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Everyone and their mother knows Amon Amarth these days so there is really no need to say anything about them or their career in general. I mean, last Midsummer, my aunt told me that "The bonfire looks a lot like the album covers of that Swedish band who sound like Satan." The album starts off like so many other Amon Amarth songs, without any introduction, going straight into a fast and simple drum beat and tremolo picking. At about a minute in when the intro part is repeated again with Johan Hegg's harsh and desperate - even mournful - vocals joining in, you know what Amon Amarth is about. Harsh background combined with the melancholy and minor chords ruling the foreground.
Which is their downfall. You are hard pressed to make a difference between the songs. Their albums often end up sounding like they wrote two songs. "Oh, this is the fast song. And now this is the slow one. Ah, 'tis the fast one again." However, on Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds this problem doesn't showcase as strongly. At least not in this particular form. They are yet to become so formulaic in their songwriting. The songs here don't really follow any conventional song structures, just flowing from one part to another, very fluidly too. While this unconventional style of writing makes for an interesting standpoint against the rest of their albums, it doesn't save the album from its aforementioned fatal flaw: The songs blend too much into others. One can listen to the EP from beginning to end numerous times, but nothing really sticks to one's mind. The first song is recognizable for its lack of any sort of intro and Burning Creation is notable for its staccato riff as well as the calmer and even more melancholic atmosphere, but besides that the album is a mesh of tremolo riffs, harsh vocals and bland drumming.
Did I mention the drumming? I didn't? That's because there isn't anything happening there. It's not Martin Lopez yet here, but the original drummer, who is about as generic as you can be. The drumsound is clear, nothing is overpowering, but the man behind the kit just doesn't do anything that would make you want to pay attention to him. Which can be used to describe the rest of the album as well. The rhythm guitars have a great crunch to them, but aside from the intro of Burning Creation, they aren't utilized to any real extent. The lead guitar melodies and vocals are always overpowering them. There's potential here, but if you throw this one on, it's ending before you even realize it and you don't remember any of it.
I’ve been listening to both the original version and the reissue version off the Versus the World LP and there’s not that much different about the two of them other than the fact that the reissued one has slightly better production with a more crisper guitar tone that sinks into the listener, and a more audible bass part. Still, this is a great death album that you should look for or at least listen to at least once.
One of my favorite aspects of this band has always been the vocals done by Johan Hegg and how his voice isn’t monotone or have a flat and dull feel to it. He can create what feels like an immense battle or an angry warrior cry with his shrieks, grunts, and screams combined. His vocal speaking is very fast paced throughout much like the entire band itself, adding to the intensity of the music.
The guitars are amazing, very fast at times, full of melodies, and heavy. They change the pace or tempo of each song quite a bit which I like, it helps make the songs feel less like a linear death metal song and more like a hellish warfare going on in the song. The low tune of the guitars creates some kind of a doom metal like atmosphere at times which I like. The melodies have some sorrowful feel to them at times like at the end of the song “The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter” which you can hear it the best at 4:16 in the song, right at the end of each song they set up a lower melody unlike what the rest of the song consist of.
Like I said before, the only real difference between this the original versions of the five songs and the reissued versions on the Versus the World album is the production. What’s missing on this one is the how the tone of the guitars is louder on the reissue so you don’t get that whole aggression and battle like feeling in you. Also the guitars aren’t as crisp and easily to hear so they don’t sink you in and the bass part is a little bit harder to hear on this the original version, but considering that this came out almost thirteen years ago I don’t find it to be that big of a deal.
This is a great EP from one of my favorite melodic death bands. I recommend that you go out and buy it, and if you can’t find this EP you can get all the songs plus some additional ones in the Versus the World album.
I have yet to hear the original master version of this EP, but from what I hear on the re-master provided on the “Versus the World” special edition bonus CD, Amon Amarth was a good deal ahead of their time. Although the music contained within possesses most of the repetitive ideas common to the melodic death style, as opposed to the thrash inspired technical acts of a few years before, it listens very much like a technical release in its structural complexity. The general flow of the album is quite fast, despite the mellow sense of woeful glory that the riffs and atmosphere illustrate, and listens quite differently from much of their studio works from start to finish.
Johan Hegg’s vocals are well realized, avoiding the flat and redundant monotone sound that has plagued some singers in the genre such as In Flames. He switches between a shrill shriek and a ballistic grunt quite well, giving the impression of a dialogue between an army of berserkers and a skilled commander reminding them of their purpose on the battle field. The music around him mostly submits to his superior presence, providing a background melody and accompaniment to his toneless words of Nordic myths and epic battles.
The songs listen well, each having a somewhat similar character, as tends to be the case with all of their studio releases. “Burning Creation” takes the lead in the guitar department, showcasing a wide range of varying sections, each dominated by a crushingly catchy yet repetitive pair of contrapuntal riffs. The leads on here are gloomy yet regal, impressing the ears with a dual sense of simplicity and skill. “The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter” is the most simple in harmonic structure, yet contains a wide range of changes in tempo and atmosphere. “The Mighty Doors of the Spear God’s Hall” has as its principle riff probably the most memorable guitar line I’ve heard in the melodic death sub-genre, this alone makes picking up this EP essential as it is not found on any of the LPs that followed.
Consistent from start to finish, Amon Amarth’s “Sorrow through the Nine Worlds” is a must have for any fan of the band who has yet to hear it. Although I have yet to attain much of their earlier work between this release and “Versus the World”, thus far it is the best thing I’ve heard out of them. If you can find the special edition of the ‘Versus the World” album, you’ll save a good deal of money and get what is likely the best version of these songs. The dragon boats are upon the horizon, and the crater of Mount Doom is at the verge of another grand eruption.
Amon Amarth is one of those bands that can do no wrong. At least they haven't up till now.
Their EP "Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds", despite clocking just under 25 minutes, can count as a full-fledged record with five well-developed, mature tracks, and as such, I see it as their real debut. Now that makes for both a suprising fact, given that it's undoubtedly the band's best disc to this day, and an explanation, since most bands release their best stuff on their debuts. But the great thing about Amon Amarth is that they recognized they had hit upon a winning formula here, and thus stuck with it, making only a few minor adjustments to their sound over the years. Let's hope they keep it that way.
Now I'm not quite a huge fan of melodic death metal; At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Arch Enemy, whatnot, it's not very much my cup of tea, apart from the odd quality song or sometimes even an entire album. Amon Amarth is, however, of an entirely different kind of melodic death and has one of the most recognizable sounds among contemporary extreme metal bands. Yes, their guitars are down-tuned, but it doesn't sound anywhere near as flaccid as it usually does. I guess you'll have to hear it before you know. What makes it so outstanding is the exquisite quality of the riffs, which consist almost entirely of dual guitar harmonies and tremolo picking, epic, melodic and emotional. In later albums they would sometimes shift more towards a rhythmic approach, see "With Oden on Our Side" for instance, but here, it's all tremolo-picked harmony, with a variation of drum patterns underneath it. But always straightforward and sincere, as is typically Amon Amarth - quite the opposite of Malmsteen and the likes. No infinite arpeggio ass-raping in here, just plain catchy tunes.
Now having described Amon Amarth in general, I can't help but stating that "Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds" is the absolute top of all that on one small disc. The compositions here are actually more complex than on their later albums, though not in any kind of pretentious or overblown manner, and all five songs are as memorable as it could possibly get for the band.
It takes off with the title track, and does so with a bang. There you got it, Amon Amarth's characteristic twin guitar sound, no less. But there's more to the song than just that; there's a change around 2:00 and the song changes character, with the characteristic lead hopping in. On Amon Amarth's leads: some consider them as "poor", and if all you care for is shredding and scale-poop, they are. But shite are they effective! A guide on how to create effective solos. At 3:20 the song's "chorus" comes in, which is pretty emotional, I dare say. Solid track, which not simply "hints" at the band's "later" achievements, but which is simply the achievement itself.
"The Arrival Of The Fimbul Winter", from their 1994 demo, is the second blow from the Viking hammer on here. Starts fast, slows down a bit, a bit of soloing again, then works its way to the main tune, which comes at 1:30, then reprises the opening riff and continues. Well, you can't say this ain't well-done. Best performance here is by vocalist Johan Hegg; the scream at 3:48 is just plain chilling. Take him away and you take most of the band's essence with it.
Third is "Burning Creation", which turns out to be another solid track. (Which Amarth song doesn't?) The solo in here is slightly more complex as well. Oh yes, and the lyrics are all Viking stuff of course. I'm usually terrible at paying attention to them, but I can't recall a song by the band dealing with anything else than Vikings. Love it or hate it.
"The Mighty Doors Of The Speargod's Hall" could be my favourite track on here, if it wasn't for the next one. Pretty heavy, going mid-paced for its first half, then after the Swedish words are sung picks up at 3:15 with a nicely complex tune, then continues mid-paced. Unlike some of their other tracks, this one hasn't a zilch of predictability.
And then the definite milestone, which goes by the name of "Under The Grayclouded Winter Sky". Take everything I said above, then multiply it by at least three. Quintessential Amon Amarth song, if not their very best (this or "Victorious March"). Goes mid-paced for a while with a thundering riff, then takes an even more thundering riff after two minutes, and changes again after another two minutes. The tune coming in at 4:00 is catchy as fuck, and when the rhythm reprises, it will damn well grip you by the throat, unless you're dead or something. Holy shite. And it quits again with a bang, leaving room for you to put on "The Avenger" or so.
Yeah, this is not your average we-have-only-two-good-songs-so-we-can't-make-full-length-album EP. In short, if you like Amon Amarth, you need this. If you don't, you also need this.
On the production: I have the remastered version, and it doesn't sound anywhere near being a band's mere first decent recording effort. "Army Of Darkness", this is not. As a matter of fact, it's not very different from the production on their later stuff, better than "Once Sent From The Golden Hall"; clear, with enough emphasis on each instrument. Sometimes, the bass is lacking, but that's of course a matter of taste.
"Thanks" because this release is a simple masterpiece from one of the greatest melodic death metal bands of our time. This being Amon Amarth's first EP one can only praise them for having released such beautiful material when they were only a "beginner" band.
Musically this is quite different from their previous and later releases. Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds is extreemly melodic and fast, much more so than the following Amon Amarth albums. The many amazing riffs that compose each song follow eachother perfectly and all is very well coordinated with the vocals and drums. This all doesn't give the listener any time to get bored.
What strikes me the most in this EP is the emotion which can be felt in the music and in Johan's vocals which are amazing all along. You'll notice that Johan's growls are more often high pitched than on the following albums, and thats not at all a bad point. He actually uses the high pitched vocals more often than his amazing capacity to growl low, and that sounds totally right with this release. As for the emotion, weither its in the guitar melodies or in Johan's singing, its omnipresent from start to finish. This intensity made me want to read the lyrics, even though I'm often disapointed when I do that for other bands. But the lyrics of this EP are truly amazing (like for most Amon Amarth lyrics) and they really carry out the emotion of the music as anyone would expect. These lyrics are quite different from those of other albums considering that in this one they are mostly inspired by stories from Norse Mythology whereas the other albums are about vikings and they hardly mention mythological stories.
The EP's highlights would be "Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds", "The Mighty Doors of the Speargods Hall" and "Under the Greyclouded Winter Sky".
I recommend this release to all metalheads who can appreciate growling vocals and good melody. Unfortunately it isnt distributed anymore but you can find the material on the 2nd disk of the limited edition of the Versus the World album. But if you want a real copy, you might have to do like what I did and check out Ebay constantly for it. I eventually got it for about 30 euros but it was definately worth the money, and I was ready to pay much more to feel the pleasure of having such a masterpiece in my hands.
Behold, the first chapter of what many consider to be a band incapable of failure. Words can't really express how much I love this album. If I was not already a fan when I heard it, "Sorrow..." would have certainly made me one. I'll try something new for this review though; a track by track review from start to finish. I feel a recording of this caliber deserves nothing less than the most in-depth description.
Before I get to that, I'd like to make one statement. I often have problems with EPs containing more filler (Samples, speech from band members etc) than actual music. And when they do have actual music, there are usually at least two half-assed studio outtake cover songs with a very poor sound. Let us commend Amon Amarth for not only releasing an EP of wholly original (which I mean in the very literal sense of the word, they sound like no one else!) and what's more, absolutely awe-inspiring material.
And now, on to the real review...
The first song, Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds is an instantly catchy, rifftastic tale of the wayward viking Baldur who speaks to Odin in his dreams (Don't hold me to that, my knowledge of norse muthology is a little flaky). It does exactly what the first track of any disc is supposed to do; set the tone for the rest of the album and get your attention. It does a fine job of that as it doesn't really let up until the last second. This particular song also happens to have one of the most lethal bridge riffs ever penned by this band. The post chorus 'solo' is also of note.
On to the next, The Arrival of The Fimbul Winter. This song continues in the fashion demonstrated by track 1; fast and furious, but takes you through an unexpected meandering melodic mid-paced interlude after about a minute of death/thrashy goodness. Then, it picks back up and slaps you around like any good Amon Amarth tune should. Not the greatest on the album, but very solid nonetheless.
Track 3, Burning Creation seems to be the real bruiser here. The song is fast paced and intensely melodic. This song seems to have laid the foundation for later tunes such as "Friends of The Suncross" and "Bastards of a Lying Breed". I love it.
Ok, here is where things REALLY start to get good. The Mighty Doors of The Speargod's Hall is without doubt one of my favorite songs on this release, perhaps even of all of them. It opens with some galloping horses and then a nice pounding drum intro courtesy of Nico. It then kicks it up a notch with an ascending tremolo picked verse riff, which then becomes a completely crushing bridge riff at which point you are thinking "Can this possibly get any better?!" The answer is a resounding YES. These guys know no limits. The chorus is simply the most emotive and well rendered piece of music ever to come from a melodic Death Metal band. It conjures images of hordes of Viking warriors traversing some frozen plain returning home victorious from battle. Simply GOD-LIKE.
And, good lord.....Finally the crowning jewel of Amon Amarth's discography...UNDER THE GREYCLOUDED WINTER SKY. This just has to be heard to be believed. I just don't know what else to say. It's THAT good.
If I had one qualm with this album, it would be a very slightly muddy production courtesy of an inexperienced Peter Tagtgren. But I don't give two shits about that. When music is this good, that supercedes everything else. And that's really what it's all about at the end of the day, isn't it?
Buy, download, steal, beat up your grandmother, rape, murder, pillage....Do whatever it takes to get your hands on this absolute masterpiece.