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In the world of heavy metal music, in all its various shapes and sizes, few things get me more pumped than Amon Amarth. While many listeners have caught onto this band's mighty warship through more recent releases such as "With Oden on Our Side" and "Twilight of the Thunder God" I will always see this band's glory days etched in their early existence. "The Avenger" is the band's second proper album, and a devastating array of talent that this band continues to put forth even to this day.
As described before, Amon Amarth's consistent plan of attack includes gracious melodies, simple (yet killer) riffs, energetic structure, thunderous drums, and Johan Hegg's mighty yet intelligent vocals. In the world of melodic death metal, and sometimes obvious trappings of repetitiveness of the Gothenburg groups, Amon Amarth are a gemstone that few can ignore. "The Avenger" delivers this and more, just not with the clear sound quality of "Fate of Norns" and beyond that newer listeners have gotten used to.
The album's higher points stick to their comfortable formula, though some upgrades have occured since "Once Sent from the Golden Hall." For one, the production is better, though it still pertains a sense of raw charm. Johan Hegg now sounds up front, rather than his yelling from a mountain of the last album. He has cashed in most of that gruff yelling style he used on the album prior, instead focusing more on his unmistakable growls as he charges forth with thunderous rhythms and straight-for-the-jugular riffing. This is seen in "Bleed for Ancient Gods," the incredible "The Last with Pagan Blood," and "North Sea Storm." All three of these songs are definite stand-outs, and some of the best this band has put forth.
Unfortunately, you only get seven songs on this release (though my version has a re-recorded "Thor Arise.") Naturally, since "The Avenger" isn't as strong as the album before or after, this is a bit of a snag. The title track, while building something epic with its seven minute length is just too long. Its not bad and definitely not anything near a throwaway, but the shorter songs still reign supreme here. "Metalwrath," aside from its backstory, isn't as noteworthy, either. Considering the stronger tracks like "North Sea Storm" and "The Last with Pagan Blood" are outright incredible, its hard for everything else here to stand-up to it. That being said, none of these seven songs are throwaways and all have merit of worth. This also includes the bonus track in "Thor Arise," a re-recorded song that originally appeared on the demo of the same name. I've never heard the original demo version, though this version is good, though being tacked on at the end makes it stick out a little bit. It isn't necessarily great, though still worthy. Its just that throwing it on at the end seems a bit out of place, kind of like the "Eyes of Horror" cover that appears on "The Crusher" album.
Though its not as consistent as "With Oden on Our Side" nor has as many good songs as "The Crusher," "The Avenger" is by no means a bad album. Any Amon Amarth fan is still required by the Viking gods to check it out, its just that in the grand picture of things, it doesn't stick out very much. The consistency of this band's formula that exists to this day is on this album, and the songwriting has improved over "Once Sent from the Golden Hall," even if I prefer that album to this one. For those new to this mighty band, I'd suggest looking towards "Versus the World" or "The Crusher" before this one, as both are better than this one but also because they are easier to get into and put forth more quality for your buck. Yet if you're more familiar with Amon Amarth's music and your collection is lacking this album, its like a Viking going to battle without his shield: you just don't do it.