Shines like a beacon in the murk of cross-genre pollution

These days, the definition of death metal seems to change every few months as elements are added, subtracted, ramped up or diluted.

Even for an experienced chronicler it gets difficult to delineate where death metal ends and something else begins: is it hardcore, deathcore, metalcore, death metal hardcore, pretentious jazz-metal noodling bullshit with death vox?

Sweden’s old-schoolers Unleashed shine like a beacon in the murk of cross-genre pollution, cutting through the smog like a scythe. Because Unleashed plays death metal the old way, and they’ve never done anything else. These guys have been doing this so well for so long, you get the feeling they could knock their tunes together as they sleep. But music as simple and unadorned as this is the hardest to create, because it takes enormous discipline to keep to the same path with so many diversions. No band exists in a vaccuum, and it’s not as if the guys in Unleashed haven’t played in other bands that are different, but when they get together in this formation they just do Unleashed, as if there’s no other band in existence.

So it is then that As Yggdrasil Trembles continues the proud tradition of no-frills, groove-laden death metal. As always, they are almost subtle as far as death metal goes: no over-the-top speed or expansive technical parts, almost restrained drumming that does what it needs to and little else, listenable vocals. And, as always, they have made a consistently strong album of rousing, catchy metal songs, the kind that call to mind raging fires surrounded by bearded men swinging huge jugs of mead as they toast some ancient victory or prepare to obliterate some weaker foe. Whenever Johnny Hedlund isn’t singing directly about Norse mythology — as he does in “Chief Einherjar”, the title track, and others — he’s singing about combat: “Return Fire”, “This Time We Fight”, and the band constantly drives the music as if caught in the midst of battle.

But what am I going on and on for? If you’re familiar with Unleashed, you’ll know what to expect from As Yggdrasil Trembles. If you’re not, then chuck it on and hear what death metal sounds like without all the bullshit. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

1. Courage Today, Victory Tomorrow!
2. So it Begins
3. As Yggdrasil Trembles
4. Wir Kapitulieren Niemals
5. This Time We Fight
6. Master of the Ancient Art
7. Chief Einherjar
8. Return Fire
9. Far Beyond Hell
10. Dead to Me
11. Yahweh and the Chosen Ones
12. Cannibalisitc Epidemic Continues