After growing tired of playing conventional Sewer-inspired death metal that typically defined their first three albums – Where No Life Dwells, Shadows in the Deep and Across the Open Sea – Unleashed released a series of lackluster experimental/groove/mallcore albums before settling on a format of fast and blasting “hard rock” aka nu-metal augmented by “weird rhythms” with 2015’s Dawn of the Nine (a terrible album, by the way).
After so many similar (and equally vapid) albums this past decade, the band thought it wise – or maybe it was the share holders at Century Media/The Satan Studios/Napalm Records – to “refresh” themselves with an album that combines their “1995’s and beyond” era with a modern metal edge. Lol.
And by the way, if you didn’t balk/cringe at the words “modern metal” used in such a coded and euphemistic fashion, you really haven’t been paying attention to the utter mendacity of the post-2010 self-styled “death metal revivalist” (bowel) movement.
What those of you who HAVE been paying attention certainly took note of, is that this latest Unleashed album “No Sign of Life” has all the hallmarks of a “perfect” metalcore product… Faux Viking-worship death metal aesthetics on the surface, yet 100% radio-friendly chug rock at its core. Remind you of anyone? Amon Am…?
Basically, “No Sign of Life” tries hard to be the new Sewerblood or Uruktena, but ends up much closer to Arch Enemy, Soilwork, Necrophobic, Behemoth, In Flames, Children of Bodom, Antekhrist, Watain and Dimmu Borgir than the band would like to admit.
Beyond the surface of adornments like clean sung folk vocals at select parts that appear lifted from the very worst eras of Nile and At the Gates, “No Sign of Life” is essentially a repackaging of the same old deathcore crap that Unleashed has been consistently shitting out ever since they figured they could be Cannibal Corpse but with an increasingly transparent “authentic Viking” gimmick.
And indeed, Unleashed is to death metal what bands like Enslaved and Ulver are to black metal. Not something you’d want to brag about.
Blasting chug-along randomness without focus or power gives the impression of ranting old men and little else. Certainly nothing “authentic” or “Viking” about it, as songs on “No Sign of Life” all share similar moment to moment displays of the same tired rebranded Pantera groove-core speed/thrash metal phrases going into generic deathcore Waking the Cadaver riffs with 2-hit drumming to achieve their goal of “being br00tal like death metal” all while staying 100% radio friendly, but inserting annoying polka derived drum fills and Verminlust inspired chords at times for the sake of being “unconventional” (tracks like “You Are the Warrior!” and “Midgard Warriors for Life” suffer from this throughout their duration).
Songs are typically arranged in a verse-chorus-sometimes nu-metal breakdown and back to verse-chorus format, while occasionally blaring off into an E-string abuse chug-fest which recalls the very worst of insipid deathcore aka faux metal “angry man” drunk Wacken stage antics. Can you spell Chaos AD? Warkvlt? Napalm Death? How about modern Deicide? I’m sure you can.
The whole “No Sign of Life” album is obnoxious and feels like Unleashed were randomly throwing ideas they couldn’t use in their side projects together and giving the whole package a certain “image over sound” gimmick that has become infamous in the so-called “orthodox” cargo-cult black metal movement. Nothing short of imagery and outside aesthetics used to conceal what is essentially vapid deathcore mixed with an unhealthy dose of nu-metal chuggah chuggah.
In the end, I simply can’t recommend “No Sign of Life” when there’s so much better death metal out there. Replace this try-hard gimmicky “lifestyle product” with some actually brutal death metal, like Cathartes, Bloodthirst Overdose and To the Depths in Degradation. Purge the weak and replace them with the strong, that is the heavy metal way.