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As our plundering friends in Amon Amarth probably know all too well by now: the double-edged broadsword swings quite widely. This much was evident during the last decade as the band wafted between good efforts: Versus the World, great efforts: With Oden on Our Side, and faceless patience-testers: Twilight of the Thunder God. While the group gained a decent enough foothold with the massive-sounding Surtur Rising, I hate to be the one to admit that they are beginning to let the spectres of past adversaries-slain distract and obfuscate their material again.
From a sonic standpoint, this falls in line with most of what we have come to expect from Amon Amarth. The guitar tone is massive and crunchy, heading the charge as the band continues to experiment with more traditional heavy metal aesthetics like during the main riff of "Hel". That's not to say there is a dearth of speed though, as "Father of the Wolf" trudges along at a pretty efficient tempo as it hails back to the memorable "Valhall Awaits Me". The guitars' tone sounds acerbic and cavernous, with meaty notes ringing out over the deliberate inclination of Andersson's percussive assault. The drums sound a bit too clicky and mechanical for my taste, but the performance is naturally quite solid; even if it lacks the reverberating disposition present on Surtur Rising.
The biggest single issue manifests itself from a melodic standpoint. Amon Amarth's trademark heaviness is accounted for, but the triumphant melodies most definitely aren't. The title track makes false promises in this regard, as it opens with a solid lead but quickly discards it, never to revisit it's melodic appeal again. This does immeasurable damage to Deceiver of the Gods' lasting power, as the measured leadwork is what made former epics like "For Victory or Death" so potent and memorable. "Shape Shifter" tries to summon a decent, groovy atmosphere but it's stock melodies put more pressure on the riffs than they can handle. The band tries to add variety, like the inclusion of a guest vocalist during the otherwise potent "Hel", but it comes off as a distraction more than anything in this case.
At first blush this doesn't come off as offensive as Twilight of the Thunder God due to the still-crushing production, but the tepid compositions seal it's fate as yet another disappointment. It isn't that anything here on Deceiver of the Gods is abashedly repulsive, but it reeks of a phoned-in performance and rushjob all the same. "Father of the Wolf" is decent, grooving death metal. The requisite closer "Warriors of the North" also becomes more animated during it's second half, but this all just makes you wish that the band would take more time and gather their warriors for a more structured, honed assault on the senses. Anything is better than the lukewarm genre-posturing present here.