Swedish Viking death metal legends Unleashed are enjoying plenty of praise lately due to their awesome new full-length album Odalheim hitting the streets. With the newest slab of vintage Unleashed making their catalogue of long players a cool dozen, it doesnít appear that the veterans have it in them to hit the brakes anytime soon. Instead, on the strength of the songs scattered across Odalheimís entirety, it can be argued that Unleashed are just getting started.
Blistering.com was fortunate enough to catch up with one of the founding members of the band, drummer Anders Schultz, to gauge where the band stands currently and what their opinions are of Odalheim. Easily one of their finest records to date, Schultz tries his best to answer the myriad questions thrown his way. Read on to see what Unleashedís skinsman has to say about Odalheim, the bandís future and with whom theyíd love to tour, given the chance:
Blistering.com: First off, Anders, congratulations on the new Unleashed album Odalheim. Iím not sure if itís Unleashedís finest album to date, but itís certainly up there with your best. Iíll assume you are extremely proud of the finished product?
Anders Schultz: Thanks! Great to hear! I don't like to compare albums, but it's definitely up there with the best of them as far as we're concerned and we are proud indeed.
Blistering.com: This album is a follow-up to As Yggdrasil Trembles both in music and story. Do you think youíve perfectly completed the story and if there was anything that you would have changed with the two albums but didnít, what would it be?
Schultz: It certainly is. And that is exactly what we wanted. Nothing is ever perfect, but we feel it is a natural continuation both musically and story-wise. Canít actually say we'd want to change a thing really.
Blistering.com: With the new album, what was the biggest challenge within the band in creating it? Was it execution of the story, the music?
Schultz: Well I think for Johnny (Hedlund, bass/vocals) it was a challenge to get the story right and seeing how it is a story from the first to last song, there was a bit of a challenge getting it all to fit and getting the songs in the right order, etc. Otherwise songwriting more or less went smooth.
Blistering.com: Being a veteran band with a dozen full albums under its belt, has it gotten easier to write new material? Or, because of your history, is it actually more difficult because of the need to maintain Unleashedís level of excellence?
Schultz: Well it's a bit of both I guess. It's easier in a way because of experience, but true; there is more pressure to excel. But that's as it should be. It keeps us focused.
Blistering.com: What are your realistic expectations of Odalheim in terms of recognition, albums sold, touring, etc?
Schultz: Hard to say really. As for sales one canít really expect anything these days. Just hope people like it enough to actually spend some money and buy the thing. It's for a good cause (laughs)! But we intend to keep touring as always and especially since the last four albums or so it seems we're on a steady increase in general.
Blistering.com: Unleashed doesnít come to the States often at all. Are there any plans of touring the USA in support of the new album?
Schultz: Unfortunately not lately. It's a shame and we do, of course, hope to be back to the States soon.
Blistering.com: Not many European bands come and tour the States as much as they used to because of the changing economy and music business. Can you elaborate in your own words why itís gotten so difficult for foreign bands to tour over here?
Schultz: I canít speak for others, but in our case, and I believe it's the same for many others, it's purely financial, unfortunately. There's just so many more costs involved going overseas which makes it hard to get it together. Personally I think it's great touring the States, and Iíd do it for free if I could. But we, as everyone else, have bills to pay and families to feed. Hopefully we'll be able to get it done soon though.
Blistering.com: Looking back on your career in Unleashed, is Odalheim your favorite album? If not, what Unleashed record do you consider to be your best?
Schultz: As I mentioned earlier, I donít like comparing albums. I mean the timespan alone is huge, and for instance, production techniques etc change. I do think our last few albums are some of the best we've accomplished, but I do like our first three equally well. A lot of nostalgia involved of course.
Blistering.com: Unleashed has always been one of the more unique metal bands with its own sound. Over the years, not much has really changed in terms of music, lyrical themes, etc. Unleashed is very similar to bands like Napalm Death and Deceased where the new albums have a few wrinkles yet itís always classic Unleashed. How important is it for you to not change your approach or sound every time a new album comes out?
Schultz: It's been our thought from the start to always stay true to our sound and not take other directions. It's always going to be Unleashed! However, the challenge has become to evolve and progress within that.
Blistering.com: How frustrating is it for you when you hear your favorite bands completely change their sound?
Schultz: It is quite a bit actually. I honestly canít think of many examples where a big change in musical direction has made things better.
Blistering.com: Unleashed has been a functioning band since 1989. How different is the music business and metal scene today compared to when you first started?
Schultz: Hard to say when you're always in the middle of it in a way. The music business is not really of interest to us in that way. We do our thing and do it best we can. The business is a necessary evil one has to deal with so to speak. The scene has had its ups and downs but it feels as strong as ever really. It's just turned into a different monster these days.
Blistering.com: Looking back on your entire career, what changes would you make if you were able to go back in time and redo the last 23 years?
Schultz: [laughs] Iím sure there's one or two events that could be changed. But really in general there's nothing I'd change. Sure, there's maybe some labels we'd have been better off not working with but there's no point in regrets. We'd rather look to the future.
Blistering.com: Unleashed has always been a rather prolific band in terms of creating new material. Obviously the new album just came out, but what can we expect from Unleashed in the future, or is it too early to even comment on that?
Schultz: Well for us, songwriting is constantly ongoing. But now, of course, focus is on what this new album will bring as well as touring and festival plans for the year. But of course, new albums ahead and the challenge to push the boundaries more and more.
Blistering.com: If Unleashed could tour with or create new music with any one band or musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
Schultz: Tough question. As far as collaborating musically it's just something we donít really do. We do it ourselves! As for touring, we've of course had the pleasure of touring with numerous great bands, many of which we've been fans of ourselves. Of course one would want to go out with favorite bands. I wouldnít mind a tour with Autopsy or Voivod for example.
Blistering.com: Thank you so much for time and again, congratulations on Odalheim.
Schultz: Thanks for the killer interview and for the kind words! Hope to see you on tour soon! Hail Oden!