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Loftier lore, predictable approach. - 87%

hells_unicorn, June 25th, 2013

Amon Amarth has been at it for a fairly long time, yet only within the past 7 years have they settled into a particularly comfortable stylistic niche and find themselves revisiting nearly the exact same territory with each passing album. Though some will hint at traces of their stadium friendly brand of melodeath being present circa their lauded 2001 album "Crusher", it wasn't until the heavily popular "With Oden On Our Side" that the almost power metal leaning consistency of their songwriting became apparent. Naturally those who preferred the Swedish sound of the early 90s when At The Gates was raging at full speed and the other 2 members of the Gothenburg trio were just getting started are a bit skeptical of a band that has all but embraced the catchiness of rock radio while maintaining the vocal persona and heaviness that keeps them outside of the area inhabited by the likes of fellow Swedish darlings of the power metal scene Sabaton.

"Deceiver Of The Gods" has very little contrast to it when dealing with "Surtur Rising" or "Twilight Of The Thunder God", save perhaps that here Amon Amarth has opted to get a bit fancier, a little catchier, and are keeping the tempo on the upper end. The songs themselves delve into the subject of Norse mythology a bit more than the historic exploits of the Vikings themselves, and along for the ride comes an approach to songwriting that is, interestingly enough, a bit more thrashing and yet also a bit more folksy. Occasional clean guitar passages filter out of the intro to the opening title song and the mid-tempo lighters blazing anthem "Under Siege" that almost point directly to the period sound of early Ensiferum, though no period instruments are employed. Simultaneously, the meat and potatoes of "Deceiver Of The Gods" brings in a slight Bay Area feel to complement a string of melodies and riffs that are quite similar to "Twilight Of The Thunder God", to speak nothing for the pummeling fit of thrashing rage that is "Blood Eagle".

In spite of all the unsubtle nods to latter day Testament and a number of folk bands from neighboring Finland, the prime feature of this album is its animated feel and unrelenting appeal to consonance in spite of the frosty ugliness of Hegg's guttural shouts. The songs that stick out the most, namely "Father Of The Wolf", "Coming Of The Tide", "Deceiver Of The Gods" and the surprisingly compatible merger of Amon Amarth with Messiah Marcolin "Hel", do so primarily because they tend to reaffirm elements that this band has found themselves referring back to of late when appealing to their base. The songwriting process is quite simple and borderlines on pop formulation, in spite of the presentation itself being way too aggressive for anything that the average post-grunge drone or pop punk would even contemplate messing with. Sure, there's a nice guitar solo here and there (particularly that of "Father Of The Wolf"), but the songs are largely built off of 3 or 4 different riffs and rarely veers off a basic rhythmic structure with a singing melody/harmony going on within the music.

Having said all of that, there was one truly shining moment to this album that makes its contrast with previous works, and that is the epic closer "Warriors Of The North". While not terribly more complex than anything else on here, the brilliant interplay between the instruments and the layering of clean and distorted guitar themes is nothing short of brilliant, bringing up memories of the majestic character of Ensiferum's "Heathen Throne", a song that itself sounded like it was influenced by early works by this band. It's a little bit plainer and stricter in its approach than the aforementioned song, but it accomplishes a similar sense of lofty imagery of warriors marching off for glory in the merciless snow-covered wastelands of the north.

It's a foregone conclusion that if any album that this band has put out since 2006 has agreed with you, this one will too. This band makes waves through a combination of quality and consistency, perhaps sacrificing originality in the process, but getting the job done regardless. They are essentially the ideal melodic death metal band for those not inclined toward death metal, which is not always seen as a good thing, but it agrees with the musical sensibilities of this reviewer, who is himself not averse to old school death metal nor all of its recent off-shoots. I still tend to prefer "Surtur Rising" a bit more, but this one is drawn from the same glorious strain and will likely be equally loved by all who were taken in by that one 2 years ago. Raise your goblets of mead to the sky once more, for the old Norse gods still seem to have a reputable group of bards to continue telling the tale.