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I'm Drawing A Blank - 48%

OzzyApu, June 25th, 2013

Amon Amarth catch my attention with each of their albums. I began skipping every other album since things started getting superfluous, but the general formula is something I appreciate. When the music starts to become duly, such as coming into existence only because Amon Amarth have to keep making music, then it gets pointless. Amon Amarth's brand of melodic death is easy to recognize, but even easier is to identify the stock riffs and unmemorable choruses that go with it. Plus that cover art's goofy in a bad way.

The usual slash of riffs colliding with thunderous power meanders with tenuous effectiveness here. It's a shell of the band's past performance, with less inspiration and more force of habit. I'm into Amon Amarth with spiraling, epic leads and colossal riffing, but that's spread thin now. I've heard more aggression and passion in As I Lay Dying songs, and that's being said as a fan of both bands. "As Loke Falls" has the tumultuous approach that I'm talking about in certain riffs, but it gets bogged down by lazy writing. It's like they got trapped in their own pool of riffs and could only muster a limited amount corresponding pieces for each song. The title track is a prime example of how to fuck up the momentum before the album even gets going. Compare that to the opener of Surtur Rising, which combined a tsunami-like tempo with bulky growls and tasteful leads to create something memorable and timeless.

I can't fault the production, either, since it's still ripe and meaty (Sneap's productions can become stale, but I feel as though it works here). The bass' sustain is hefty and the riffs are still long-lasting and fat. "Under Siege" even has a great bass section that's like a pulsating beat carrying the song forward. The drum kit's a tad metallic with the snare but it's otherwise suitably smooth. The instruments are clearly mixed and come together well, but I'm just not feeling it in the music between Johan's gaping growls and the guitars. Not a lot feels right, as if it could have been written far better than it turned out. "Father Of The Wolf" for instance starts out immensely with its textbook Gothenburg riffs, but then it ends up in power metal territory. It works there, but too often on the album do the band's melodies teeter or end up sounding contrived as a result of unnatural transitions. For instance, "We Shall Destroy" sounds like a Bolt Thrower song sapped of life as it employs bouncy riffs and that tank-roll drumming. Opposite to that is the plodding rocker "Hel" with Messiah Marcolin sounding like an out-of-tune ass.

The closer, "Warriors Of The North," is what I don't want to be hearing from the band this late in their career. The gash of harmonized leads and freer drumming envelops the rigorous riffs and tremolo picking, but the rhythm's decent enough so as to absorb the character. However, it's too long - like taking a modern Dark Tranquillity song and putting it on life support. It becomes unmemorable halfway through and the band figures that by burying itself in redundancy the song would somehow turn out fine. Go back to "Prediction Of Warfare" from With Oden On Our Side and you'll hear elegance in melodic death that didn't amount to being boring. It felt genuine with that warm atmosphere and titanic scope. Not like the desiccated droll the band is dishing out with this album.

What's cool to me is the heavy / power metal influence in the song "Coming Of The Tide". It's pretty standard, but it's got more catchiness than the tired and tried melodic death ones. Something like that is stronger in keeping me interested, but Amon Amarth got too comfortable with themselves and went for banality. Surtur Rising was more potent than this, and the originality of that is only a hair above this one. Even with talk of originality out of the picture, I'm not sold on the unity and direction. There are a couple good tracks, but Deceiver Of The Gods is one unsavory offering. Best look back on past success for enjoyment from these guys.