your testicles off, but Victory in Blood is certainly a flood of intensity with a group of musicians who work in lock step as they lay their Satanic brickwork. The volumes here are great, with epic drumming, swarthy bass that will turn around in your gut, and killer rhythm guitar tone that can balance out both the thicker chord patterns and the bleeding melodies so important within the Swedish black metal. The vocals are a broad hybrid of rasp and growl, and also sound tremendous within the mix. I find that the more technical they get with their riffing, or the more atmospheric, the more interesting the material gets, but there's no question that this is a professional, punishing effort which puts them near the very forefront of the survivors within this style.

In fact, I think Victory in Blood is strong enough that I'm just as likely to pick this down off the shelf as I am In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead or In the Light of Darkness, and it seems like a re-haul of the aesthetics they were using back in the 90s, only clad in the denser, louder sound that studios are capable of producing in current times. Anyone into Sacramentum, Necrophobic, Diabolical, Thulcandra, Naglfar or Dawn should have a blast with this belligerent hellscape of a metal album, and they're another unit that proves there is no slowing down with age, that the vile imaginations that roosted over the 90s are still very much intact and relevant, and there's no need to stand solely on nostalgia when you can still lay a smackdown like this one. They might not be the catchiest songwriters, they might not be the stuff of legend like a Dissection, but they are God-damned, and damned reliable.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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