without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
You know Amon Amarth. Let's not beat about the bush. Everyone's favourite accessible Viking-cum-melodeath Swedes release albums that sound similar to one another, just as AC/DC have been doing for 40 years. Got it. And to cut a long story very short: if you like any of Amon Amarth's albums since Versus the World you will like this. And if you're tired that they come up with little new from album to album, you're probably going to get tired of this too.
Just from my own personal opinion, it seems like Surtur Rising was a strong reaction to the bid for commercial acceptance that was Twilight of the Thunder God, though it doesn't exactly cook up a new formula for the songs. The pace is generally faster and the overall feeling geared more towards heaviness, while catchiness is decidely less overt, if still involved in the songwriting. It's slightly hard finding good comparisons for Amon Amarth, since they mostly just sound like themselves, but by this point in their career, they had become attached to a polished yet heavy guitar sound that can rip up the ground on faster songs like 'Destroyer of the Universe' and streamline itself into soaring epic tremolo riffs moments later. There are also some more chugging riffs, so that we veer somewhere between power metal, black metal, and metalcore without actually touching any of those genres, staying close to melodeath though not in the manner that At the Gates or In Flames or Omnium Gatherum have ever done it. I guess if you really need a comparison, this is a bit like Insomnium if you take away the softer parts and the progressive touches, especially since the vocalists both have deep and cavernous voices.
Despite a rather polished production, Surtur Rising sounds like a metal album in a way that Amon Amarth have not otherwise achieved since the release of With Oden on Our Side, since the riffs and - happily - leads do a lot of the talking in most of the songs. Counting through the first five songs on the album, I can call to mind a riff that I like in each and the leads in 'Destroyer of the Universe', 'Wrath of the Norsemen', and 'A Beast Am I' really stand out over most of the band's other work, having both visceral and atmospheric appeal. Those three riffing styles I mentioned earlier combine to great effect, giving one part heavy, one part epic, and one part catchy to a mixture that Fredrik Andersson stirs heartily with a powerful drumming performance. Johan Hegg is usually pivotal to the band's music, but here the vocalist has plenty of help from the guitarists, trading deep roars with those prevalent leads and a few decent melodies, so that some emotion is brought to the tales of dying warriors and impending doom.
Depending on my mood, I get along well with slightly different songs from the album. If I want something serious, the faster numbers like 'A Beast Am I', 'War of the Gods', and particularly 'Destroyer of the Universe' get me going, while there are big groovy riffs to have fun with in 'Tock's Taunt', 'Slaves of Fear', and 'Live Without Regrets' if I'm seeking simpler pleasures. I was initially rather sceptical about the slower and strongly melodic 'The Last Stand of Frej', though it's grown on me and provides a break mid-album. One feature of that song is the crushing, doomy riff that strikes during the first half, something that is picked up by the "experimental" closer (nothing is ever really experimental for Amon Amarth), which drops the pace to a march and matches orchestration to the riffs for an equally solemn and doomy effect. Given the similarity of some of this band's albums to one another, it's not surprising that I occasionally get confused about which one I'm listening to, having special problems during 'Victory or Death', which I'm convinced was on the preceding album. It isn't that memorable anyway, generically existing as another Amon Amarth song, as does 'Slaves of Fear' to a lesser degree.
If you got into Amon Amarth through With Oden on Our Side and are looking for something in that vein, I would recommend Surtur Rising as the best album available, since it's certainly heavier than the other efforts that came in the wake of the band's breakthrough and satisfies more in the way of guitar content. For those concerned about the redundancy of another similar album from the Swedes, I cannot assuage your fears, though I would recommend a listen to 'Wrath of the Norsemen' if you're looking for motivation to buy this; the transition from creepy lead guitar suspense to all-out riffing on that song is immense. And, thankfully, so is the majority of the album.
Man, does this blow Twilight of the Thunder God out of the water or what? Surtur Rising sounds decidedly less overproduced and compressed, allowing the individual performances to shine as they eventually converge into a cohesive whole. The dense, well-balanced distortion that helped rise With Oden on Our Side to greatness is present here as well, reigniting the torches of impetuosity that had begun to dim as the band began to lose the plot.
While it still falls short of Amon Amarth's 2006 opus, Surtur Rising can rest it's hat on the fact that it can go toe-to-toe with other impressive records like Versus the World. In fact, the songwriting approach here is quite similar to that album, only minus the proclivity for slower numbers and the inclusion of atmospheric keyboards. There are moments of controlled speed that reach a velocity the band rarely flirts with, like during the majority of "Destroyer of the Universe". This is refreshing and adds a new dimension to the band's approach, which is traditionally deprived of the experimental attributes it needs to function on it's highest level. The whole ordeal exudes rancor, as the band moves from traditional cookers like "Slaves of Fear" to grooving behemoths like "Wrath of the Norsemen". While the standard is undoubtedly high, "For Victory or Death" stands high and mighty above all. Check out the infectious main melody, which serves as a great counterpoint to the animated verses and Andersson's fill-happy patterns.
Speaking of the drums, they have finally regained some of their foothold here, lending a bone-rumbling aesthetic to the rhythm section. Andersson's kit is mixed quite well, as the lower toms rumble with a near-subsonic vivacity equal to the pounding war drums they so eagerly attempt to replicate. The mechanisms of the kit find themselves in lockstep with the surging riffs during many of these songs, summoning a parallel to Versus the World's more determined passages. Regardless, in typical Amon Amarth fashion, even the reinvigorated procedure fails to inspire for the entire duration. "A Beast Am I" and the opener "War of the Gods" fail to make much of an impact, even if only by virtue of the quality compositions elsewhere on Surtur Rising. In isolated environs the album falls slightly short, especially if the listener isn't aware of the pedestrian effort that preceded it. It really shouldn't matter, however, as Surtur Rising has the merits to stand on it's own two feet all the same.
In hindsight, this embodies yet another stepping stone in the back-and-forth pattern Amon Amarth keeps finding themselves entrenched in. Just like the Suebian brutes they so faithfully pay homage to, Amon Amarth will continue to push the envelope of brutality and excess; for better or worse.
Amon Amarth is, and has been, undoubtedly one of the iconic Melodeath bands, the band has pioneered the use of their lyrical theme; they’re one of the first bands to write lyrics that revolve around the Norse mythology (having been preceded by Bathory). The guys deserve credit for converting many metal fans to die-hard melodic death-metal fans.
The band has released eight studio albums, most of which are pretty impressive, but in this review, I’ll be writing about this very album Surtur Rising. The album kicks off with the mighty initial riff of “War of The Gods”, which quickly builds to explode into a complete song structure, with Johan’s scream roaring in the background. It's then easily possible to tell that it’s another Amon Amarth album. I’m not going to review the songs individually in a dull way, don’t worry.
Surtur Rising is characterised by diversity, although most of the songs MAY sound similar at the first hearing... allow me to go deeper clarifying my opinion. Speaking of speed, having taken into consideration that most of the songs by Amon Amarth (Melodeath songs in general) are fast-paced (as in tracks #3 and 9 off this album), but still, you can find relatively-slow and heavy riffing in “The Last Stand of Frej”. As I have mentioned before, the lyrics mainly revolve around the Norse mythology (which is absolutely fucking great) and continues to tell intriguing stories in a track after another, which is rather experimental, and allows the listener to visualise what the epic scene seems like, filling the listener with enthusiasm as if they are experiencing it themselves, yet, it’s not limited by that theme; In “Slaves of Fear”, they lyrically move away from the mythological theme, (but not so far) to talk about religions, which is again, a form of diversity.
To be objective, some verses by Amon Amarth are quite silly, speaking within Surtur Rising: “My name is Töck, and I won’t cry” I mean come on, seriously? Having written this crappy verse, the band succeeds in worsening the two parts of the story (the first is "Loke's Treachery" off With Oden on Our Side, in which the last two verses do not go very well with the rhyme, resulting in making me sometimes just stop the song at that very point). But well, I guess that was necessary to deliver a significant detail of the story of Baldr’s death, still, I believe it could have been worked in a better way. Another weakness I've detected in the album, is that I've found it lacking the powerful choruses I had expected, exception be made for two: the first; "Rise! Raise the flag once more, and the eagle will be fed..." in "For Victory or Death", and the one in "A Beast Am I".
I said that I wasn't going to review the tracks individually, I know, but “A Beast Am I” is a rather interesting song; when I had first heard the guitar-solo part in that song, I could tell that something fishy is going on in this very track; the whammy bar, it’s being used to produce sounds that don’t seem very “Amon Amarthish”, the curiosity had grown enough for me to Google it, which resulted in finding out that a guest (Simon Solomon) was playing the role of a lead guitarist.
To sum up: The album, as a whole, is quite exhilarating, forged from tons of gripping and powerful riffs (which was expected), and the usual powerful vocals, and a rather formerly-unknown sound that lasted but for few seconds. But after all, did this album add something remarkable to the band’s discography, or is it just an album, in which the creativity and innovation are bounded?
Whether you think of them as melodic death or straight up Viking metal, Amon Amarth has become a major force in the modern metal scene. In addition to their Norse aesthetics and relatively accessible sound by death metal standards, they are also becoming well known for having a consistency rate that is comparable to the likes of Motorhead and Cannibal Corpse. Surtur Rising is the band's eighth studio album and has already proven to be one of their biggest commercial successes to date. In a rare feat, it managed to sell 15,000 copies in its first week of release and chart on the Billboard's Top 40 with their distinct sound still kept intact!
With the possible exception of Adult Swim's Dethklok, Amon Amarth is probably the most easygoing band to ever utilize Cookie Monster vocals. That does not mean their music is watered down or creatively bankrupt, but rather that it is forged to form a distinct sound that appeals to fans of several genres. This album is certainly no exception as it happily averts accusations of selling out by going along with the traits that were established on past albums such as Fate of Norns and Twilight of the Thunder God.
Thus, most of the music on here seems to go between both melodic and extreme elements. On one hand, the production is done with a very modern polish, vocalist Johan Vegg's growls are the most clearly enunciated this side of Novembers Doom, and the usage of strings and guitar harmonizing help give things an epic but still melodic vibe. On the other hand, the riffs retain a healthy bite even in the midst of accessibility and the drums do largely go at an energetic pace. And while the vocals and overall band presentation may get a little goofy at times as most metal can, it does give the listener an enjoyable pounding.
In addition, the band has also retained their Norse lyrical themes and uses them to great effect as it goes about the usual tropes of Ragnarok and the other highlights of Viking culture. However, there are a few particularly interesting exceptions as "Slaves of Fear" deals with the terrorist mindset and "Doom Over Dead Men" seems to deal with the timeless and rather vague theme of dying.
Going along with the things that are firmly kept in place, the band does offer some solid songwriting. Predictably for a band of this genre, most of the songs on here are pretty fast paced and bring about an almost power metal vibe. The opening "War Of The Gods" manages to be the strongest track due to its particularly powerful verse/chorus transitions. In addition, "Destroyer Of The Universe" and "A Beast Am I" are probably the most extreme and hard hitting tracks on the album while "Live Without Regrets" takes on an almost folk metal direction with its incredibly happy harmonies.
Of course, there are certain exceptions as some outliers play with slower tempos. "Toke's Taunt," the sequel to "Hermod's Ride to Hel" off of With Oden On Our Side, goes between a grinding verse riff and softer moments that recall classic Immortal and Bathory. "The Last Stand of Frej" is a largely building track made memorable by its sweeping guitar lines and anticipating percussion while "Slaves Of Fear" features a mid-tempo riff that oddly reminds me of Trivium's "Unrepentent" while still remaining a solid song
But the most interesting song of all has to be the closing "Doom Over Dead Men," a closing ballad that features a sweet introduction, nice string usage between verses, and growled vocals that somehow don't sound out of place in the middle of it all. Hell, they fit a lot better on a ballad than they do in that strange System Of A Down cover that was included on certain editions of the album...
I'm not gonna lie to you; this is probably the most metal album that I've heard all year. It has just about everything that the genre should have and offers excellent songwriting and great instrumental performances all wrapped up with a smooth production job. While some established fans may find more to enjoy in some of their earlier efforts, I also think that this album could make for a great regret free gateway band into extreme metal for unaccustomed listeners. The song structures and melodies should appeal to power metal listeners, death metal fans will enjoy the vocals and rougher guitars and drumming, and the overall accessibility should make it a good purchase for new initiates. Check it out if you haven't already!
"War Of The Gods"
"Tock's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II"
"Destroyer Of The Universe"
"Slaves Of Fear"
"Doom Over Dead Men"
Amon Amarth has one of the largest followings in the metal community and it is no surprise when you hear their material. Since their first lp, "Once Sent from the Golden Halls", Amon Amarth has continued to escalate their sound and improve with every release, and the new "Surtur Rising" is a perfect example of this trend.
From the opening riff of "War of the Gods", you know this album is going to be good. I can only envision Johan and Olavi whaling away on their guitars with all the brutality and all the melody thrown together as they stand on top of a mountain. And the solo near the end of the song... wow. I am almost tempted to copy that bit from the song into its own track so I can listen to it over and over again.
I'm not going to give a track-by-track review, but tracks to listen to include "War of the Gods", of course, "Töck's Taunt: Loke's Treachery Part II", "Slaves of Fear", and "For Victory or Death". The riffs, the heathen-inspiring lyrics, the guitar melodies... it's all there on these tracks, top notch. Amon Amarth never ceases to impress.
Oh, and did I mention the dvd? I didn't? Well, are you in for a treat! Amon Amarth fans will enjoy the hours of live performances the dvd includes. There are four shows, each playing start to finish some of Amon Amarth's classic albums. This is one of the things that gets me so excited about Amon Amarth releases: the bonus content they include when you buy their albums is outstanding. In total, these shows together are 33 tracks, making it over four hours long. A four hour long live dvd. It doesn't get much better then that, folks!
I hope you enjoyed my review. Get out and buy this!
I was not really a true metal head until I checked out MA few days back. After a lot of stumbling upon many MA recommendations, I finally picked an album to really storm up my brain. My new year started with brutal death metal. When I tried Trivium's Ascendancy, I really thought these melodic riffs, although catchy, don't really appeal to metal heads, but only after listening to Amon Amarth's Surtur Rising did my impression change. From the start itself, back to back melody riffing with beast-like vocals were absolute phenomenal. Johan Hegg did a really great job with a twin harmonic guitar melancholy that really drove me into medieval age Viking stuff. This album is narrative, emotive, and a brain crusher.
The song compositions were top-notch except for a few filler songs in between, but the music grows on you nonetheless. As a thrash metal fan, I missed the killer riffs and shredding solos, but this type of death metal is really enjoyable. I can't not say that there are a few solos. Söderberg & Mikkonen manage to fill the songs with great trade-off solos. Drumming is more of a death metal-style with pounding speed and aggression. Their themes depict Norse mythology and it definitely suits the metal atmosphere. Each songs describes a definitive subject in Norse mythology. I always find fault with black/death metal productions, but this stepped aside for me and I can't imagine a better production than this. Some may find the song structures repetitive, but the album grows on you very soon. Songs like War of the Gods and Slaves of Fear have ideal song structures and the band continues to maintain throughout, but somewhat seem to be very insistent.
Opening track 'War of the Gods' is a great track with an epic riff and great production with Hegg screaming like hell that's bolstered by anthemic chorus. 'Destroyer of the Universe' starts with a fast death metal riff and twin solos, probably the fastest ones on the album. 'Slaves of Fear' is the most brutal track off of this record and one of my most favourite ones and the twin guitar harmony section continues on this one too. 'Live Without Regrets' is emotive while 'The Last Stand of Frej' is relatively slow and catchy. 'Wrath of Norsemen', another power metal anthem, is accompanied by catchy lyrics and great guitar solo work. 'A Best I Am' has yet another crushing riff followed by Hegg's howling noises and an extended solo. 'Doom Over Dead Man' is another slow track with a denser sound. A bonus track, 'Aerials', is a mixed track with both slow and fast compositions.
There are many instances where I have thought that these rhythmic patterns were rip offs of the previous tracks, but overall this album is a very memorable one to me and to metal history as a whole.
Originally written for http://headbangersherald.blogspot.com/.
When I review music, I like to have it playing in the background. It helps keep my points fresh in my head, and generally makes for better reviewing. I couldn't leave "Surtur Rising" on for long, though, because it's really hard to review an album while headbanging.
Before I dig into this splendid-looking platter of metal, I'd like to acknowledge that many view Amon Amarth as fickle at times - that is to say, they don't always hold up to their previous standards or what they're truly capable of. While it's up in the air as far as meeting past standards...
Amon Amarth does a damn good job with "Surtur Rising", their latest release. The concept of this album is - you guessed it! - Surtur! The inglorious badass himself rises from Muspelheim, and boy, is his fury sublime as ever. Amon has always been quite adept at creating heavy, enjoyable tracks, and this record is no exception. Johan Hegg's songwriting abilities fit the music great, and his vocals even moreso. The new sound is by no means revolutionary, but it is refreshing, and sounds great while still retaining a definitive Amon feel to it.
This album really shows Amon Amarth's ability to create atmospheric tracks as well. While album opener "War of the Gods" is first and foremost a thrashingly heavy track, showing that Amon is still the piece of work they were in past releases, "Tocke's Taunt" is a much more emphatic release, with a very carefully-crafted atmospheric presence to it. Speaking of the second track, "Tocke's Taunt" is also a very good track. It shows a slow side at times, but the mood is welcome and gives a feel for what the rest of the album has to offer. My personal favourite is the third track, "Destroyer of the Universe", which is really heavy and really well done. The solo has a "shut up and windmill" feel to it, and the outro's vocals grind in the best possible way. With the first three tracks exhibiting this much heavy attitude and atmosphere, it's difficult to complain. "Slaves of Fear" is a decent track with an interesting meaning, and "Live Without Regrets" definitely deserves a listen for its war-cry take on the popular saying. "A Beast Am I" and "Doom Over Dead Men" hold a blend of both slow and fast moods, and the atmosphere in the last track is incredible, building off the synth outro of "A Beast Am I".
The album's faults lie within the tracks that could be tossed on any Amon Amarth album. "The Last Stand of Frej" is interchangeable with many of the more melodic tracks off of previous records and just sounds too slow to be Amon. I kept expecting something to happen - something awesome, something interesting - and it never did. "Wrath of the Norseman" is very reminiscent of the entirety of "With Oden on Our Side", although it does sound good, and "For Victory or Death" just isn't memorable enough to write too much about. That being said, when you can only complain about three tracks out of eleven, the album's pretty damn sharp.
The bonus track on this album is a cover of "Aerials" by System of a Down. Despite there being a big gap in sound between the bands, Amon Amarth's cover does it justice. You wouldn't notice any difference if it was an actual Amon song, thanks to the epic guitarwork and Johan's epic screaming outro to the song. Basically, the song sounds like it would if the band had made it first.
All in all, great album, decent cover, and awesome artwork (though I don't know why the Viking has a horned helmet...). Give it a listen if you haven't already.
1.) War of the Gods
2.) Tocke's Taunt: Loke's Treachery Pt. II
3.) Destroyer of the Universe
9.) A Beast Am I
10.) Doom Over Dead Men
I've always had a close connection to this band one way or another. For starters they basically helped me really get into extreme metal with their simplistic easy to follow formula of melodic riffs coupled with Johan's storming thunderous voice. It was a sound I really was into and could listen to the band for hours. That, plus Norse mythology is really appealing and has a whole slew of neat stories and tales that are pretty well fitted for a metal outfit. I've always enjoyed reading lyrics about heroic tales and struggles and its always been a highlight of this band to me. My first exposure to this band was actually Fate of Norns, arguably one of their more safe and simplistic sounding albums, which is why I guess it was so accessible at the time. They really haven't deviated from that style too much before or after that album with the exception of Once Sent From the Golden Hall which was a little more raw and faster paced.
There's no exception here. This is band you've either grown to love or hate. Nothing here is different from what you've come to expect. All the basic formula still applies. Mid paced, mid length melodic songs with lots of melodic riffs and solo's with the centre stage being focused on the vocals and drums carrying it all along nicely. To start off, the guitars are the most present thing here, being two of them. The tone is very chunky, there isn't really any problems with the production. The rhythm guitar does a good job of steadily providing a good backbone for the lead guitar although at times it does feel like there really isn't much to grab onto when certain parts start to drag when they start to chug along awkwardly. Luckily, there are enough catchy lead parts to keep it from becoming stale and boring. The solo work is nice, keeping with what Amon Amarth have always liked to go for with the tapping solo's without ever really going over the top or going blazing fast. The songs, for the most part all build up and climax at the right time without going overboard or dragging on for too long.
The drumming is something I'd like to mention as well. Fredrik Andersson is an awesome drummer, and his work sounds even better with great drum production that is on this album. The double bass is deep and punchy and has perfect echo, the snare is deep and rings out over everything else and the cymbals and hi-hats are very bright and crisp. He provides plenty of creative drum fills and an extra dose of double bass on just about every track and he is a big reason why the album never falls flat on it's ass from being mundane and boring. The bass, however doesn't really do anything special. I don't think the album would really suffer if it hadn't been there at all. It doesn't offer anything or detract anything, it's just whatever. It could just be it is badly mixed or just bad writing but either way its a bummer. A big problem I have with this album is the compression. I don't know if its just my copy, but when I listened on my stereo and when I ripped it on my CD everything sounded really compressed and compact. Everything sounded a little less vibrant and dull compared to releases in the 80's/90's. Now I don't want to be THAT guy that always bitches about how shitty the music industry is today (no matter how true) and how audio has gone down the shitter because of digital stuff, but it really does suffer here.
Vocals are what you'd expect, greatness. Johan Hegg is probably one the best vocalist in melodic death metal, while admittedly it isn't a genre I'm very fond of he is the needle in a hay stack. Echoing roars and shouts with a very raspy yet understandable tone with great range. Often doing bellowing deep grunts, while other times mid range shouts or really high shrieks. His range is all over the place and it's awesome to listen to. However not all is well, the lyrics aren't exactly as fresh and interesting as they use to be. Basically "VIKINGS ARE STRONG WE KILL NOW ROARRRRRR" and that's about it. I miss the ballad type stuff like Across the Rainbow Bridge, Under the Northern Star, and Gods of War Arise.
I do feel like some of the tracks on here are a little filler. Songs like The Last Stand of Frej, For Victory or Death, and Slaves of Fear are nothing really spectacular. While songs like Doom Over Dead Man, Wrath of the Norsemen, and Destroyer of the Universe are leaps and bounds better than the rest. On the subject of songs being a lot better than others, Doom Over Dead Man is a slower paced sorrowful doomy song that feature some brief violin stuff and Johan's vocals on this song are just awesome as well as the riffs.
Really the bottom line is if you're an Amon Amarth fan and you're sick of all the rest of their material then for sure pick this up. However if you're simply just a fan of melodic death metal and are looking to get into this band then I recommend getting Versus the World or The Avenger first.
Amon Amarth’s 8th album packs fairly few surprises. At this stage in the game, one goes into an Amon Amarth album knowing what to expect. Harmonized tremolo-picking, pedaled melodies and heavy power chords backed by thundering double bass drumming and Johan Hegg’s immense roar bellowing out tales of gods and men in pre-Christian Scandinavia. In this respect Surtur Rising does not disappoint. The ineffectual production of the last album is gone, in its place an updated version of the patented “Viking Juggernaut” sound found on the first four albums. The sound is a tad too clean for my tastes, but the propulsive drumming and crunchy riffing packs quite a punch.
It would be easy enough to simply say “yep, it’s an Amon Amarth album,” and then you could decide what to do based on your past experience with the band. However, as something of an obsessive fan I prefer to pick everything apart. In this spirit, let’s press on.
Surtur Rising kicks off with War of the Gods, and you would be forgiven for thinking you’d put in the wrong Amon Amarth album. The band is clearly reusing melodies at this point – in this case, I detect similarities to An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm from Fate of Norns and the title track from Twilight of the Thunder God. I don’t mind the band playing it safe, but this is a little too formulaic, which is something of a problem with Surtur Rising. Still, the formula works relatively well. War of the Gods is lacking in song-craft, moving in very predictable patterns that unfortunately drain it of impact, but later in the tracklist Live Without Regrets is also instantly familiar and yet still serves as a rousing battle hymn.
The band seem to be at their most comfortable chugging along at mid-tempo. The fastest song on the album, Destroyer of the Universe, seems to have been written with speed in mind, and it simply feels awkward, while the melodic grooves of Slaves of Fear are smooth like the young Thai girl and catchy like the VD she left you with. Even so, relatively few of the tracks here have much staying power compared to the band’s past work. The Last Stand of Frej, a weighty mid-paced number with a fairly doomy feel, is impressive and instantly memorable, a well-crafted tune that eschews the predictable structures favored on most of the album. The afore-mentioned Live Without Regrets will doubtless live on in the band’s live sets as another enjoyable sing-along glorifying an ideology remarkably consistent with suicide bombing (oops, did I ruin it for you?). However, the crowning moment is without a doubt the closer Doom Over Dead Man, a slow song that’s bound to get stuck in your head…if you can stop pressing replay long enough to tear yourself away.
Special notice should go to the weakest song on the album, For Victory Or Death, which sees the band straying ever closer to power metal territory (some would argue they’re already there).
The performances on the album are, as always, perfectly fine – this stuff isn’t terribly hard to play. Drummer Fredrik Andersson steals the show – again, as always – with clever fills and transitions that help to smooth over some rough spots in the song-writing. I really love this guy’s playing, although his most impressive performance is still his work on Cry of the Black Birds from With Oden on Our Side. Johan Hegg retains the depth and clarity he’s known for, and the vocal production is spot on. This guy’s a real monster. It doesn’t even sound like he’s growling, it sounds like that’s just what he sounds like – and if you’ve seen interviews you’ll know that’s not far off. However, his lyrics are weaker than ever. He used to deliver, both in terms of simple Viking badassery (see Victorious March or Masters of War) and cool storytelling (The Sound of Eight Hooves is a real masterpiece), but now he just scribbles some shit about Viking mythology that rhymes decently and calls it a day. Hardly a deal-breaker, and probably a complete non-issue for many, but I do miss the good old days.
Ultimately I find it hard to strongly recommend this album. It’s definitely good – it’s full of catchy choruses, meaty riffs, epic melodies, and general Viking ass-kicking – but I would direct newcomers to the band’s previous works (Once Sent From The Golden Hall and With Oden on Our Side are probably the best places to start) and long-time fans may find the lack of originality distasteful. Still, if you’re like me you had to have this anyways and it’s got some pretty damn good stuff on it, so I guess if you have all their other stuff you should get this. It’s honestly almost worth the price of entry for the closer alone.
I really like Amon Amarth's eighth full-length release Surtur Rising and I actually find it to be superior to the previously well received Twilight of the Thunder God. Even though the two albums are very, very similar, I feel that Surtur Rising has finer tracks and a slightly better sound.
What is immediately noticeable on Surtur Rising is the upgrade in the guitar work department. This sees Amon Amarth at their most melodic, with excellent harmonies sewn throughout the albums almost fifty minute run time. We even have some guitar solos that serve a good purpose, and kick their fair amount of backside. The album has a certain power metal edge to it, but don't let that put you off there is still a dragon boat load of heavy riffs to be enjoyed.
Tracks such as "Töck's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II" and personal highlight "For Victory or Death" show Amon Amarth at their melodic best, with the latter having an air of the title track from the last album to it. Although as far as I'm concerned a far superior track, that melodic intro is as mighty as they come. Its business as usual once the main riff kicks in, the foots a stomping and the heads a banging.
Those looking for something a little heavier should be pointed in the direction of "Destroyer of the Universe", and with a title like that you should expect the utmost in punishing melodic death metal. The track is like someone let "Asator's" mean little brother out of its cage, and holy shit that guitar break around a minute in, since when did Amon Amarth shred like that!?
Other odes to bad-assery would include the grooving "Wrath of the Norsemen" with its almost Slayer breakdown intro, "Beast I Am" with its mighty rolling riffage, and the typical album opening brilliance of "War of the Gods".
All in all, this is just about up there with Amon Amarth's best releases, offering a lot in the way of guitar work. Especially the melodic stuff, and there are some really cool riffs and leads strewn throughout. Johan sounds great, the production is perfect, and fans of the band as well as more melodically inclined death metal need this in their collection. Recommended.
I usually skip every other Amon Amarth album, considering that whatever they did with the first album will likely remain the same with the latest album. Well, the debut rules, I’ll give it that, and now this latest one comes out and overall it’s still the same well-produced, modern melodic death Amon Amarth’s been putting out since they struck huge with With Oden On Our Side (even further than that if counting the core sound). Whereas With Oden On Our Side album I put up with the debut as the band’s best, this new one I’d put on the level as Versus The World. It isn’t ruthless and doesn’t contain the bands best writing, but the same immense scope, enjoyable songs, and ferocious intent remain. It’s a humble album that has one purpose – to continue Amon Amarth’s reign of consistency in the melodic death scene. With its share of awesome songs that translate impeccably in concert, Surtur Rising has enough that prevents it from failing hard.
Off the bat, “War Of The Gods” throws a fast tempo, hectic riffs, epic leads, thunderous drums, and a tsunami solo to eat up. For any release, this is a textbook example of what to open up with, and in a concert setting this doesn’t fail one bit. “War Of The Gods” intends to get the listener pumping and energized for the rest of the trip, which lets up on speed when necessary but doesn’t drop a dose of heaviness. Overall, there isn’t any large dip in quality, but some songs don’t tend to ignite the same vigor as others. “War Of The Gods”, “Slaves Of Fear”, “Live Without Regrets”, “The Last Stand Of Frej”, and “A Beast Am I” are the songs that offer the most on every front musically, while the others are sort of the same Amon Amarth-standard padding. Good songs, the rest of the lot, but the real treat lies in those five aforementioned tracks. Production for all these tracks is fat, clear, and polished without being overtly modern and vilifying.
Johan Hegg’s growls are bellowing, up front, and clear as can be for such a well-produced album. They haven’t changed a bit, and that’s perfectly fine since their warm and unperturbed tones invite the listener with relaxed affinity. On the lighter side he’s calm, but his lower grunts are the ones I prefer due to their girth. The slower, warlike rhythms in songs like “The Last Stand Of Frej” are great examples of the seamless coexistence between this sincere, inviting attitude. Andersson’s blend of assaulting double bass, snare hits, and warlike gallops continue to add to the band’s experienced, melodic death twist. In favor of the riffs, “A Beast Am I” is up there with the best on the album, pressing forward with savagery and despondence like latter era God Dethroned. Surtur Rising’s chunky bass always follows the rupturing barrage of abrasive riffs and the (more or less) ambitiously harmonic leads to the very end of every song (or until the epic, ghostly outro in “A Beast Am I”’s case).
Anyone digging Amon Amarth would like this album unless they have some beef with a band doing the same thing over and over. Newcomers wouldn’t have a hard time at all hearing this album as their first for the band, and I’d even go as far as recommending it. Surtur Rising isn’t the best album by the band, but it’s certainly not totally forgettable. There’s a sufficient number of tracks that stand out in the band’s discography, and even those that don’t stand out don’t bomb.
I have never really enjoyed Amon Amarth. I mean my experience with the band is limited to having listened to Twilight of the Thunder God a few times. I have a big issue with that album and it holds true with Surtur Rising as well.
Amon Amarth don't seem to play melodic death metal so much as down tuned heavy metal or hard rock with death metal vocals over them. Lets keep in mind, just having death metal vocals does not make a band death metal. Are they catchy? Yes, so I can see why people like them. But in the metal community not many people seem to call them out for the fact that they play really weak melodic "death metal".
I mean is anything on Surtur Rising any heavier than Slipknot or 5 Finger Death Punch or even Killswitch Engage? In the vocal department I can give Johan Hegg credit. He has a very death metal sounding growl. But musically this is far from death metal or even the crud that passes for melodic death metal these days.
There are some fast picked parts in songs like Tock's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Pt 2 and Destroyer of the Universe which are actually more in line with what you would normally hear in the genre. But for every one of these parts you have stuff like The Last Stand of Frej or their cover of the System of a Down track Aerials. A Beast I Am is actually a pretty decent song and the furthest away from the heavy rock/metal style they play in. Its both aggressive and heavy which makes me wish they could have done this throughout the entire album.
So for those looking for good melodic death metal rather than hard rock on steroids I suggest you look elsewhere. While the vocals are good and some of the tracks (A Beast I Am, Live Without Regrets, Destroyer of the Universe) are good, most of it is just watered down metal lite with death metal vocals over it. In fact the best part of this album is probably the cool album artwork. I'm sure there are plenty more enticing bands and albums out this year than this drivel.
Originally reviewed @ http://abaddonsmetalshop.blogspot.com/
-------ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR www.demrockritic.in-----------
So this is the time for a new Amon Amarth release. Anticipation surges through their fans like lightning from the helm of Thor’s hammer Mjollnir. And just like every time in the past, that lightning crackles and glows till it strikes exactly where it counts. ‘Surtur Rising’ is heavy, narrative, emotive and one hell of a sedative. The band’s epic tribute to the fire giant of Muspelheim is a fitting successor to their tribute to Asgard’s thunder god.
The kick-off to the album has now been quite well heard all over the metal community thanks to the internet viral. ‘War of the Gods’ is a volatile mid-tempo fable about the war between the Vanir and Aesir gods. The song is instrumentally loaded with rhythmic patterns and textures that blend into each other through the correct tempo shifts, coming together to create a very familiar yet newly explored Amon Amarth sound. It is topped by the heavy guttural war cries of Johan Hegg who takes the idea of low frequency to a totally new level. This defines the style of the album overall. The band has a lot of familiar sounds to offer in terms of the way the notes are structured but it has also explored slower tempos, scale jumps and softer textures to a much greater extent. ‘Töck’s Taunt: Loke’s Treachery part II’ is one such example where the beat is a slower groove and undulating heavy and soft sections. However, it is the 3rd song, which the band likes to call the title track albeit a different name, that is easily the juiciest part of this album. ‘Destroyer of the Universe’ is relentlessly fast, unforgivingly heavy and the chorus riff marks a return to the ‘With Oden on Our Side’ sound, firing the heavy/low tremolo ambience straight into the listener’s heart, probably the most epic song that the band has to offer since ‘Cry of the Blackbirds’. Other musically experimental standouts are ‘Slaves of Fear’, ‘Live Without Regrets’, ‘For Victory or Death’, ‘The Last Stand of Frej’ and ‘Doom Over Dead Man’. All of them explore the polyrhythmic flexibility of the slower beat and also delve into octave and scale variations, particularly exemplified by the chorus section of ‘Live Without Regrets’.
Conceptually, the album does not tell the story of Surtür’s life and his destruction of the universe, nor the story of the war between the Aesir and Vanir. Though the former is dealt with by ‘War of the Gods’, ‘Destroyer of the Universe’ and ‘The Last Stand of Frej’, most of the other songs have a more personal point to make. ‘Slaves of Fear’ is a conceptually out-of-place modern commentary on how religious leaders have the society in their grasp by using the fear of god as a tool, ‘Live Without Regrets’ and ‘For Victory or Death’ are just general ‘feel good’ Viking songs, ‘Wrath of the Norsemen’ is a first person account of a victim of the fury of the Vikings, ‘A Beast Am I’ is a lament by Fenris, the wolf brother of the Midgard serpent Jormungandr. Their most melancholy song till date, ‘Doom Over Dead Man’ is a slow lament of a dying man who has done only wrong deeds in life.
There are moments in the album when one feels like he has heard this riff before or that the same rhythm could have some variation in each measure, but overall, this album is historic. It is their most musically experimental till date while also being the heaviest. The stories it tells are closer to the listener’s heart than just a retelling of the Norse Edda. It actually completes a ‘trinity’ with the previous two releases in the emotion that one feels from them. AND, the album cover also has fire on it, symbolic of the divine fury that the band’s music creates, engulfing listeners from every part of the world, uniting them with the hope that they are the last Vikings on Earth.
It takes alot to live up to a name that means 'Mount Doom' in Tolkien's Sindarin language, but Sweden's Amon Amarth do excactly that. This band has been in constant eruption since its fantastic debut back in 1998. Although their sound has certainly progressed, they've never lost that galloping sound that makes you want to destroy everything and headbang until you can't move.
That being said, this album is a prime example of Amon Amarth's unique style of melodic death metal. The guitar anthems are just as epic as they always are, although there is that slight hint of progression that's evident in every sequential Amon Amarth release. The musicians are as tight as ever, leaving no single instrument standout (which is good because they're all brilliant). The only problem with the instruments is that sometimes the bass is not audible (nothing unusual for metal though) and the guitar riffs lack memorability. The production is really high-profile and solid. I love the guitar tone and the way the vocals are always a bit higher in the mix. Thd drums are really professional; some really nice fills are to be found here! I despise the System Of A Down cover, not because the original is a mallcore song, but because i believe they recorded it just to gain attention since that band is re-uniting this year and such a big hype is being created. They did it just for money in my opinion. I'm not going to talk about each individual track, because I believe a track-by-track review for this album is useless, since it is better enjoyed and absorbed if listened to as a full album.
Overall this is a very solid release and quite enjoyable and fun. The only things that i don't like are the cover song and the lack of memorabity in some songs (it is quite rare though). So far though it is early, 2011 has been a great year for metal and this release is one of the best so far.
Highlights ; 'War of the Gods' , 'Live Without Regrets' , 'For Victory or Death' , 'A Beast Am I' .
Amon Amarth, the way I see it, is one of those great fallback groups, one you can always count on when the shitheads of “metal” pollute tours and album stores with their dreck. This listener has maintained a sort of awe with the way these Swedish monsters come back time and again with increasingly tantalizing albums chock full of Mjolner-swinging, bone-crushing melodic nastiness, and while it’s taken way too long for them to follow up on the superb “Twilight of the Thunder God”, still I sat and waited as patiently as can be, albeit a touch jumpy at the prospect of seeing if they can continue this trend of fantasticness.
“Twilight…” may have set the bar rather high for ‘Amarth, but I can give the benefit of the doubt should it be due, and am ready to see if any storms of Valhalla will cascade all around me…
It may have been a while, but the rising of Surter is certainly worth the wait. Coupling the tried-and-true melodic heaviness with a few bouts of calmer, slower moments, “Surter Rising” again reminds the listener of the necessity of Amon Amarth in this era of musical wastelands popping up all around us. And while this might not be as up to par as “Twilight…” and “With Oden At Our Side”, I don’t hold it against them as this new collection of Viking hymns is still as addictive and satisfying in its own right. That sense of sword-swinging superiority is still large and in charge as the dark and brutal riffs, nerve-tingling melodic leads, punishing double-bass drum work and raging growls/roars continue to fascinate and evoke compelling urges to sail across the closest Great Lake and conquer the first town I come across. Surely, this is music meant to be the penultimate soundtrack to divide, conquer, and dominate, something that augments that desire to do away with those pesky enemies and naysayers (well…rhetorically, of course…don’t wanna be responsible for the actions of anyone reading too much into my words…), and both extremes of the spectrum, from the harmonious to the violent, work in the proper cohesion necessary for an album of its caliber to maintain its awesomeness. The production also helps in this regard, as its thickness and overwhelming sound envelop any would-be listeners within the smoldering brimstone of their tales of godly murder and vengeful rhetoric, the bread and butter of finer ’Amarth albums the world over. Time has certainly been good to these Swedish goons, the way their teeth and proverbial axes have been cut so finely that songs like “Destroyer of the Universe”, “Live Without Regrets”, and “For Victory or Death” have all the energy and ability necessary to destroy without needing to force themselves to do so.
At the end of the day, Amon Amarth again dominates with the same powerfully brutal melody that’s kept them on the radar lo these many years. This is a fine example of knowing that they have plenty of pith and vinegar in them, and it surely an album to come back to time and again. Hails!
A highly expected release, Amon Amarth’s eight full-length, really isn’t as good as it should have been. The signs were all right. From the title and the fiery (as expected) breathtaking artwork to the song titles. And most importantly, the band in question, as the norsemen, almost since their inception, have been providing the metal world with great release after great release, and I do firmly believe that with every album they perfected or further explored successfully an element of their brand of viking-themed melodic death metal, especially on their last four LP’s. From the searing melancholy of the often-underrated Fate of Norns, to the majestic perfection of With Oden On Our Side and the catchiness of Twilight of the Thunder God, Amon Amarth brimmed with quality and excellent delivery.
So what’s the problem with Surtur Rising? It seams to me they decided to play it safe and not experiment further. There are no attempts to pursue a different path or risk a tiny bit, even within their established formula. It’s not so grave of a problem, since this is a pretty consistent album anyway, and some songs do kick the expected ass. For instance, “War of the Gods”, the opener, reminds us this is still an Amon Amarth album, and no matter how clichéd it is, you’ll surely bang your head to its nordic tunes. “Destroyer of the Universe” is a blazing scorcher, and sort of a title-track, with pyroclasmic percussion and a couple of solos that burn your ears like the fires of Ragnarök. “Live Without Regrets” reminds me of the epic battlefield feeling of last year’s AEALO from greek metallers Rotting Christ (so it’s actually a big compliment in case you’re wondering).
Other good songs are “For Victory or Death” which could have been a track from their previous album because of its rocky catchiness, “A Beast I Am”, a fast pummeling song about Fenris (enough said!) that concludes with a clamed melodic outro, and the closer “Doom Over Dead Man”, a waltzing mellow dirge with sporadic mild orchestral arrangements that is perhaps the greatest innovation to be found here. The rest of the songs are solid enough, but tainted with the “too much of the same” illness, especially “Slaves of Fear”, another anti-Christianity stance, which is inferior to many similarly-themed past efforts by the vikings like the outstanding “A Thousand Years of Oppression” from Versus the World to name the first that comes to mind. Also “Wrath of the Norsemen” and “Töck’s Taunt” were a bit disappointing and don’t live up to the hype and expectation created by their titles.
Production and musicianship are top notch as expected, from Johan Hegg’s mighty roars to the pounding skinbashing of Fredrik Andersson. In that aspect, there’s not much room for improving. However, most of the compositions are not challenging enough and feel like recycled ideas from past albums, and that drains Surtur Rising of both originality and personality.
I really wanted and expected this album to surpass its predecessor, because Twilight of the Thunder God was a bit of a step back in comparison to the flawless masterpiece that was With Oden On Our Side, but it appears that Amon Amarth has reached a point in which their releases are no longer going to surpass each other. Instead, now at the top echelons of international metal, they might take it easy and comfortably release solid quality material from time to time, ala Motörhead, which we will undoubtedly devour as loyal fans but it won’t blow our minds like it did before. For the sake of us metalheads around the globe, let’s hope a new world of creativity and delivery is born for this melodeath masters after the fires of Surtr are extinguished.
I will skip the long introduction as any metal head already knows Amon Amarth and might have his or her own opinion about it. Let's get this straight: I think that the image and style of the band is rather silly and closed minded but I liked some of their past albums. I have now listened to the new album several times and to facilitate my review, I decided to divide it into ten points.
1.) Package: The first thing you can analyze when you buy a disc is the package and the relation between the offered material and the prize. This point is maybe the strongest one of the album. For a good price you don't only get ten new songs but also a bonus DVD that features 33 (!) live songs from four different concerts. That's a lot of material and might attract old and new fans and guarantee many hours of metal entertainment. The limited edition offers a nice statue and two bonus tracks and there is also a third bonus song for the Ap(pl)e generation. That's way more than other bands would do.
My verdict here: 10/10
2.) Production: The production is generally well done but I miss some edges and some energy that would rate this album up and make it heavier. The sound is not bad but not quite outstanding and it lacks of a soul and atmosphere because I think the sound is somewhat neutral and emotionless.
My verdict here: 5/10
3.) Expectations: Does this album offer what it pretends? It surely does and anybody that listens to Amon Amarth knows what he might get delivered - rather slow paced melodic death metal. But there is a little problem about it. The band always pretends to refer to the Viking history and Norse mythology. Concerning the lyrics, that might be true, but the image of the band is filled with ridiculous stereotypes of grim and brutal Vikings and the music has no mythological, historic or epic touch at all. There is nothing epic about the songs, they are sharp, short and sweet and the band could also sing about anything else and it would fit to the same kind of music.
My verdict here: 5/10
4.) Innovation: The band offers nothing new in here, the album is just another typical Amon Amarth album and it doesn't seem as if the band would have had a certain artistically goal or intention concerning the record. If one has one of the older records of the band and is not a fan boy, there is no reason to buy the new stuff. The older albums often varied more and something special from time to time which isn't the case in here.
My verdict here: 0/10
5.) Fan base: The next point is connected to the previous one. Even though the band isn't innovating at all and more conservative and closed minded as their Viking ancestors, this album might please to the old fan base. If you like the general style of Amon Amarth, you might also like this album. But it won't mostly be amongst your favourite record of the band on the other hand.
My verdict here: 5/10
6.) Catchiness: If the songs are not innovating or surprising are they at least catchy? Are there great choruses, tons of sharp riffs and catchy melodies? Not at all, not a single chorus or melody stays on my mind after several tries. The riffs are sharp but sound very much like the previous stuff. The songs are all quite repeating the same style and not one single track stands out.
My verdict here: 0/10
7.) Strength: If the songs are neither catchy nor innovating, do they at least have a lot of power and energy? As I said, there is a lack of emotion and atmosphere on the album and I must admit that the guitar riffs sound used and that the vocal range quite limited and bored. The clinical production doesn't save this point either. But as there is no true epic song or even ballad on the album, the songs are mostly straight forward and there are at least some good guitar solos from time to time that show that the band has got some talent.
My verdict here: 5/10
8.) Lifetime: What is the lifetime of the album? Will this record be a classic in a few years? Is this a visionary album? Is this an album that takes some time to grow and when it ultimately grows, it will be a great record? No, this is really just one of many Amon Amarth records and I think that it might be considered as one of their less impressive records and filler albums in the near future. The album is not visionary; it is boring, conservative and dumb. This album may be of interest until the concerts and next release for the tough fan base but that's all.
My verdict here: 0/10
9.) Touring: Sometimes, there is the phenomenon that songs don't work quite well on a record but much better during the live concerts. I think that the songs from "Surtur rising" may sound less clinical and straighter in front of a crowd. The sharp riffs and especially the guitar solos may sound more natural and energizing. But there are no songs like the live classics "Victorious march", "The pursuit of Vikings" or "Death in fire" on this record. The songs may be better but not exceptional.
My verdict here: 5/10
10.) Concurrence: I compared the new record to the old works of the band, but one must also do a comparison to other bands of the same genre. I must admit that must of the so called Viking metal bands such as Ensiferum or Tyr sound more authentic, epic and progressive than Amon Amarth. If we compare this album to the big classics of bands such as Bathory, the record fails even more. At least, it mostly sounds better and more convincing like many new hyped bands of the genre such as Swashbuckle or at some points Alestorm. If we compare the album to the releases of other melodic death metal bands, Amon Amarth easily beat the overrated posers of Children of Bodom but bands such as In Flames lately proved that they can innovate and look beyond the frontiers of a single genre which Amon Amarth clearly don't do.
My verdict here: 5/10
In the end, all those aspects lead to a final rating of forty weak points. This album might only please to the solid fan base of the band or people that simply want to bang their heads during the next concerts. Concerning the aspects of atmosphere, innovation and catchiness, the band completely fails. With their poser attitude of grim Vikings in the band photos and a cover that has the same level of intelligence and innovation as the covers of the Manowar albums, this popular and overrated band is one of the reasons why people that are not that much into metal often have a bad idea and negatively wrong impression of the whole musical culture. Most metal heads don't care but I have experienced several times that many people I know associate the term "metal" to superficial music like this and miss out some progressive, symphonic or power metal acts that they might actually like. Only modern gore and core music, nasty poser bands and extreme black metal sickness are worse than this stuff. Don't get me wrong, I personally like harder metal genres and listen to a lot of Gothic, Viking and Thrash Metal and even to some atmospheric Black and Death stuff from time to time, but this here is completely ass and a good example for a dumb and uninspiring hype band. This band wants to represent a "true" Viking style but the truth is that those hard guys are completely silly and the music sucks from an objective point of view. The progression and somewhat interesting aspects of the last two records of the band (which I liked and which convinced me to give them a chance for this one) seem to be erased with this downfall.
My final verdict: Don't believe the hype and try out other metal genres or other bands of the same genre. If you happen to like the band or if you want to discover them, I would rather suggest you to try out "Once sent from the golden hall" or the more recent “With Oden on our side”- they had much more diversity and atmosphere and have the rights and reasons to be considered as classics or at least strong albums. I would give at least the double of the points I gave to this new record to them.
Or to finish my review with a few words for the German fans to describe this new record briefly: “Amon Amarth = Am Arsch".
Amon Amarth could be likened to a favorite beer mug that is specifically designated for mead consumption. Apart from those who obsess with the particular beverage common to the Varangian pallet and have an affinity with an orthodox, non-folksy variant on melodeath, it’s a glass drinking implement that might only be used every now and then, but it has its place even among those not particularly of the persuasion in question. The ebbs have been few, and the flows many with regards to this mainstay of Swedish brand excellence with a guttural voice, and there has been a particularly noteworthy streak of late, with the newly released “Surtur Rising” being the third installment. Named for a mythical giant whose great flaming sword would engulf the Earth at Ragnarök (according to the Poetic and Prose Eddas), this is yet another album that successfully lives up to the grandiose imagery it portrays.
In most respects, this is a pure stylistic continuation of the post “Fate Of Norns” era of the band featuring the usual mixture of up tempo majesty, catchy riffing, and dark berserker barks. At the same time, this is also something of a further refinement of the same sound that merges the best elements of “With Oden On Our Side” and “Twilight Of The Thunder God”. The energetic tendencies of the former are on full display as the majority of the songs are fast and riff happy, while the somewhat lighter and melodic tendencies of the latter have given them a catchiness that is comparable to power metal at times. These are songs that are easy to get into, and also easy to become addicted to, despite the fairly simple model that shapes the whole. Basically this is the sort of standard verse/chorus approach to songwriting that could pass for radio, yet the quality is still just a bit too high and the edges too extreme for most rock radio stations to touch it.
There is hardly a moment where one can avoid being saturated with grand images of horses galloping, volcanoes exploding and a great sword of fire cutting down all foes in its wake. As the fast paced “War Of The Gods” kicks off the album, a familiar air to that of the hit title song off the last album becomes obvious, albeit the riff set is heavier and the atmosphere much more bleak, as if fate is about to smack the entire world head on. The usual flurry of tremolo melodies and rumbling drum work pounds the earth on “Destroyer Of The Universe” and “Live Without Regrets”, but the implicit flames of chaos that are communicated through each note scorch the land with greater intensity. And when all seems to be another exercise in tried and true, the album closes on a high note with an orchestrated epic in “Doom Over Dead Man”, with string sounds shimmering over a bleak, slow moving set of fatalistic guitar lines. Likewise, the lead guitar work that pops in and out of many of these songs is a bit more active than it has been in a long time, and without the assistance of guest slots from technicians like Rope Latvia.
Pretty much everything that is expected of an Amon Amarth release happens on this album, and it kicks ass all the same. This is the sort of quality material meant for those who already know exactly what they are looking for and want it served in a predictable fashion. Speaking for myself, this band is at its best when they put together triumphant, power metal tinged classics like the title song on “Twilight Of The Thunder God”, and a musical continuation of that classic mixture of death metal vocal wickedness and heroic catchiness can be found on “For Victory Or Death”. No new converts will likely be won over by this album, but given the near universal appeal of this band, messing with a winning sound is anything but a good idea, and these Vikings show a definite preference for seeking familiar lands to plunder.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 30, 2011.
Amon Amarth is nothing if not consistent. This is their eighth album and the Swedish band still has a knack for crafting catchy songs and infectious melodies. Amon Amarth has always been an impressively melodic band, but that has always been lurking a little bit beneath the surface of their crushing riffs and singer Johan Hegg's deep guttural roars. However, on this release, Amon Amarth actually does sound as if they are focusing on the melodies.
This is not a massive change of pace for Amon Amarth. The band has been stripping away the death metal sound for quite some time. This is just a natural progression for the band. While this is not as heavy of a release for the band, it is still very clearly them. It is still recognizable.
All of the other elements are still present. Hegg's vocals sound just as powerful as they did on their debut album. The dual guitar attack still churns out melodeath riffs and rips off some impressive solos. And the rhythm section still thunders along as the foundation of Amon Amarth's sound.
As I stated earlier, Amon Amarth still puts out some catchy songs. Opener "War of the Gods" is another great leading track from the band and captures the listener's attention early on. "A Beast Am I" is an absolutely crushing song. Most of the rest of the songs definitely have their moments and fall in line with typical Amon Amarth material.
Amon Amarth has switched up the formula a little bit. While this is not an instant classic like some of their other albums, it is definitely a good album. This may disappoint some of the band's longtime fans, but it will more than likely win them many more.
My personal relationship to the work of these Viking death inheritors has fluctuated through the years, reaching peaks of affection with The Avenger and With Oden On Our Side, but sinking into domestic squabbles with the far less impressive Fate of Norns. Three years back, though, another climax arrived in Twilight of the Thunder God, which was probably their best, most accessible album. The songs were almost unanimously memorable, the production immense, and despite the Norse Cliff Notes lyrical incentives, there was clearly an immense passion for the subject matter. If anything, this is expanded upon with Surtur Rising, the 8th Amon Amarth album, almost a twin brother to its predecessor.
Yes, they can hardly be accused of poetic license to rival the Eddas themselves, but it's obvious that Johan Hegg and his band of Swedish sea reavers feel a strong connection to the source material which they have invested here, in tales of the great fire giant and the Gods on high. The lyrics are a little better. It's safe to say that many of the band's ever broadening fan base would have been satisfied with a near carbon copy of Twilight of the Thunder God, and to a large extent, such an effort is made manifest in this. The studio standards are enormously high, without succumbing to the sterility that often plagues other large budget, melodic death entities. The riffs are simple but effective as they were on the last two albums, the Swedes never biting off more than they feel they ought to chew. The guitars ring loudly and often, the rhythmic battery of Fredrik Andersson a perfect, churning millstone of tempo, and the plunking of Ted Lundström adequate if not engrossing. You'll hear no lightening of the load in the vocal department, as Hegg continues to bluster out his gut busting grunts.
That said, there are a number of tunes marring the surface here that did little to draw in my attentions. "War of the Gods" is emotional but predictable, and the crushing but pensive sequel to 2006's "Hermod's Ride to Hell', titled "Töck's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II" is a standard mid-paced Amon Amarth swagger with little compelling hiding out in its depths, not even the calm and clean segue. "Destroyer of the Universe" picks up the momentum, with a surge not unlike the Twilight of the Thunder God title track. Honestly, though, it's not until "Slaves of Fear" that I started to bang my hammer and become absorbed to the simple, melodic thrashing and its transmutation into the arching, forceful bridge. "Live Without Regrets" has one of those catchy, folk epic notation patterns in its first riff, and a decent if predictable Viking breakdown; but then "The Last Stand of Frej" arrives, synthesizers gleaming with the grace of lost heroes behind the hammering double bass, and perhaps the climax of the entire album. Honorable mentions should also be imparted to the atmospheric closers "A Beast I Am" and "Doom Over Dead Man", which are also quite phenomenal.
Are they as good as "Guardians of Asgard", "Twilight of the Thunder God", "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags", or "The Hero" from the last album? Nah, but then they're really nothing to scoff at either, and should easily survive a good number of spins. There are also a number of cover tunes here on the various versions. "Balls to the Wall" (Accept) and "War Machine" (KISS) are functional, but the most surprising is the iTunes bonus, a fucking System of a Down cover! Not something one would expect from these Swedes, and yet somehow they transform "Aerials" into a product their own, with all the atmosphere of the rest of the album. If you weren't aware of the original (which I'm happy to say I wasn't), you might not even realize the band had drawn it from an external source.
Ultimately, if you've loathed everything this band has released since whatever sufficiently secure and obscure stopping point (say, Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds), then you are unlikely to feel much differently about Surtur Rising. But if you loved the last effort, then you'll probably want to peel another twenty spot from your wallet to acquire a horn or mug. Gods know, you'll want to be swinging it to most of the songs here, even if it does land somewhat short of the last two shores.