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Amon Amarth does one thing: melodic yet brutal Viking death metal. And they do it better than anyone else. I had only heard one song by them before this album, the epic "Victorious March." After that I was hooked, eagerly jumping into this album blindfolded. I wasn't disappointed.
The Avenger is an album that inspires one to grow a beard and take up arms against the Christian oppressors like no other. The twin guitar assault is the spear of Odin thrust into your heart, Johan Hegg's growling vocals are the battlecry of a thousand frenzied berserkers, the relentless doublekick echoes with the thunderclap of Mjolnir.
There is not a single weak point over the course of the album's duration. It opens with "Bleed for Ancient Gods," a thrashing, pounding, furious sweeping battle anthem that stomps on your throat and establishes the defining credo of Amon Amarth with the chorus line, "war to us is holy." The second track, "The Last with Pagan Blood," twists the boot pressing on your jugular and doesn't let you think for one second the battle is over. This is definitely the stand out track among an entire album of stand out tracks. "...Pagan Blood" also conjures up some of the album's most vibrant imagery, an element Amon Amarth is most definitely not in short supply of.
"North Sea Storm," takes the battle to sea, again inspiring glorious imagery of Norsemen struggling against formidable enemies. This song also features the album's best solo. The title track is next, imparting a somber tale of brutal Viking retribution highlighted by another brilliant solo. In "God, His Son, and Holy Whore," probably the fastest song, the band's unconditional hatred of the Christian faith manifests more clearly than anywhere else. "Metalwrath" is a fun metal anthem, cleverly working the band's previous song titles into the lyrics. "Legend of a Banished Man" caps off the album with the story of an invincible Viking warlord's return. "Run for your lives, death has arrived..." By now, any non-metalheads you have subjected to Amon Amarth's special brand of warlike malice should be whinging in protest and praying for your soul.
All in all, The Avenger is the best Viking metal album ever put out. Each song is a well-constructed epic tale of Nordic folklore, accompanied most approriately by the all best elements of the melodic death metal genre. This is the album that should inspire artists to paint vast murals depicting proud Viking warriors dying gloriously on the field of battle, slaughtering the Christian dogs till their swords fall from their grasp, cursing their enemies with their last gasping breath. There is no other band that sounds like Amon Amarth, no other band that so clearly brings to mind such striking imagery.
The album’s one fault would be only this: it's too short. The Avenger clocks in at just over 36 minutes with only seven songs. It's a brief listen, though an intense one from start to finish. But considering how often these masterful architects pump out consistently great material, it’s an easily forgivable fault.