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(Note: Originally written for Amazon.com on 3/6/2005.)
I'm not saying this is a bad CD, not at all. I guess it's just the fact that a lot of pressure was put on the band to make a suitable follow-up to 2002's colossal "Versus the World", thus making the song structures seem a bit forced and uninspired. A lot of "hype" was put behind this CD, (most likely due to Metal Blade's ravenous marketing strategies to make the band more popular and mainstream) and that's where this CD falls a bit short. Yeah, it's Amon Amarth, the typical formula of booming drums, soaring guitar melodies, etc; but two huge things are missing; ATTITUDE and FEROCITY, among other things which aren't uncommon to be seen in AA's music. The whole album just feels worn-down, tired, uninspired, and lacking any genuine feeling or effort. The music has slowed down a lot, which leaves more room for songwriting, but the songwriting, too, has simplified to accessible verse-chorus structures, and the drums have lost that unpredictable "octopus" style edge to them, exception of the first track, and often result in boring mid-paced tempos with little fills or variety. Speaking of variety, that's another weak point here. Whereas "Versus the World" had both slow, epic songs, and the thrashy face-rippers, the majority of the album (if not all) is mid-tempo, creating a large dirge of redundancy.
Some previous underground bands that went mainstream have gotten better to me, such as Soilwork or Mayhem. But the fact is, AA don't make commercially accessible music, and that's what is attempted here, and it just comes off as weak. There is no fist-clenched, teeth-gritting, pound-your-face-in type of AA to be found... This is definitely the "grimmest" of AA's albums though, and that's something I'll easily admit.
However, this isn't to say this CD is "bad", just disappointing. And don't tell me I need to listen to this more just to "get it". I've had this album since the day it came out, and I have listened to it time and time again to let it grow on me, and never once has anything really stuck to me. Soilwork pulled off going mainstream going well because of their diversity in the music, and AA did the exact opposite. You would swear sometimes that you wouldn't know when the song changed. Despite all of my complaining, there are still some good songs, mainly the title track, the catchy "The Pursuit of Vikings" and the haunting "Where Death Seems to Dwell". But the thing is, there aren't many things here that stick in your head unlike previous AA material. There are no "bad" tracks per se, but nothing really sticks out. The whole album just kind of plods along at one pace, falling into boredom. Simply put, it just seems like a filler CD put out to satisfy public opinion and the record compaany.
I hope this only happens one time to these guys...AA are far too talented to make music like this and fall so low. A bit of a disappointment... Maybe they just hit a rough spot, but who knows... Only time will tell.