Is it acceptable for a German act mainly known for melodic death metal to advance their style into sub-genres like thrash and classic rock? Burden of Grief believe so on their 6th album "Unchained". Injecting enough variety in terms of the riff choices, tempos, and even manner of aggression to create everything from a modern groove stomper like the title track (the twin guitar harmonies envelope the Soilwork meets Machine Head feel) on through to straight forward classic throwback material complete with cowbell accents on "Fearless Heart".

Producer Dan Swanö gives the quintet a potent, in your face sonic outlook – allowing the heaviness and quiet parts to shine equally, as vocalist Mike Huhmann displays many facets of rage, aggression, and despair depending on the feel of a given track. Whether the guitars churn slower as the steady double bass carries the load on "The Final Chapter" or you hear an opening melody like that takes "Wasted Years" to another dimension on "Black Evolution 666", Burden of Grief willingly explore outer limit terrain, which takes their melodic thrash/death platform beyond conventional Scandinavian lines.

"Unchained" works well for my tastes because too many bands try to be the fastest, most intricate, or most extreme to shock and awe their audiences. Burden of Grief prefer to just let the music do the talking – smoothly putting together songs like "Your Heaven Is Gone" or "Awaken the Nightmare" (the latter featuring beautiful acoustic and electric instrumental runs) that create excitement and stay in the deep recesses of your brain weeks, months, and years later.

The digipack version contains 2 bonus tracks, one of which is their interpretation of "Neon Knights" from Black Sabbath. As great as the four musicians handle the harmonies and thick riffs, Mike’s sandpaper growls are amiss on this classic – as it’s tough to beat Ronnie James Dio soaring vocals. Probably the best studio album to date from this group – one that the underground can hold high.