Unleashed - 25/05/2008

The legendary Swedish death metallers UNLEASHED are about to release their 9th album, entitled "Hammer Battalion". Unleashed was founded in 1989 by vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund after his former band, Nihilist, ceased to exist. In 1991, the band released their debut studio album ‘Where No Life Dwells’. In 1992, Unleashed released their second studio album, ‘Shadows In The Deep’. After releasing three more albums, the band went on hiatus until 2002. After a reissue of the band's classics in 2002, they released a new album called ‘Hell’s Unleashed’, and they began to tour once again. In 2004, Unleashed released their seventh studio album, ‘Sworn Allegiance’ followed in 2006 by release number eight ‘Midvinterblot’. Unleashed toured Europe in November 2006 as part of the Masters of Death tour, with Grave, Dismember, and Entombed.

 

The new album was recorded in Sweden and produced by the band's guitarist Fredrik Folkare. "Hammer Battalion" will continue in the same victorious spirit as the previous album 'Midvinterblot'. The new album takes a battle-hardened axe to the misguided concepts of self-subjugation, transparent corruption and unneeded suffering in the name of religious figureheads and provides a perfect link between the ancient struggles of their Nordic forefathers and the ills of our modern society. The blistering "The Greatest Of All Lies" and "Long Before Winter's Call" take on old religious myths re-cast as pure fact, while "Your Children Will Burn" serves as a warning of the consequences of blind faith.

 

 

So with a new album out soon and common themes like Viking culture, recollection of a pre-Christian world, and Norse folklore in the band's songs we have plenty to talk about with drummer Anders Schultz.

 

Your latest album ‘Hammer Battalion’ will be released in a couple of weeks, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it!

 

So here we go.. first of all, how are you?

All good here! Busy as hell and ready for the album to be out and to hit the road!

 

How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Hammer Battalion’, did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

Kind of hard to describe the process really. The ideas just come here and there. We've been working on the songs ever since the last album was done, and some ideas are even from before that.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Hammer Battalion’, did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

The goal was as always to evolve and take everything a step further from the last release. But yeah definitely as soon as the songs started coming together we saw where it was heading. One goal was for sure to go a bit faster and making the sound a bit harsher without losing the groove.

 

Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

I don't know if it's ever conscious at first but as things progress it definitely becomes clear.

 

Who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics on the new album?

On this one it's a mix between Fredrik and Johnny’s songs, with all lyrics done by Johnny.

 

I think the main theme on ‘Hammer Battalion’ is clear, but can you clarify some lyrics / song titles for us, for example the songs “The Greatest Of All Lies" and "Long Before Winter’s Call" don't seem like typical Unleashed Lyrics, they're more religious?

Well actually lyrics like those have always been a part of unleashed. The greatest of all lies is a traditional anti-Christian song and the title pretty much says it all.

Long before winter's call is a bit of a new take on it...about the fact that the Christians placed the birth of their Christ conveniently on our and most other pagan traditions of winter solstice, so to ease the transition to their religion. When in fact the birth of their bastard child was in September.

 

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

It's always good when people pay attention to all details of course, but I would still say the music speaks loudest.

 

In song writing, what is  the utmost important ingredient for a song, according to Unleashed?

It's hard to name one thing but simple and catchy songs are important. Without getting boring of course.

 

What are your main influences on the new album and is it difficult these days to sound original ?

This long into the game I think any influences are mostly subconscious. We have a pretty good idea of what we want to do so it's more trying to evolve the sound we have. Which in turn makes it original I’d say. 

 

What about the song writing – how can we imagine you work on new songs? What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

Like I said previously ideas just come whenever. We don't just sit down and decide to write a song. Ideas come and when a song is done, or nearly done usually we'll all put in ideas and input and work until we feel it all comes together.

 

Is the music written independently of the lyrics or do you try to reflect lyrical ideas through the music?

Usually the music will be done first or it will at least be somewhat done before lyrics are added. But there is always like an idea-bank to grab lyrics from and then it's just a matter of trying to make it fit.

 

How hard was it to come up with a follow-up for your previous album ‘Midvinterblot’?

There was certainly some pressure since ‘Midvinterblot’ was very well received. But once the new songs started coming together that pressure kind of stopped. We felt at an early stage that we had strong enough material to outdo ‘Midvinterblot’ by far.

 

 

Before an album release there's the process in the studio, how did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?

Since we have our own, or rather Fredrik has his own studio we take as much time as necessary, which takes away any deadline pressure. Of course we set our own  deadline so we don't lose focus but it's always nice to know that in case anything goes wrong it's possible to be flexible. I'd say the whole process from start to finish took about a month.

 

Did you work differently this time? If so, what was the difference between the recording process for the previous albums?

Since the last 3 albums we've worked in pretty much the same way. Of course tweaking a bit here and there but in general we've found a good way to get it done.

 

After the release of ‘Midvinterblot’, you toured with Grave, Dismember, and Entombed in Europe, the classical deathmetal line up for a lot of old school fans. Did this tour have any influence on the new songs?

That was indeed a great tour! But I wouldn't say it had anything to do with influencing any of the new material.

 

The production was done by guitarist Fredrik Folkare, what made him the perfect producer for ‘Hammer Battalion’?

Of course we think having a member actually producing and mixing is perfect! This way you don't have to explain anything to a third party. He knows exactly what we want to achieve so there's no real room for misunderstanding.

 

So did you want to preserve the vision you have for Unleashed by taking control of the production?

Exactly! He knows what point we all want to get to. But of course we all give input and ideas as a group.

 

Have you received any feedback on the new album yet? And how do you feel about this album – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

So far all reviews and feedback have been great! And we are totally satisfied with how it came together and the outcome! It's clear that we are not the only ones thinking this is a big leap forward in the unleashed legacy!

 

Can you explain the title of your new album ‘Hammer Battalion’, is there a special meaning behind it?

It's basically a call to arms! For all of us who live for this music to stand together and spread the word around the world!

 

 

Do you have any favorites on ‘Hammer Battalion’, songs that you think are somehow above the others? Which element of the CD are you most proud of?

Personally I would say the title track is my favorite! But the fact that it's so solid from start to finish is what makes me the proudest!

 

What was your incentive when you recorded ‘Hammer Battalion’ in a time where a fan would rather download than buy an album?

Well that fact has nothing really to do with the incentive. But we do hope that all those who download it feel it is a strong enough album to actually get for their collection. In these days it's very important for bands to have that support from the public.

 

You will tour Europe with Krisiun and One Man Army And The Undead Quartet in November. How do you see the future of Unleashed? Do you think, for instance, that the band will still exist ten years from now or do you not think to the future too much?

Well we are not stopping out of free will that's for sure! We just intend to go out and support the new album as much as possible and start working on new material as well. This is no time to be slacking! The battalions are rising!

 

Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little better:

 

How did you get involved in the music business?

We were all just a bunch of guys wanting to do our thing and the opportunity came. When we started we had no idea we would ever get this far...it was just something we had to do!

 

What songs and bands do you listen to these days?

I have to admit a lot of times I just dig through the old record collection. But I try to keep up with the newer things and bands.

 

So tell us a little bit about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics! What are you personally into?

Well we talk about this at times...why we actually keep doing it. It's not like it's for the money haha! But we just have to carry on...it's such a big part of our lives and has been for so long!

 

Is there anything you like to do besides your job in the band, what is the ambition you still haven't fulfilled yet?

Honestly there's no real time or desire to think of anything else. Of course the ambition is to keep going and progressing constantly. This is our life's work!

 

What is your opinion on the death metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

I think it's pretty solid at the moment, and it has been for a long time. Hard to name anything in particular that's missing.

 

Have you ever thought of changing your music style, like so many other musicians tend to do after some years?

No, this is what we do and anything else would not be Unleashed. One thing we've said since day one is if we changed our style we'd change our name. But still of course the challenge is to evolve within that.

 

 

Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?

There's so many. In the beginning we were just influenced by everything we listened to I guess. What we grew up with. Just the feeling we had to be a part of this too!

 

Okay, if you could choose three bands to get on stage with, who would they be?

Hard question...! of course throughout the years we've been privileged to share the stage with many great bands and there's more to come! But of course it would be great to play with Venom for instance. Or bands that are no longer around like Autopsy! And hell, I'll throw in a band like Discharge in the mix!

 

With all the touring and nine full-length albums under your belt, how far has Unleashed surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

Like I mentioned, of course in the beginning none of us had expected this! And getting this far is definitely the most rewarding part! Now it's just a matter of keeping this and making it grow even further!

 

You've played bigger festivals, if you compare this to the smaller gig venues, what are the differences for you and which kind of shows do you prefer yourself?

There's no real way to compare. They're a world apart in a way and there are good and bad sides to both. Personally I prefer clubs as they get you closer to the crowd. But of course playing bigger stages are also very rewarding.

 

Is there anything left unmentioned? Any last statement or anything you'd like to add...

Thanks for the interview! The hammer battalion assault will soon begin so be prepared...!!

 

Okay, thanks for the interview!  

 

 

 

Current members :
Johnny Hedlund – Vocals, Bass (1989–present)
Fredrik Folkare – Lead Guitar (1997–present)
Tomas Måsgard – Rhythm Guitar (1989–present)
Anders Schultz – Drums (1989–present)

Former members :

Fredrik Lindgren – Guitar (1989–1995)

Studio albums :
Where No Life Dwells (1991)
Shadows in the Deep (1992)
Across the Open Sea (1993)
Victory (1995)
Warrior (1997)
Hell's Unleashed (2002)
Sworn Allegiance (2004)
Midvinterblot (2006)
Hammer Battalion (2008)