author PP date 18/11/06

For more than 17 years now, Unleashed has been one of the names to count on in the Swedish death metal scene. Influenced by the viking culture and the brutality of the death metal scene, the band puts together songs that reside perfectly in between the melodic death metal and the flat-out aggressive death metal scenes, which is one of the reasons the band's earlier work has been nominated as classic death metal works in the past. We took a hold on Johnny Hedlund, the band's bassist/vocalist for a chat about, well, everything. Read on to find out his opinions on metalcore and the future of death metal.

RF.net: To start off the interview, please introduce yourself to the readers who might not be familiar with Unleashed.
I’m Johnny, bass and vocals.

RF.net: In many reviews I see the term ‘viking metal’ often used in association with Unleashed – yet many of the comments you get tend to argue against this. Where would you position your music yourself?
We are a Death Metal band. What you refer to is the fact that about 20% of our lyrics are Viking type of lyrics. That doesn’t change our musical style as I see it.

RF.net: You’ve been around for 17 years now. Looking back over the years, what have been the highs and the lows, what have you enjoyed the most and what would you do differently?
Like you said we have been doing this for some time now. Meaning we are very solid and have a good vision for the future. We are true to what we do and do not change by the wind. I think this is very important in a world of trends that reek of commercialism. I think however we have learned from mistakes in the past especially on the business side of things. Negotiating with record labels and such. If I would have done anything differently it’s just being a better business man in the early days…..but I can’t change the past and it’s more important to do things right in the present than to be nostalgic and bitter.

RF.net: “Midvinterblot” is your eighth studio album. How has your sound changed over the years and what has influenced it/inspired it?
I think it’s natural to try and get better all the time, production and engineering must be developed on every new album. Also skills like for example vocals…..I personally tried for many years to get even more brutal and yet keep the clearness of the vocals so people can hear my words better….I think we did just that on Midvinterblot. We have done this in the past aswell but I think we progressed just a little bit further this time around.

RF.net: “Midvinterblot” is also your first album on SPV. How did you get in touch with the label and how has it been working with them?
We need a strong partner that believed in death metal and the future of Unleashed. SPV was one of many offers and truly had the best one…..and the best ideas for coming promotional activities too. This is very important in to days music industry. SPV is very professional and have an excellent crew.

RF.net: One thing that has always striked me about not only your music but others in the genre is the unbelievable guitar solo sequences – how do you come up with them, what is the process behind the songs?
I think Fredrik just plays a hell of a lot of guitar. That way he gets lots of material to choose from and he is also very skilled so he can make them fit very well to our songs.

RF.net: The Swedish (and all of Nordic actually) death/melodic death metal scene is the most productive in the world. Have you ever found it difficult to distinguish yourselves from the hundreds of other bands in the scene? What does it take to ‘be a winner’ in Death Metal?
If I knew that we’d sell like Iron Maiden haha…….no well, I think it’s about making very strong songs and be a fantastic live act. To be honest…..at least that’s our ultimate aim anyway.

RF.net: North America (and the UK as well) has recently seen the rise of ‘emo’ bands going metal – a genre that has been dubbed as metalcore – You have lived through its rise and are witnessing now its culmination. What is your opinion on this genre that draws its influence from both pop and Swedish melodic death metal?
Can’t say I care too much about it. We do our shit. Others can do theirs. We are Swedish Death Metal. And are not very interested in mixing styles at all. But I can understand if others are to some point….death metal is very attractive so I can understand if they want to use some of our stuff to improve their music.

RF.net: Referring to the Swedish Death Metal question again, why do you think most of world’s major melodic death/death metal bands are based in Sweden/Scandinavia area, and at the same time the scene here is largely missing the metalcore movement (the opposite is true for the UK and USA)? Are we just generally darker people?
Don’t know really, Death Metal is about dedication. The bands I know from Sweden are extremely dedicated.

RF.net: You are currently on an European tour called “Masters of Death” together with Grave, Dismember, Entombed and Exterminator. (Assuming you will answer these questions either mid-tour or after the tour), how is/was the tour and what has been/was the greatest show and why?
The tour is fantastic and the warriors of Europe sing our choruses so damn loud I almost can’t believe it. It’s just a 3 week party, that what it is. We have a great time here with all 5 bands.

RF.net: You will be headlining a North American tour in February and March together with some interesting names (Krisiun, Belphegor and Hatesphere). What are your expectations of this tour
I expect it to be a killer tour. Really cool bands and a great time in Vinland.

RF.net: Describe the perfect Unleashed show.
Total fury. A sing along crowd from hell. Just unleashing hell…that’s what it’s all about.

RF.net: Death Metal (and its subgenres) does not have a too positive picture especially in the mainstream media. Do the preconceptions of people uncommon to the genre ever discourage you? Do you think Death Metal will ever gain enough air under its wings to rise from its strictly underground status?
It will. Mark my words. You probably said the same about punk, thrash, or heavy metal too years ago. Everything has it’s time. We have only yet begun the war.

RF.net: What have you guys been listening to recently?
Dismember, Entombed, Grave, Grand Magus, Bolt Thrower…..

RF.net: A hot topic in the recent years has been the issue of downloading music, and we tend to ask all bands we interview this same question – what is your overall opinion on it, and do you approve of the try-before-you buy policy?
In the early 80’ies, I traded cassettes with others……the bands I really loved I went out and bought. It’s that simple.

RF.net: And finally, what does the future hold for Unleashed? How many years will we see you guys going at it?
My guess is another 20 years would be a good start.

RF.net: Thanks for the interview. The last words are yours:
Thanks for the interview and we sure hope to play Denmark soon, it’s been far to long.

Hail Odin!


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