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
I hate it when Dark Metal Cat goes gallivanting with feline temptresses and isn’t here to write my intros for me.
Dark Metal Cat has issued an advisory that this series has come under the scrutiny of the NSA because today’s episode includes no American bands. American metalheads may laugh at this allegation. Yeah? How did the NSA know what I was going to select before I did?
So today we have Amon Amarth, Sieges Even, Opeth and To-Mera. Dark Metal Cat has issued an advisory that the NSA has listed all of those band names as code words for secret meeting places where “strange people” in the USA listen to European bands.
Initially, I was going to limit my best of 2013 list to just my top 10. My reasoning was to make my list as tight as I could only highlighting the very best of what moved me during the year. After looking back at how many albums I listened to or was exposed to, that number hovered around 270 albums. So, I decided to expand my list to the same standard as previous years. Despite increasing my list to 15, it still only highlights about 5% of all the albums that graced my ear drums this year. So, what I present to you for the year 2013 my top 15, plus five more honorable mentions that will be posted in the vicinity of this list.
Tags: Alternative, amon amarth, Biffy Clyro, carcass, Clutch, Death Angel, Death Metal, Deceiver of the Gods, Earth Rocker, Exhumed, Ghost, Havok, Helloween, Intestissumam, Jungle Rot, metal, Necrocrasy, Opposites, Pelagial, Queensryche, Revocation, Rock, Self Titled, Sleepers Awake, Soilwork, Straight out of Hell, Surgical Steel, Terror Regime, The Dream Calls for Blood, the living infinite, The Ocean, Thrash, Top 15 of 2013, Transcension, Unnatural Selection
One day when I’m old and grey—.
Start again. When I’m even older and greyer or hairless, I’ll still be listening to all of these albums pretty often. I work alone in an office at home. I play music while I pretend to be busy. Often I get through ten albums a day. Without music, I’d go mad. My wife says that without metal, I might become sane, but she also says she’s used to my music making the panels on my desk vibrate. She’s lucky she can’t see what it’s doing to my insides.
May 2014 bring all of you great wealth, health, happiness and gut-thumping good metal. Read the rest of this entry →
Amon Amarth has a fine reputation for balancing polar opposite musical styles; melody and brutality. They also have the unfortunate distinction of walking a fine line of replication. Many will say that their inability to stray from a tried and true recipe for Melodic Death Metal hinders the band. If it isn’t broken why fix it? Metal is funny in that Metallica was blasted for trying something new, but then Amon Amarth receives a slightly less amount of flack for not trying anything new. Is there any middle ground? There is, it’s called Deceiver of the Gods, their ninth studio album since 1998. Consistent bunch these Swedes are and so the epic battle continues.
I can’t say I am a fan of System of a Down, but now and then I do listen to a few of their songs. I had their self-titled album, System of a Down, but after that never really followed them. If they had something on TV or radio I would listen, but they never caught my attention for more than their most popular songs. I was familiar enough with the song Aerials to recognize it when it appeared on Amon Amarth’s latest release Surtur Rising as a cover. The original Aerials song appears on SOTD’s album Toxicity (2001) which I think was their most popular and resulted in Grammy nods and chart positions.
Amon Amarth’s version is not far removed from the original, but much more down-tuned and doomy. It’s a cool cover mainly because it came unexpected from a band like Amon Amarth to cover something from the new-ish wave of American metal. Surtur Rising is Amon Amarth’s 8th studio album and was released in Mar 2011. I am not sure if the cover of Aerials is on printed CD at this point, but when it was released it was an iTunes special edition track.
This is the cover off the album Surtur Rising (fan video).
This is the video from System of a Down found on the album Toxicity.
Ok, I fell behind with my 12 days of Metalmas, so time to catch up a bit:
On the 8th day of Metalmas my true love gave to me
Eight Heads a-Banging
Seven Glam Bands a- Laying
Six Slayers Slaying
Fiiiiivveee Gooolllldd Riiinnnggsss (to rule them all)
Four Crying Birds
Three French Bands
Two Headless Doves
And an Opeth in a pear tree
There are a million and one metal bands out there that inspire uncontrollable bouts of headbanging, but of all of them a single band comes to my mind when thinking of the most headbangable bands. Amon Amarth. The groove and aggression in their music is a perfect mix of whipping thy locks to and fro, and if you’ve ever seen them live you’ll be quick to notice that the stage is nothing but a whirlwind of hair, same could be said for the crowd.
On the 4th day of Metalmas my true love gave to me
Four crying birds
Three French bands
Two headless doves
And an Opeth in a pear tree
The original lyrics to the song sing ‘four collie birds’ for this part of the song. If you’ve ever wondered what the hell a collie bird is, it’s simply a common blackbird. When we put a space in ‘blackbird’ it becomes black bird and one of the most famous birds of the black color is the raven. In Norse mythology Odin had a pair of ravens named Hugin and Munin who would travel to the human world and report its daily happenings to Odin. Amon Amarth’s song “Cry of the Black Birds” tells of a battle where a general tells his men to let Odin’s ravens tell of the battle they are about to fight they fought valiantly and bravely.
I imagine, given our unfortunate fate, Doom Over Dead Man applies to women as well. I don’t think this list would be complete without fitting in some melodic Death metal and Amon Amarth is the perfect band to be on a countdown to world demise. You can find this song on their latest album Surtur Rising. In my opinion one of the best songs on the album. Today is the 15th day (counting backward)…just over two weeks to go. Have you ticked some boxes on your bucket list? I am just going to go gracefully when the time comes, but I am definitely going to be listening to good quality metal. However, I do have a song in mind if we wake up on the 22nd 😉 Have a great weekend…there is only two left. The video below is a fan video since there isn’t an official one.