Album Review: Jomsviking by Amon Amarth
Posted by RiffRaff
For years I’ve always ragged on Amon Amarth for churning out the same album ad nauseam. Killer riff, killer riff, growly growly growly, Vikings, Thor, killer riff, more growling, Vikings again, oh hey look it’s Odin! Luckily, Amon Amarth are a band that, even at their most derivative, write such grand headbanging tunes that I happily purchase each album on release day. Being as dependable as they are, even before popping the CD in I pretty much know what I’m getting; a collection of groovy riffs to sate any pangs I may occasionally have for good ol’ death metal. So, going by their near 20 year track record I went into Jomsviking expecting a very good album that I would listen to a few time throughout the week and then occasionally throughout the rest of the year, much like the rest of their back catalog. Well, it has been a good week solid and not only has Jomsviking been the only album I’ve been exclusively listening to, I’ve also been making opportunities to sneak in a song or two more whenever possible (during smoke breaks, deliberately walking slower to work, etc.) I was expecting good and I got a kegger at Vallhalla!
What really gets me about Jomsviking is it is old reliable Amon Amarth and at the same time a stylistic shift for the band. Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg’s melodic riffs are still at the forefront of every song and they are made to that classic thick groove thanks to the always proficient Ted Lundström on bass teamed with great pick for studio drummer Tobias Gustafsson. Johan Hegg still remains one of the best and most understandable growlers in the metal realm. Everything that one loves about Amon Amarth is here in spades, but now with extra, and more refined flavor.
What’s new to the table most likely comes from the fact that Jomsviking is Amon Amarth’s first concept album. Telling a touching love story (no, I’m not kidding) about a Viking who gets himself exiled when he kills a man after he goes into a rage when his love is sent to be married off to another clan. Vengeance and redemption ensue the Viking way, bloody. For a band known for their simplicity, and even with direct and simple lyrics, it’s a complex and powerful story; emotional even. Having to focus their sound around the narrative leads to Amon Amarth broadening their sound to effectively match the tale they wove. This leads to flurry of sounds, tones, and styles that they have touched upon in the past, but never honed to this sharpness. It’s what makes the record so easy to listen to repeatedly and makes it so addicting.
Each song boasts its own unique touch. The opener ‘First Kill’ is your typical Amon Amarth tune and ‘The Wanderer’ ventures into old school In Flames territory. Things get really interesting on the third track ‘On a Sea of Blood’ where, deer lord! that beautiful Bay Area thrash guitar tone splits open eardrums for a ripping, thrash-tastic assault slays for one of the most energetic songs the band has ever written. This shift to a brighter tone really accentuates the rest of the album allowing the guitarists really to show off those licks and solos they opened the floodgates on. They also work outstanding with Johan Hegg’s voice highlighting his range, especially on the Viking sing-a-long ‘Raise Your Horns’, which I expect to become an immediate live show classic.
‘The Way of the Vikings’ most likely benefits the most from the narrative as it is the point in the story where the protagonist must face his best friend on the battlefield in a fight to the death. One adjective I thought I’d ever use to describe an Amon Amarth song is ’emotional’, yet here I am doing it. The rhythmic, mid-paced riffs backing that bridge solo just gets me every time. Such a simple song, yet so fucking powerful. To a lesser extent Doro Pesch makes a guest appearance on ‘A Dream That Can Not Be’ as the main characters love and she delivers a performance that hits the emotion button hard.
And not to forget about easily my favorite song off the album, ‘At Dawn’s First Light’. This is clearly a love letter to Iron Maiden. Jam packed with galloping rhythms and riffs, dual attack, larger than life solos, and a high-flying, memorable chorus, this is basically everything I love about Iron Maiden (my favorite band btw) distilled into death metal. More tracks have a nice little Maiden influence to them and it’s great, but here it’s in full force and hot damn is it great. Without a doubt one of my favorite Amon Amarth songs ever.
I honestly can not speak highly enough of Jomsviking. If you had thought Amon Amarth were getting a bit stale or were going to sell-out moving to a big time major label, you need this album in your life. They are firing on all cylinders and have reasserted their claim as one of the best modern death metal bands in the world today. No metal head should be without this record. Peace Love and Metal!!!! 5.0 out of 5.0