1991; let the sink in for a moment. Fuck that was a long time ago. Like, pre-cell phone era, when people had “mobile phones” with batteries that could fry bacon or produce a cancerous brain tumor that whispered evil shit in the subconscious. It was so long ago, I was a wee grub of a collegiate human, feasting on the excrement of those higher up the academic food chain. The world was consumed with fear and fire as a war started in ancient Mesopotamia which is, beyond all logic and reason, still going on today. The bloated corpse of the Soviet Union continued to explode and spatter the region with a bunch of piss-ant countries. Everyone’s favorite cannibal Jeff Dahmer got caught with his dick in someone’s skull, “going postal” became a thing, people thought Pearl Jam was cool, and Starbucks opened in California. Lots of deliciously stupid shit happened that year!
And to top it all off, a craven band of pissed off Swedes going by the name of Unleashed led by Johnny Hedlund (at the time, ex-Nihilist) vomited forth their first album of songs: Where No Life Dwells. Produced by Waldemar Sorychta, released on the world by Century Media, this was one of those records (along with Entombed, Morbid Angel, etc.) which clawed me in the balls and essentially rewired my brain. Once the cute little acoustic intro ends (designed to lure in the unsuspecting… “Oh, this album is called Where No Life Dwells, I’m sure it’s going to be filled with sweet songs about loving and gentle forest creatures!”) and Johnny drops his first grunting snarl of “DIE!” at the beginning of “Dead Forever,” it’s just, you know, it’s fucking Swedish death metal. It blasts. It rages. It slows down just a tad and then explodes into violent riffs. “Before the Creation of Time” is an instant classic. Great drum work by Anders Shultz, full-on hammer-down blasting which abruptly lurches to a near crawl, like getting run over in slow motion by a tank driven by meth-addled warlord of Evil. All of the songs off this first album were perfect anthems of annihilation live. My apologies (not really) to the many, many people I pummeled in the pit during the Unleashed shows. And then Johnny would bring out the drinking horn at the encore and anoint the faithful; yes, I have drunk from the horn, or at least, had beer poured in my face.
It couldn’t be sustained, of course, and I think (with the benefit of hindsight) we all knew this at the time. It was just too much, so over the top, so blatant and extreme. That was what made it so special. It’s totally weird to think that Unleashed just released another album “Dawn of the Nine” (check it out, it’s perfectly serviceable death metal) almost 25 years after the debut. The world has, in general, moved on from music like this. Obviously there are those of us who keep the torch burning; and part of me wonders what would have happened if by some glorious, hideous, awesome accident bands like Unleashed and Entombed had become the standard bearers for musical culture in the 1990’s instead of the flannel-draped yarlers who made mediocrity the pinnacle of achievement. Maybe we would have risen up and burnt the Earth to a crisp.
Then again, we now have Katy Perry, the Great Whore of Babylon, riding the Dragon. Maybe all is not lost.