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WAR TO US IS HOLY!! - 82%

Pyrus, September 30th, 2003

In today's death metal scene, consistency is an attribute sadly lacking - the only consistent bands, by and large, are those that start shitty and continue to be shitty for a long while after. It seems that most bands simply run out of ideas and disintegrate into a mass of pussified "melodic" riffs, mediocre vocals, and synthesized retardation. But there are still gems for the discerning death metal listenter - such as Amon Amarth.

The thing that makes this band great is that they took one over-arching idea blending Stockholm brutality and Gothenburg melody with an unhealthy dose of vicious Viking attitude - and then, get this, plugged a bunch of different riffs into it. This album, their second, runs a bit more melodic than their first full-length effort, but maintains a firm dedication to all that is loud, drunken, violent, and Norse.

The opening track, "Bleed For Ancient Gods," is one of Amon Amarth's best songs, dynamic and up-tempo with skilled drumming and a high riff-count. The second chorus at 2:46 is perhaps the defining moment of this album - kicked off with a snarling "War to us is holy!" and then leading into the throat-ripping "Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice our blood for ancient gods!" vocal tradeoff. The final "Waaaaaaaaaarrrr! And then we kill!" growl is quite fun too.

Another high point is closer "Legend of A Banished Man," with a grim bass intro that conveys the image of waves swelling in the ocean - and then the main riff comes up, the "dragon ship even more feared than the nail-ship Naglfar." "Legend" is a vicious mid-tempo bruiser featuring another of the most memorable lines in Amon Amarth's catalog - "Run for your lives! Death has arrived!" The epic, march-drum instrumental bit at 4:30 puts not just a cap on the album, but a steel helmet spotted with blood and dented from a mighty axe-blow.

In between these two highlights are five solid, solid tunes. "God, His Son And Holy Whore" is particularly worthy of notice, a churning bit of anti-Christian rage that easily qualifies for the "KVLT-as-fuck" category. And the title track is an epic of revenge, which drags a bit in the beginning but begins to really fucking SLAY around the four-minute mark. The closing solo is great, Johan Hegg's screams of "DIE!" around 4:30 show some of his full potential as one of the best growlers in death; he really starts to shine on The Crusher.

But that's another review. For now, here is a short, hard-hitting, death metal opus that works well as drinking music, moshing music, raping music, pillaging music, slaying-cowardly-men-of-Christ music, or really just about anything that invokes the spirit of drunken, hairy Norse pirates. You provide the beer and weaponry, and The Avenger will provide the favor of Odin.