Unrest - Back to the roots 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-16-07


1. Go to hell
2. Bang your head
3. A legend is born
4. Far, far away
5. Don't stop
6. We will rock
7. Braking the chains
8. Lost
9. Open the gates
10. Burning desire

Fans of stout anthemic Teutonic steel, take heart! After a protracted 6-year absence from the scene, Unrest have returned. One of Germany's longest running traditional metal acts, Unrest have never received the accolades and acclaim that have graced their compatriots and kindred spirits in bands like Accept, Grave Digger and Primal Fear. Still they have soldiered on for nearly 20 years, oblivious to trends and fads, and notwithstanding a virtual revolving door at the 2nd guitarist slot (which was briefly anchored by Stefan Schmidt of Van Canto fame) and at the bass guitar position. I have always been partial to their 'Cold steel whisper' opus from 1998, which presented Unrest at the zenith of their songwriting abilities, garnered them praise from the likes of Kai Hansen, and earned them a slot at the prestigious Wacken Open Air Festival, where I saw them deliver an amazing gig. But Unrest have never released a bad CD. With each of their 5 outings before this new CD, they have delivered uncompromising old-school German metal anthems that are in line with the likes of prime U.D.O., Vanize, midtempo Paragon or perhaps Gun Barrel at their heaviest.

Any concern that the intervening passage of years preceding 'Back to the roots' might have dulled Unrest's razor-sharp edge is obliterated by a quick scan of the liner notes. As a matter of pride and principle, these natives of Bremen have never included lyrics in their booklets, and they don't start now. Instead, they offer a message to their fans, printed in English and German to maximize the impact. After thanking their true fans for purchasing 'Back to the roots' (rather than downloading it illegally), Unrest explain that this CD title is much more than a name, but is instead a reflection of the band's abiding musical philosophy and their refusal to bow to trends, even though critics may dismiss their music as "of stone age." This CD is dedicated to those "who are still into the good original metal," and Unrest exhort all of us to play it loud and bang our heads. From this inscription, you, gentle reader, probably have an excellent sense of whether 'Back to the roots' might appeal to you.

For those who have enjoyed Unrest's output previously, 'Back to the roots' is a blind buy, as it fits in seamlessly with their discography. Vocalist Sanke Lau is still a gruff melodic presence reminding of a combination of Chris Boltendahl, Udo Dirkschneider and Blackie Lawless. Guitarist/co-founder Claus Wiechert has not lost his penchant for stout traditional metal riffs and cool solos, and (in keeping with Unrest tradition) adds his smooth, melodic lead vocals to closer "Burning desire". Returning drummer Guido Hettwer and the new members perform more than competently as well. The production job is crunchy and gritty, just as this kind of CD should be, with no keyboards, no samples and no drum computers. And the collection of songs is a worthy addition to Unrest's legacy, particularly on killer cuts like opener "Go to hell", the catchy "A legend is born", the quick-paced "Far far away", and the sing-a-long-worthy "We will rock". After several listens, I think it unlikely that 'Back to the roots' will dethrone 'Cold steel whisper', but it certainly will not tarnish the legacy in any way.

Although this new CD is available via Massacre, Unrest's prior recordings were released through Black Arrow/Point Music and are therefore very difficult to find today. For that reason, it is a particularly cool gesture that the limited edition version of 'Back to the roots' is bundled with a bonus disc, namely Unrest's 3rd CD, 'Watch out', which dates back to 1997. 'Watch out' is a fine CD in its own right, spawning such monster cuts as the title track, "Don't X the line" and "Sadness and darkness". So if you're in the market for some Unrest, make sure you double your pleasure by tracking down the limited edition of 'Back to the roots', for a guaranteed 85-minute dose of 100% straightahead heavy metal goodness in the time-honored German style.




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