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Unleashed

Hoewel Unleashed nooit tot de absolute wereldtop is gaan behoren, commercieel gezien, is het één van die death metal bands die in de marge een groot respect geniet. Ze waren er vanaf bijna het begin al bij en zijn altijd trouw gebleven aan dezelfde principes, tekstueel en muzikaal, zonder dat het voelt als een herhaling van zetten. Het onlangs verschenen ‘The Hunt For The White Christ’ (Napalm Records) is van A tot Z ijzersterk en kent misschien niet echt hoogtepunten, maar zeker ook geen zwak moment. De topics op het album, de geschiedenis van de BIJNA dertig jaar oude band en natuurlijk het prachtige artwork op dat album, zijn allemaal goede reden om eens een lijn naar de sympathieke Zweedse grootmeesters van Viking metal te gooien. Zanger Johnny Hedlund zat klaar om de vragen te beantwoorden. En hij heeft weer behoorlijk wat materie in zijn teksten verwerkt, zo blijkt.

Door: Ramon | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Welcome back to Lords of Metal! You surprised me you continued the Yggdrasil trilogy with the new album ‘The Hunt For White Christ’, or at least Odalheim is once again the stage where the new story is set. Was the story unfinished, you felt?
Thank you for having us! Ok, it was never finished and still isn’t. Since it is based upon a book I never got to finish really, then there is a lot more where this all came from. There are many chapters still unrevealed.

How many songs were there written before you recorded this record? The reason I ask this, is because all the songs are (again) so incredibly coherent, wouldn’t you agree?
Thank you. Well, I guess we always have a few more songs on most albums we make, some stuff that just doesn’t fit in to this very album. And most of the time, it just doesn’t qualify, so to speak.

We touched the subjects before a bit, but could you dig a little deeper into the lyrical content? Without giving all of it away, of course.
OK well, the story line is all about the World of Odalheim as you stated here. The story of Odalheim is about the Midgard Warriors and their fight against the main enemy ‘White Christ’. The last album ‘Dawn of the Nine’ ended with the song where the Midgard Warriors led by the son of Thor returns to Folkland shores after a successful quest to take back Svithiod and the Nordic region from White Christ’s reign of terror. Now, as this happens, a few scattered surviving armies of White Christ took the opportunity to attack villages on the South. These villages were naturally inhabited mostly with unarmed women, children and old people. Needless to say they were slaughtered, dismembered, raped and ultimately burned. When the Midgard Warriors arrive at the village, it is all too late. This exact moment is what you see in the cover art work. The Midgard Warriors realize that something must be done, and quickly. If White Christ can do this…what will happen next? They raise the runic letter G over the village for Blot to the dead and for victory in the coming war. And as a symbol of the ultimate act of man – to give without expecting something in return. The Midgard Warriors stand ready to give their life for family and kin. And so the hunt begins… The Hunt For White Christ. There is more to the story line in the end of the album but I guess like you say here...let’s leave something too...

Wow, that was quite elaborate already, thanks. The songs are situated in Odalheim, but do you think they can be translated to this day and age, particularly aiming at the anti-Christian sentiments of the Viking warriors and the way we disrespect nature nowadays, captured in the song ‘They Rape The Land’?
Well, the story line has its inspiration and derived much from today’s problems and events so in some sense it is correct. Before the post-apocalyptic world of Odalheim, there was the world we live in today. The Midgard warriors knew that there would be black clouds on the horizon and that the world as we know it would come to an end. So they prepared for it. And as the Fimbulwinter came, many of them survived the three years of lasting cold and darkness that was the inevitable fate of the times. After Ragnarök (the end of the world) rose the new world upon the ashes of the old. And Odalheim was born. Now, the song you refer to, is about how things normally turn out when the armies of White Christ take over any kind of land or population for that matter.

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Ok, thanks for elucidating that too. Knowing all this contributes to the listening experience, I think. Something else now. Next year, the band will blow out 30 candles. Is that something that is already on your mind?
Yes it is, and we are making some plans for some special things to happen next year to celebrate this, but they are not totally set yet, so I can’t give you any more info on that unfortunately.

Ok, I will not hold my breath, but I am very anticipative on that, then. You switched labels and are now part of the Napalm Records roster. How did that come about?
We thought it’d be a good time for a change in many ways. We are still good friends with Nuclear Blast and their crew. But we thought it would be time for some new things to happen and a new cooperation on things we do.

Does this mean there will be touring with label mates in the near future?
Haha we’ll see about that. But why not?

Will this also have consequences for the back catalogue?
Not really, our previous labels will likely keep putting our stuff out the same way they always did.

Which songs will most definitely make it to the live set?
OK, this is still under some debate. We shall see but right now we will play two on our upcoming festival in Germany. We shall see which else.

Ok, the best way to find out is to come and see, then, hahaha. Is there a song that is too hard to play live?
Haha, well, there always is, but it is normally not about that. More which songs are the ones people want to hear.

Does your live set consist of the songs you like the best, or do you make choices by picking songs that work best live?
I’d say it is mostly due to what we think people want to hear, second which songs we believe are the strongest live, but mostly that’s really the same thing. Well, not always. But it truly is a process this, and we switch a song or two after some months of playing them.

Before I forget, how did you get this stunning artwork delivered?
Thank you! The artwork, as described in an earlier question, is a sequence in the story line. And so I told this to the artist, Pär Olofsson, and he drew this from what I described. And hell yes, we are extremely happy with the result off course. I think he really did exactly what I hoped for. And that is no small thing, since it really is an image in my mind that he drew here. Very strong work indeed.

Does it reflect the album content, you think?
Yes as described above. The events in song 3-5 of the story line, approximately.

Thanks again for your time, I wish you all the best with the promotion of this stellar record. Be proud of it, it is among my favourites of 2018. Is there anything you would like to say to close the interview down?
Thank you very much for those words on the new album! And thanks for the interview! Hail Odin!

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