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This lacks some of whats to come, but most definitely has a killer instinct all it's own. At it's best The Crusher rivals With Oden on Our Side in pure ruinous abandon, featuring a gritty, lethal guitar tone that was lacking on Versus the World. The guitars come off as less formulaic on the whole, although this may be due to this album's position early in Amon Amarth's catalogue. Even Mikkonen's solos, which are normally an afterthought, are emotive and searing from a technical standpoint. The colossal sonic aesthetics are paired with the final throes of the dark atmosphere the band experimented with on earlier albums, constituting a surprisingly potent approach that radiates energy not unlike the hammer featured on the cover.
While "Bastards of a Lying Breed" is a functional enough opener, it isn't until "Masters of War" that we begin to see flashes of brilliance. This song can be viewed as a more suffocating and relentless "Death in Fire", featuring similar percussive patterns and mid-paced inclinations. The simple, descending riff that constitutes the majority of the song hints at future compositional elements while at the same time having it's own unique appeal. The churning, visceral tremolo assault of "The Sound of Eight Hooves" makes a strong case for the top spot here, although with spastic barnburners like "A Fury Divine" nipping at it's heels it becomes difficult to really pick favorites all the same. "Annihilation of Hammerfest" features such a potent build-up and release of tension throughout it's first half, you almost lose track of what album you are actually listening to.
Hegg experiments a bit more with his Teutonic inflection here, diffusing primal roars with raspy croaks not unlike early Kalmah. His approach naturally falls in line with Versus the World more than anything, which isn't necessarily unwelcome. The riffs steal the spotlight in such an oppressive manner that the vocals become more of an afterthought than ever. Check out the intro of "A Fury Divine", which features multiple false-starts that give way into pulverizing tremolo surges that churn your insides like butter. The endless sea of thick, voluminous distortion permeates the air like the pyre of a scorched village. It isn't that Amon Amarth's later approach would lack this compressive lack of inhibition, but it comes off as if the band is having a lot more fun on The Crusher all the same.
This still can't dethrone With Oden on Our Side, but it comes dangerously close at times. None of these tracks are throwaways, which is something I can't say for any other album by these Swedes. Yes, some of the middle of the album runs together, but this is a risk necessitated by the deliberate approach Amon Amarth are so lauded/reviled for today. Somehow this one gets passed over more often than not, which is a damn shame. Don't let The Crusher fall through Ginnungagap without giving it a fair shake.
Along with The Avenger and Once Sent.. Amon Amarth formed something of a holy triad of epic melodic death metal with their third opus The Crusher. What I love about their third album is that it combines everything they had done so far. Forging the depth of their debut with the feral energy unleashed with The Avenger the band nailed us with one of their more complete works.
However while I say more complete I will say that there isn't any truly standout tracks as there were on the previous two albums. Not necessarily a bad thing though, I feel The Crusher maintains an equal measure of quality throughout its runtime. The beauty of this equal measure of quality is that the album makes for a great choice to whack on and sit back to. Especially if you're playing a particularly epic video game, The Crusher makes for a great soundtrack (think Dragon Age or something).
That isn't to say this album merely fades into background noise, it just makes for a great listen from start to finish. However if I were to have to pick out some standout tracks it would be "Bastards of a Lying Breed", "As Long as the Raven Flies" and the stoic "Annihilation of Hammerfest".
Overall this is another quality release from Amon Amarth, although it did see them starting to establish a formula/template that they would begin to rely on. This would also be the last truly great Amon Amarth album for a while. The Crusher serves as a great introduction to the band, and along with Twlight of the Thunder God would be the albums I would recommend to anyone yet to hear them/ trying to get into them.
I have to mention that 'The Crusher' is personally important to me because this was the first Amon Amarth album I've ever heard, and also this was the one who made me their fan. Of course, later I realised that this might be their weakest effort but I still like it. The songs were written with the same Viking themes in melodic death metal style but with less outstanding moments. However, two of my favourite Amon Amarth songs were featured on this record, 'Fury Divine' and 'Bastards Of A Lying Breed'. They also remade and re-recorded the 'Risen From The Sea' from 'Thor Arise' demo, but I have to say that I prefer the original one rather than this one because of the original atmosphere, despite that the sound of the revisited song is better. Beside this, there's another remake, a Possessed cover ('Eyes of Horror'), which is okay, it has the essential old-school feeling.
The problem with the rest of the album is that those songs are rather fast than good. Okay, they are not bad either, but Amon Amarth could write way better songs (as they did before and after this release). The sound is too heavy and a bit raw so I would recommend the remastered version, the songs sound way better than the original and it comes with a cool bonus disc. Anyway, I can recommend it to those who want to become familiar with the earlier work of Amon Amarth but who don't want to start it from the very beginning. It's good for a starter, but if you want to listen to them at their top form, then Versus The World or their last two full-length is for you.
Sweden's Amon Amarth swiftly became my favorite melodic death metal band several years ago when I first heard them. Though "Fate of Norns" was the first album I acquired by this band, it was this, "The Crusher," that sealed the deal for me. While Amon Amarth have refined their sound and become more accessible (not due to sylistic change but to updated album production measures,) I still see their earlier days as their prime. Not discounting what they've done in recent years, which is all good to the ears, but the raw sounds and incredible songwriting give these early works an epic in high doses feel.
"Bastards of a Lying Breed" is an excellent example of this, with the songs themselves mimicing (though not copying, don't confuse the two) the style we heard on "The Avenger." Rest assured, anyone who liked that album will like this one as they are very similiar in both sound and production standard. Although the stage of refinement in the style and songwriting hasn't changed much, I've always preferred to this album to its predecessor. To me, there just isn't overcoming the thunderous "The Sound of Eight Hooves" or instant goodness of "Risen from the Sea," a re-recorded version which originally appeared on the "Thor Arise" demo some time prior. I've never actually heard the original (except for the re-release version of the demos on "Versus the World" special set) but I prefer this one to what I have heard.
Naturally this wouldn't be Amon Amarth without some good Norse mythology and history, nor the unmistakable and intelligent growls of Johan Hegg. He delivers a great performance here, from the firestorms of "Bastards of a Lying Breed" to that of "Releasing Surtur's Fire," there isn't a dull moment with the guy. I've always loved how Hegg has always sounded intimidating yet his vocals are somewhat distinguishable and intelligent, never dumbing himself to those redundant and utterly disgusting growls that most "gore" death bands and American deathcore bands get caught in.
In terms of sheer melodic death firepower, look no further than "Annilihation of Hammerfest," "The Sound of Eight Hooves," and "Masters of War." My personal favorite out of the track list would belong to the lengthy but never boring "A Fury Divine." It lays out this band's usual epic nature on full scale, complete with an emotive solo, making this one of the album's great highlights. That being said, there isn't a dull moment on this record, from start to finish. The Possessed cover in "Eyes of Horror" is rather well done, and while not exactly a fan of that band I particularly enjoyed the cover more than I expected to. There has been a re-release of this album sometime in 2009, which is complete with some live performances. I personally have the original, but I can say I've not been tempted necessarily with re-purchasing this album for the sake of the extra goodies.
Bottom line, Amon Amarth's earlier career always stands as their best to me, seeing this band refining their sound and creating albums that become pure musical gold. Of those, "The Crusher" stands in high regard. I enjoyed these songs more so than those on "The Avenger," albeit slightly, while I see this album being more accessible to newer fans than "Once Sent from the Golden Hall." "Accessible" is a relative term, for this is still serious heavy metal firepower of the melodic death variety. It also outclasses most Gothenburg acts out there, which is saying alot considering I'm often partial to the works of bands like early In Flames, Dark Tranquility and earlier Arch Enemy. Already established fans who own "With Oden On Our Side" but are curious about this band's past, look no further than the great power of "The Crusher."
Ah, the impetuousness of youth … In a past review I rather prematurely stated that Once Sent From the Golden Hall was Amon Amarth’s best album, but listening to both the band’s debut and their third full-length release numerous times has since led me to the conclusion that the often overlooked and somewhat underrated The Crusher is in fact just as good as the lauded debut, maybe even a tiny bit better. What I generally like about Amon Amarth’s older albums is that the band was far less predictable in those days: whereas nowadays they almost exclusively write slower material, they used to do a much better job mixing things up tempo-wise in the early stages of their career. This is not to say that Amon Amarth’s later work isn’t quite amazing as well, but it seems to me that by sticking to what they apparently perceive to be their greatest strength, which is writing slower, anthemic songs geared more toward accessibility than diversity, they have creatively handcuffed themselves to a certain degree.
Besides, it’s not like their fast songs aren’t plenty melodic and catchy as well – for evidence see exhibit A, “Bastards of a Lying Breed,” which will stick in your ear almost immediately. It is indeed the faster songs (the other ones being “The Sound of Eight Hooves,” “Risen From the Sea” and “A Fury Divine”) that make The Crusher such an enjoyable experience, with the excellent “A Fury Divine” perhaps taking the cake as the album’s standout track and also serving as a prime example of the occasionally quite thoughtful lyrics the band penned down for some of the songs. While the usual one-sided anti-Christian fare is certainly present as well – for evidence, see the crushingly heavy “Masters of War,” the entire lyrical content of which could be summed up with the words “Die, puny Christian, die!” –, some of the lyrics are surprisingly emotional and original. In this regard, the aforementioned “A Fury Divine” comes up with an interesting take on the Christianization of northern Europe in the Early Middle Ages, telling the tale of a Germanic tribesman who is captured by his Christian foes and told to renounce the heathen gods of his forefathers; in the end, he refuses to submit and chooses death by decapitation over forced conversion and baptism:
I will stand firm, I refuse to kneel
The fury in me is divine
My dark grave awaits, my fate is revealed
But I'm not afraid to die
Another song with very heartfelt (albeit slightly repetitive) lyrics is “As Long as the Raven Flies,” which is of the same ilk as some of the plodding über-melodic mid-tempo anthems that Amon Amarth would specialize in on later albums, but works even better in the context of an album with more diversified songwriting:
Men will fight and men will die
Wars will be lost and won
That's how it's been and still will be
Long after I'm gone
Lyrical content aside, I’ve always considered Johann Hegg to be one of the best vocalists in all of death metal, and The Crusher shows again why: his growls are delivered with astounding conviction and are very throaty and deep, yet they usually let the listener understand what he’s singing about, which is always a plus. As for the other band members, they are in fine shape as well: bassist Ted Lundström and Fredrik Andersson, master of the pounding double bass drum, form a perfectly tight rhythm section; Andersson in particular has to be one of the most solid drummers out there – his play isn’t overly technical or flashy, but it has an unmistakable presence about it that simply commands respect. Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen, the guitar dream duo of melodic death metal, simply do what they do best, which is churn out a wealth of crushing riffs and one insanely catchy lead guitar theme after another. The production courtesy of metal workaholic Peter Tägtgren definitely helps in bringing out the best in the band’s stellar performance and is virtually flawless. Especially the guitar tone annihilates everything in its wake; in that respect, the punishing riff in the very first seconds of album opener “Bastards of a Lying Breed” is a harbinger of things to come and leaves no doubt that the listener is in for quite a ride!
All things considered, The Crusher – at least in this reviewer’s humble opinion – ranks right up there among the top three Amon Amarth albums (the other two being the debut and the equally impeccable With Oden on Our Side); for a band that to this day has never released even a mediocre, let alone a bad album, that's really saying something. However, a few points have to be subtracted from the overall rating for the fact that the last three proper songs – “Annihilation of Hammerfest,” “The Fall Through Ginnungagap” and “Releasing Surtur’s Fire” – lack variety and, while being consistently solid and offering plenty of fine moments, don't quite match the level of utter brilliance achieved by some of the other tracks. The CD bonus track “Eyes of Horror” (a Possessed cover) also doesn’t do much to round off the album as it’s very poorly produced and stylistically doesn't fit with the rest of the material. Leaving such minor complaints aside, however, The Crusher is a mandatory listen for all fans of Amon Amarth as well as of non-Gothenburg Swedish melodic death metal in general.
Choicest cuts: Bastards of a Lying Breed, Risen From the Sea, As Long as the Raven Flies, A Fury Divine
The Crusher is, when compared to some of the later albums from Amon Amarth, a stronger album. It’s louder, faster, heavier, and a little bit more complex compared to any of their later work. Everything on The Crusher is just a little bit stronger when compared to one of their later albums like Twilight of the Thunder God. Everything just seems faster on this album. The riffs are faster, but the majority of them are Gothenburg styled riffing, yet they still keep some melody. The rhythm guitar is distorted while its tremolo picking and the distortion makes it sound like a buzzing static sound in the background.
One department that Amon Amarth has always lack in is song structure. All of their songs don’t really have any sort of intro to them; they all just kind of just start. Same thing could be said about how they end. None of the songs progress into any sort of conclusion, they just end. And as for the structure, the songs usually alter between verse, bridge, and a chorus in the middle somewhere and after the second chorus/bridge in each song is when the guitar solo usually makes its appearance. Probably what makes the songs stand out from one another would be that even though the riffs are a bit simple, they still are surprisingly catchy, while changing tempos throughout the song. While the songs have a similar sound to them, you can still pick out every song from each other so it doesn’t sound like a chaotic mess of bland songs.
Personally I think the best thing about The Crusher would be the vocals by Johan Hegg. Unlike most vocalists in a melodic death band, Hegg isn’t a monotone vocalist. If you have ever had the misfortune of hearing a monotone screamer in any sort of death metal band then you know how quickly they can get annoying. This is not the case for Johan Hegg however; he’s got a very angry and energetic scream and a nice grunt he throws in here and there creating a livelier listen.
It may not be their best album, but it still is an enjoyable album nonetheless. It features some great vocals, some heavy riffs, and a nice aggressive vibe to it all. The problems are minor and can be overlooked because the only real problem is that to some the songs will bleed into each other and sound the same. Other than that this is an appealing album worth checking out.
The Crusher is yet another album by Amon Amarth that proves that metal bands don't necessarily need to undergo major stylistic changes in order to improve. Truth be told, this album is hardly distinguishable from AA's two previous album. Sure, this album does see some fairly obvious changes in a few departments, but otherwise, the band stay true to their well-worn road of passionate and victorious death metal. The band's song structures, lyrics, or overall sound haven't taken any quantam leaps; thank God.
If there is one change out-front that is immediately noticeable, it's the album's production. The bass is a little more obscured this time around, the drums have a more direct and punchy sound that would come full circle on Versus the World, and the guitar tone is considerably more beefy and dense. This works to an advantage here, as the slower riffs are given more room to breathe, and the more thashed-out numbers like "Bastards of a Lying Breed" and "Releasing Surtur's Fire" swirl into massive walls of pounding, rage-filled noise. With the guitar tone and drum sound tweaked, everything sounds a bit more polished than before, with the exception of Johan's vocals; which seem to still maintain a rawness seen on previous albums. He doesn't use the growl as much here, though he certainly has evolved in performance and lyrical craft since the first album; instead, he uses a mid-pitched rasp/growl.
Though the band have by no means changed much of their trademark sound, there are some subtleties that boost the album as a whole; compositions seem more fully developed, and the guitars collaborate wonderfully rather than play off each other. Genius melodic riffs power "The Sound of Eight Hooves," and the slower songs like "Annihilation of Hammerfest," which seemed to bring previous albums down, now contain a deeper sense of breadth and emotion. This may be due to the lyrics, which take a slight break from the "burn and pillage" mentality often seen for a more introspective mannerism of telling Norse lore and legends. Even the more brutal numbers seem more cohesive and clean-cut while maintaining the balls needed for this band. There is a greater sense of dynamics; "The Fall Through Ginnungagap" balances an overwhelming epic sense with a darker mid-section, while "Annihilation of Hammerfest" contains seemingly hope-filled riff work on the verses.
Anders' drum work propels the rest of the band through thundering mid-paced sections, and just as easily through passages of blistering speed chock full of pummeling double bass. A perfect example is "The Sound of Eight Hooves", where a merciless verse is interplayed by gliding double bass, only to let up in the next passage with a shuffling tempo that still maintains intensity. The album's opening track and "Risen From the Sea" prove to be some of the best drum tracks Anders has ever lain to tape.
Overall, The Crusher proves to be yet another incredible album by Amon Amarth. It's not really that different from anything else they've offered up, but that only helps it. The whole album proves for an interesting, consistent, and enjoyable listen the whole way through.
Favorite tracks: "Masters of War", "The Sound of Eight Hooves", "Releasing Surtur's Fire."