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This is very decent for a demo. The music is pretty similar to what they did on ‘Once Sent From The Golden Hall’. Uncompromising, aggressive Viking metal, with hardly any of the 12/8 groove that they tend to play today. It is powerful, and very memorable. Melodic, but not generic, as much of the Swedish melodic death metal tends to be.
1 – Burning Creation: This song features mainly tremolo-picked guitar harmonies, with aggressive 4/4 timing. The drums drive the song and the guitars and vocals seem almost superfluous. There’s even some keyboard work in a slower section. An interesting part is when everything stops except for one guitar, and the reverb on that guitar is all that can be heard, i.e. the dry signal has been mixed out. It all comes back into a 12/8 section that works much better than in the newer albums.
2 – The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter: Yet another aggressive song. If you like twin guitar harmonies and tremolo picked guitars, this song is great. I think they pulled the reverb trick on the vocals in one section too, and it sounds interesting. This song also ends with a 12/8 section that also sounds better than in the newer albums.
3 – Without Fear: An older version of ‘Once Sent…’ classic. Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve heard the later version, but this has some really noticeable problems. The drumming seems a little sloppy, and the tempo is inconsistent at the beginning. It’s hard considering I’m comparing the drumming to that of Martin Lopez’s. Still, it’s a great song nonetheless, with extremely catchy melodies and the unforgettable cry of ‘Without fear I die!’ that makes me remember why early Amon Amarth is so good.
The production on ‘The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter’ is a let down. That’s understandable, however, as it is only a demo. At least most things are mostly clear. Johan Hegg’s vocals are expressive and aggressive, something which has been missing for me since ‘Versus the World’ (although they improved on ‘With Oden…’ for me). The drum sounds are irritating for me, but once again, it is only a demo.
Overall, this is a pretty strong demo. There are better demos around, but this one is a good indicator of what was to come on Once Sent From The Golden Hall, which is in my opinion, easily the best Viking metal album ever.
I am generally not a huge fan of the melodic death metal style because of its close connection to the Gothenburg scene, which emphasizes a combination of over-simplified melodic ideas repeated way too much and an extremely flat sounding vocal approach, devoid of any change in character or general flexibility. I have taken a liking to Amon Amarth because they don’t suffer from these common trappings, and balance out simple melodies with the much needed changes to keep a song clocking in at over 4 minutes interesting.
Of the songs on here two ended up appearing on the “Sorrow through the Nine Worlds” EP, while the remaining track was kept for the debut LP “Once Sent from the Golden Hall”. Aside from the production quality and a slight extension in the length of “Burning Creation”, the former songs are mostly unchanged and performed well. By contrast, “Without Fear” is a good deal faster than the other two, features a somewhat less varied structure, and ultimately of a more triumphant character than the others. It is fitting that this song was not placed with the EP tracks, as the very titles of the two respective releases present two very different outlooks by this band, which is otherwise much more specialized than others in their genre in this regard.
This is a good demo to have if you are a core-fan of the band and wish to possess all of the versions of their recorded material. I obtained it along with the other 2 pre-Golden Hall releases on the Special Edition “Versus the World” release, which is the ideal way to get them and save money, not to mention the hassle of trying to find someone in possession of the original that is actually willing to part with it. This is an alternative take on the melodic death style that coincided with the Gothenburg scene, and one that I personally prefer, my own status as a power/prog fan non-withstanding.