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Amon Amarth are no mysterious band. They may sound mysterious when they're described as five huge and hairy Vikings come from Scandinavia to spread the myths and primitive culture of their icy homeland via mean, cruising death metal; yet, when they're described as Swedes who have found a niche creating mid-paced melodeath with war themes, they lose some of that initial appeal. It's true, Amon Amarth have been putting out the same album for more than 15 years now (10 at the time of this release) and there aren't many surprises left. That said, 'Twilight of the Thunder God' was a clear move on the band's part, shifting from the underground to a prominent position in metal's mainstream by dint of a catchier and more song-oriented formula. The move was a success, though has left the band with a problem - they now have the metal world's attention focused on them and need to deliver something special.
It's notable that 'Twilight of the Thunder God' has produced the only single of Amon Amarth's career: the title track was released as a precursor to the album and, like many others, it was the first time I heard the band. That song is a joyous surge of riffs and growls that made In Flames look stupid and Soilwork sound heavy. There isn't really a great deal of death metal to speak of beyond Johan Hegg's monstrous vocals (he's deep and furious but the lyrics are completely audible), with a concerted effort to include hooks and memorable moments, even if the chorus ("Thor, Odin's son, protector of mankind, ride to meet your fate, your destiny awaits / Thor, Hlódyn's son, protector of mankind, ride to meet your fate, Ragnarök awaits") contains too much Nordic jargon to be a complete dumbing down of the band's aesthetic. For the most part, that's how the album unfolds, with catchy riffs greatly outnumbering heavy ones and stomping drums taking the lead from blastbeats. There are barely any progressive ideas left, not that Amon Amarth were ever especially complex to begin with, but there's nothing like 'Gods of War Arise' from the preceding 'With Oden on Our Side' album, even if the closing 'Embrace of the Endless Ocean' bears a strong resemblance to 'Prediction of Warfare', with its extended running time and epic storyline. Of the 10 songs on 'Twilight of the Thunder God', only that closing track and 'The Hero' deviate from popular songwriting structure that follows a pattern of verse, chorus, and bridge.
This conventionality means that Amon Amarth must make distinct and memorable songs, a point on which they largely succeed. Even with a comparatively brutal voice like Hegg's it's possible to sink a few great choruses and his vocal rhythms are always shifting and finding interesting deliveries, though it's more down to the guitarists that the band come out on top. There is at least one riff per song that is instantly recognizable upon listening, bolstering the simple structures and giving strong reference points for repeating parts. 'Varyags of Miklagaard' and 'Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags' both triumph mid-album for exactly this reason, setting out their stalls with infuriatingly catchy riffs that probably will never leave your mind, even if neither of them attempt to inject much heaviness or furious drive into the equation. However, 'No Fear for the Setting Sun', which follows them, redresses the balance with more crusading tremolo riffs and a squealing solo, making you standing up and shout more than nod your head to the groove. The drums are also quite varied, throwing in several sections of riff-breaking percussion that Hegg follows vocally; these are interesting and change the feel of the guitars, roughing up the smooth and slick riffs for a short time. Bass is also audible most of the time, heavying up the sound with a steady low groan.
The band really do their best to make this formula pay off for the entire album, altering pace frequently and juxtaposing the catchy stomp with the soaring battle melodeath. 'Guardians of Asgaard' is perhaps the most delightfully hooky in its emphasized riffs, even at fairly slow pace, but 'Where Is Your God?' is clearly the compromise, a lightning-paced rager that parallels 'Asator' from the previous album; however, it feels rushed, particularly the vocals in the verse, which barely fit into the space allowed, even if the savage chorus is a highlight. I've now mentioned two songs that have a predecessor on 'With Oden on Our Side' and that's one of the issues with this album. Although the band's sound has distinctly shifted towards a more mainstream direction, the songs here are nothing new and actually follow a similar running order to the earlier release. The more balanced songs kick off the album, showcasing catchy and heavy elements of the band, then the token "fast song" follows, with another couple of strong numbers afterwards, leaving the latter half to meander a little and leave the path, before concluding with a more involved epic. There are tricks there to make things seem different, like the cellos in 'Live for the Kill' and the horns in 'Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags', though these moments feel like just that - tricks to try and make the formula fresh. None of the songs are really poor, but nobody expects that from Amon Amarth; the issue here is that none of them can do quite enough to sound massively exciting, unless this is your first listen to the band.
It seems like Amon Amarth will never make a poor album, yet one has to question whether there is much purpose in them continuing if there are no fresh ideas to progress their sound. On the other hand, they are quite clearly the outstanding band playing this kind of music, so there is little need for them to change anything major besides a few of the smaller puzzle pieces. Perhaps the best that can be said for 'Twilight of the Thunder God' is that it isn't dramatically worse than any of the other Amon Amarth albums, though it certainly doesn't bear the distinction of being the best, as it can't produce the excitement of its older brother or even the grandaddies from the 90s. For the band, the transition to a more accessible style has paid off in full, even if I'm still not sure it made them a better band.
With the title track being what is possibly Amon Amarth's most famous song, I expected quite a lot from Twilight of the Thunder God. Unfortunately those expectations aren't met, and there are a few fatal flaws with this record that ultimately mean it doesn't leave much of an impact.
First of all, the guitars are less heavy than they were previously. Normally that wouldn't matter to me, because I prefer melodic death metal that is more melodic than death metal, but Amon Amarth just seem incapable of doing anything incredibly complex that would appeal to my ears. It's not like listening to Arch Enemy or Children of Bodom where there are melodic hooks that are placed throughout every song, there are a lot of fairly blank sections that rely solely on the power that's missing here. Aside from that not working, the guitars are more distorted than I would like them to be and the leads tend to get lost under everything else.
Of course, Johan's vocal abilities are as strong as ever here. Not that anyone would expect anything less. I always find his work incredible, and it's no different here. The drumming is also still great, very fast for the most part but never overly so. It's a shame that the guitars ruin the main part of the music, because otherwise the band might have challenged the quality of their last album with this one.
There's another offence in the form of Varyags of Miklagaard. It is literally a clone of Gods of War Arise, only watered down and basically made less enjoyable. It's sad that the band thought they could get away with that one. Live for the Kill lingers dangerously close at a point in the chorus to stealing from Cry of the Black Birds and again after the solo, but can just about get away with it. Now, we can all appreciate that With Oden on Our Side was a great album, but that doesn't mean that you have to copy all your ideas from that record over onto the next in order for it to be a success too.
This album might be a good starting point for people that want to get into melodic death metal, but if you're after an outstanding release by Amon Amarth I'd recommend for you to go and listen to With Oden on Our Side from cover to cover. It's far superior to Twilight of the Thunder God in almost every way.
This is where Amon Amarth's well-worn formula begins to show thin points at the seams. Having to follow up the massive With Oden on Our Side doesn't help Twilight of the Thunder God's case as well. Söderberg and Mikkonen's delivery is similar in approach, but they can't help but rehash themselves if the material is spread this thinly. Take "Guardians of Asgaard" for example, which opens with a churning, virulent surge only to devolve into ephemeral stacatto-esque riffs that embody everything stagnant regarding Amon Amarth's modern approach. The chorus tries to salvage the song, but it is too little too late. The biggest offender is without a doubt "Varyags of Miklagaard", which comes off as nothing more than a less visceral twin to "Gods of War Arise". The verses are nearly identical.
The guitars' burly, subsonic delivery is befitting of the primal subject matter, but Andersson's kit lacks the snaring appeal it had on the previous album. This damages the normally-cohesive rhythm backbone, which was the driving force behind classics like "Runes to My Memory". Keen ears can still discern the potential lurking somewhere in the background, as it occasionally surfaces during songs like the more traditional romp, "The Hero". The band experiments with some interesting elements, like the fluttering gallop during sections of "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags", but it comes off as an insincere attempt at adding variety; proving that the band was aware of the stagnation that was beginning to set in. Some of these experiments work, such as the more traditional heavy/power metal riffs during "Live for the Kill". This one wouldn't sound out of place on a modern Grave Digger album like Rheingold, so it comes off as a winner to my ears.
Others like "Free Will Sacrifice" try to play up the more colossal aesthetics present on Versus the World, but are let down by the uneven production. The guitars sound strangely compressed and low in the mix, even if the performance falls in line with most of Amon Amarth's more superior efforts. The one sonic attribute that edges out With Oden on Our Side is regarding Hegg's vocals. He digs into even more sepulchral levels of primal rage, delivering his most memorable vocal assault to date. The few standouts include the title track and "Where Is Your God?", which wouldn't sound too out of place on the previous opus, but far too little sticks.
This is a hard one to keep around at the end of the day. I feel like I have to lower my standards to an uncomfortable threshold in order to enjoy any of Twilight of the Thunder God. Yes, it is methodical and consistent in it's delivery, but what it delivers falls very short.
Twlight of the Thunder God had the arduous task of having to follow up Amon Amarth's finest hour in With Oden On Our Side. Having heard the title track prior to the albums release I was stoked. An undeniably quality tune, with a classic metal feel interspersed with Amon Amarth's signature melodic death metal. Great guitar lines, and quality riffs I certainly felt positive about the album.
Upon hearing the finished product the feeling of positivity I had stuck around, which was pleasing. Which is also what I think can be said about the whole album, a pleasing effort. Whilst this can't match the heights of With Oden On Our Side or even the likes of The Crusher this album is a whole load more enjoyable than the ropey middle area of their career.
Opening up with the aforementioned title track, Amon Amarth take us on a journey through raging seas, and bloodied battle grounds. The album has a noticeably rounder sound to it, whilst With Oden On Our Side had a loud and heavy sound Twilight of the Thunder God has more in common production-wise with The Crusher. The music contained is typical of Amon Amarth, although the riffs sacrifice some of the heaviness from the previous release in favor of catchier numbers. This album would certainly serve as a good introduction to the band.
As for standout tracks the title track is pretty damn bad-ass, and I remember bounding with excitement when I first heard it. "Free Will Sacrifice" has some quality grooving to it, and a catchy riff that you can happily hum along to. "Where is Your God" has some heavy riffs, but I've found it to be fairly passable over repeated listens. "Varyags Of Miklagaard" is one of the more melodic numbers on the album, and is certainly one of the finer tracks here. "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags" is along with the title track and maybe "Live For The Kill" (that fucking riff, man) the best of the bunch here. All of which showcase Amon Amarth ala 2008, with their formula and sound firmly cemented.
Overall Twilight of the Thunder God is a worthy addition to the Amon Amarth back catalogue, but just can't hold a flame to the sheer excitement of With Oden On Our Side. I could never quite understand why this album received such ridiculous levels of fellation. This is Amon Amarth doing what Amon Amarth does, with a slight air of distillation and more focus on being catchy than heavy.
Amon Amarth has always been a good viking/melodic death metal band, plain and simple! A band with great charisma, strength and determination to dominate the European metal scene, Amon Amarth definitely don't mess around with the important bits, especially not with this album! Twilight of the Thunder God is same old AA, sad to say really. Viking folklore and mythology is their usual schtick, before you crazy AA fans cry foul, Amon Amarth is, without a doubt, the only band that actually makes me think and fantasize about viking folk tales. "Thunder" is really a portal to the past, to the old days of axes, killing and pillaging, a viking's life. When you pop this into your stereo or switch it on your MP3, you feel like you've entered a completely different world full of life and viking myths. A real treat to any AA or Norse mythology fan such as myself.
Time for the music, did it suck major ass? There's one answer to that one: no. They really delivered, sure it's nothing new really, it's what you'd expect. However, the production is clear, better and louder! The entire band seemed to step up a notch in terms of sound quality, everything has a certain togetherness, meaning the band unity and overall musicianship is very high and taken seriously. This album would've been 100% if not for the same old song and dance that AA has brought to the table, I mean seriously, can they sing other than Vikings or Norse mythology? Maybe not, it's their thing and it's what people expect, but I would prefer them to sing about something else from time to time. That's not just the only reason why I gave this album an 85. I felt like some of the songs are something I've already heard before like the "Live For The Kill" chorus riff sounds just like "Cry of the Black Birds" from their previous album or even "Embrace of the Endless Ocean" has the outro riff to "Gods Of War Arise" from their album "With Oden on Our Side". In way it feels like I've heard it all before and that I've experienced it all, it also shows AA's lack of creativity by replaying, literally, the same stuff. Give those songs a listen and I'm sure you'll notice it.
For the overall band performance: Hegg's vocal power was the same as it was on any AA album, powerful and intimidating. He executed them perfectly and he deserves a pat on the back with a horn full of mead. The guitars were played beautifully, perhaps too distorted and lacked some melody but other than that it was a nice touch. The drums were good as well, although, a bit repetitive at times because you'll mostly hear the same damn drum beat over and over. It's not terrible or anything, but then again it's not stellar.
This album was mainly a repetition of AAs previous work, some riffs that you'll find are the same and they have the same melody to it also. To be honest, it's just all of their previous work that's been remastered into a new album with a different title and cover. It sounds, feels and looks good, but looks aren't everything. It's about the content, and I think AA is lacking just a bit, lacking power, creative edge and that's all. Other than that it's a good album, but you should listen to it mainly because it's Amon Amarth. I personally enjoyed it at times and I found that adding orchestra filler was a nice touch, well done guys, but you can do better.
Amon Amarth is an interesting band. Even if death metal is their clearest influence, their music is more riff-oriented than the music delivered to us by a lot of thrash metal bands. Their vocals rock in the album and during the concerts, being Johan Hegg capable of delivering some of the most intense growls I have ever seen. Yet, those vocals are melodically interesting, and it doesn't feel like Hegg is showing off, even if it must be hard as hell to sing like that. The drums are regular at best, but they don't need to be spectacular or to deliver blast beats because the two guitars and the bass are always there, throwing riff after riff and never letting the listener get bored.
If you are reading this review you probably know at least a little about Amon Amarth, so why am I bothering to describe the band? It's because in Twilight of The Thunder God the band works with all the elements mentioned above, with little to no variation. While it sounds amazing most of the time, the lack of different stuff exposes the only clear problem present here, which is also present in most of Amon Amarth's work: the music is not actually diverse. There isn't a song that is more epic than the other (except for the title track), one that focuses more on the solo or one that focuses more on the drums: the whole recording is composed of riff-based songs with predictable drums and vocals that manage to be brutal and melodic at the same time. Sometimes solos kick in, but they are average and barely manage to be a decent background to the amazing riffs.
The title track, however, made me forgive almost all the flaws present in this full-length. "Twilight of The Thunder God" is the best song Amon Amarth has delivered so far, and may be the best they will ever deliver. The riffs are perfect, the vocals are even more brutal than usual, the drums are very good although not necessarily creative and even the guitar solo (which starts jumping an unknown number of octaves and ends up using almost the whole guitar neck) is extremely creative.
The epic feeling is always there. The lyrics are kind of silly (although I recognize that writing about Vikings is not the easiest thing to do) but they don't ruin the mood: while listening to the album it is impossible not to imagine the scenes that the lyrics describe, characteristic somehow unique to Amon Amarth that is created by using emotional yet heavy riffs.
This album will hardly surprise anyone, but if you like Amon Amarth's melodeath I recommend it. It is not the most complex or the best metal recording ever, but it does provide 43 minutes of solid headbanging and awe-inspiring vocals. If you choose not to buy it, though, make sure to listen to the title track, it rocks.
Amon Amarth... I never actually heard of them when I listened to this album. I checked a few pictures of them... it seems they are bearded hairy men who look like they live in the dark ages. Apparently they can make music too, and they’re not just your average death metal band either. And they seem quite popular, and when I hear the music I totally understand. I guess this is what people call ‘Viking metal’; melodic death metal with some folky tunes every now and then, complemented with lyrics about ancient gods like Odin and Thor. The whole lot surprised me a little bit, since I actually was expected the average death metal band I despise. Instead, I got to hear an album by a band with talent and a unique sound.
These guys have a very heavy sound created by two guitars and a bass, one that’s really fat and juicy. Complemented with the heavy drums of Fredrik Andersson and the deep growls of bearded vocalist Johan Hegg, you’ve got the main ingredients for a melodic death band. The songs are catchy and melodic but still very heavy, which makes them attractive. Mostly they have some good lead guitar melodies during the chorus, making it epic and memorable, like on “The Hero”. I guess it’s a part of the Viking-attribute to have lead guitars play a folky melody to add some catchiness. Also, these guys are not extreme. They create heavy death metal, but there are no blastbeats, aggressive screams and/or other wild things. This is purely creating good songs with enough variation, purely for the music. I can’t actually say the same about other bands in their genre, though there are always exceptions. There are fast anthems on here such as the title track, “Where Is Your God?” and “Live for the Kill”, also mid-paced little epics such as “Free Will Sacrifice” and “Guardians of Asgaard”, which are two of the best tracks on the album, and there is an epic album closer in the shape of “Embrace of the Endless Ocean”, which does not only have a catchy title, but is truly epic in its own way. There is not one weak song on here.
It’s time to have a look at the highlights of this album, and thereby describing some more details. Title track “Twilight of the Thunder God” features some real catchy guitar melodies as the main riff, and after about four times the theme the speedy drums kick in with a double bass. The deep growls are really one of the best I have ever heard. There’s also some notable guitar soloing here. “Free Will Sacrifice” features some weird-ish riff, which easily became one of my favorites after a few listens. And again it is the melodic lead guitar at the chorus which adds the finishing touch to the album. As if the first two songs were not good enough, in comes “Guardians of Asgaard”, with a bombarding riff, so powerful I was just blown away. Then the song goes into a true Viking-melody that sounds like a child’s song when played on the piano, but like a true metal anthem when played on a down tuned guitar like here. The bombarding riff returns a few times at the chorus, which is one of the highlights of the album. Then comes the very fast “Where Is Your God?”, which actually has a quite funny lyric and some very speedy double bass drumming. I think the highlight of this song is when the song drops dead for a second and you hear the vocalist take a breath for the last chorus. The other songs of the album all feature a steady riff with memorable Viking-melodies and deep growling, but they are not as memorable as the first four songs. Last but not least I want to praise the drummer. Fredrik Andersson is no beginner behind his drums, damn! His drumming is very appropriate on every song and just so inventive and so much variation.
So, this album is very good. Not much more I can say about it. If you’re into the genre or into Amon Amarth, this album is a must-have. If you are new to the genre, this album will be the one that gets you into it.
Strongest tracks: “Twilight of the Thunder God”, “Free Will Sacrifice” and “Guardians of Asgaard”.
I'll admit to have been rather late in the entry of the AMON AMARTHy Viking ship. Nothing against them…I knew who they were, and at the risk of seeming out of the loop, for what it's worth I just didn't become too interested in their works until their name became large and in charge within the American touring circuit. By then I just had to find out what the hell the deal was with these guys. And in doing so, spotting these swarthy Swedes on stage, tearing through their well-to-do method of melodic death metal, struck a Nordic chord in my blackened heart like a well-aimed sword tip so intensely that over time I craved more, more, more. And more I got...they kept at it, appearing time and again, to my increasing delight, until the hunger for all things Viking and deathly bled into the procurement of their recorded works, which turned out to be just as satisfying.
And so we've come to their latest Valhallic offering...
What makes the AMON AMARTH machine work so well is their "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" take on metal. Time and again their platter of fist-pumping death metal musicality and Fimbulvetr-evoking lyrical content always quenches nicely with each successive listen and album. There’s something infectious with the way the material is presented, more so than many others of their ilk who were left in the dust years ago; sure, the performance and overall compositions are taken seriously, but not TOO seriously and still a fun factor is noticed the more continuous listens increase. The entire band channels this focus acutely with their combined performances, where awe-inspiring riffs, melodic guitar tandems, pitter-patter percussion abuses and unearthly growls come together in a morass of metallic masterment that puts them in an echelon populated by few others, at thankful lengths (it would‘ve been easy for the band to totally overstay their welcome with such material present, but 4 or so minutes is a perfect serving to this listener). Whether the monstrous heaviness of “Twilight of the Thunder God” and “Free Will Sacrifice” or the epic atmosphere of “Guardians of Aasgard” and “Embrace of the Endless Ocean”, this recording helps solidify AMON AMARTH among the elite of metaldom, cleaving a path for heathen banners to fly and Mjolners to be held high. With good reason, too.
So in the end, this album helps prove the awesome factor of AMON AMARTH that much more. The burning horizon is theirs to conquer, and by Thor, they’ve earned this victory. FUCKING HAILS!
For their 7th full-length, the Swedish Viking lords offer their catchiest effort yet, just surpassing their previous album With Oden On Our Side. While it took me a few spins to truly appreciate, others seemed to gel with it immediately, and it's not hard to figure out why.
Each of the 10 tracks here is extremely memorable, striking the perfect balance between melody and brutality, as well as a flair for classic metal riffing throughout. The opening riff of the title track feels almost as if the band is channeling Iron Maiden's plucky melodic guitar style, though it soon gives way to Amarth's dense, patented strain of somber and glorious death metal. It also manages to wedge a pretty kickass thrash riff into the middle. "Free Will Sacrifice" has a great driving melody parting into a grooving melodic death metal riff. "Guardians of Asgaard" is a raging, throw your meadhorns up in the fucking air track plodding at a mid but unrelenting pace. "Where is Your God" is a another rager with some busy melodic hooks weaving into the milieu. "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags" is classic Amon Amarth, with a fantastic, subtle, sorrow-filled riff I await in each verse with anticipation. "The Hero" is another of the best tracks here, triumphant and catchy.
The production is superb, it sounds good on everything I've played it on. The guitars are mixed perfectly, weaving their simple and effective melodies over churning rhythms. Johan Hegg's brutal vocals are in perfect form, at the perfect level in the mix. The lyrics are quite simplistic, occasionally bordering on dumb, but these guys have never been poet laureates to begin with. They are never intrusive, a great match for the music, and nothing more. Thematically the album is focused on the Norse mythos, you might call it "Norse Myth for Dummies". Regardless, the music is extremely effective in provoking this cultural nostalgia.
Put simply, this is the best overall Amon Amarth album I've heard to date, and if I had to compile a list of my favorite tracks from the band's career, close to half of the list would originate here. It should be extremely pleasing to the band's loyal fan base and probably convert many more to the cause. And it's well worth your money.
Just when you thought no more rape and pillaging could be done and no more mead quaffed, Swedish Viking incarnates Amon Amarth have returned to our collective shores for round 7 of their quest to instill a pagan spirit in the lot of us whilst pumping forth some of the bloody catchiest death metal you will ever hear. What AA have done to get here, in 2008 releasing one of the best DM albums in "Twilight Of The Thunder God" I've heard in years, is staggering given my worries back in 2004 upon the release of "Fate Of Norns" that AA had stylistically cornered themselves beyond repair following 'breaker' album "Versus The World". However a burst of creative spirit has been unleashed to bring us "With Oden On Our Side", and now this, where with minimal revision of their sound Amon Amarth have proven themselves to be both as vital and effective as they have ever been. How the fuck have they down that?
Well, the rough answer is by slowing down the pace a bit here, cleaning up the guitar sound a bit there, and placing greater emphasis on the catchiness element of their songs rather than the brutality. This again prompts the question of just 'how the fuck?!?' when noone in their right mind could suggest the band have sold out in the process, but I guess we just have to accept that is the sign of a great band. Whilst the back catalogue of Amon Amarth contains a number of terrifyingly brilliant tracks in the likes of "Death In Fire" and my personal fave "Bastards Of A Lying Breed", it is no exaggeration to say that "Guardians Of Asgaard" and "Where Is Your God?" are two of their absolute best. Full of fire and brimstone, these two are as contagious as syphilis from a Kings Cross prostitute, especially in the chorus of "Where..." upon which the deadliest lead riff of 2008 blasts forth, and the no less mighty chorus of "Guardians...", which with the backing vocals of Entombed's LG Petrov, is defiantly mighty in it's battle-rousing depth and vigour. Don't for one second think songs 3 and 4 are the only ones to grab your balls and yank very, very hard. The nimble-fingered lead riff of "Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags" is different to anything I've heard before and the inclusion of the cellos of Apocalyptica during the quiet (and some not-so-quiet) moments of "Live For The Kill" works surprisingly well, bringing out the sullen feel of the moment better than could have been anticipated.
Really, anyone who enjoyed "With Oden On Our Side" will find much to enjoy here. Infact anyone who appreciates metal both heavy and hook-laden will revel in the groove of "Twilight Of The Thunder God". Arguments for the best album of their career is difficult as to me 2001's "The Crusher" is the epitomy of Amon Amarth at their heaviest AND catchiest but petty comparisons aside, this is as good as anything Amon Amarth have done. With a spot on the upcoming 'Unholy Alliance' tour supporting Slayer and Trivium, watch Amon Amarth's star grow until a point where there will be pagan-Vikings-inspirit than Christians of this world. I can't wait.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
"Pop metal" is a usually derogatory term I use to describe inoffensive, fluffy, and friendly metal that seems to be made with the idea that it should be easily digestible by the mainstream. Examples of the negative are things like newer Bodom, Norther, and a whole slew of modern hard/rock power metal like the latest Edguy, Arthemis, and Hammerfall. Examples of the kind I enjoy are Ensiferum, Blind Guardian, and the black sheep of Timeless Miracle. I once took part in an internet debate (bad idea, I know), and somebody described Amon Amarth as melodic death metal/arena rock. Since this was around the time With Oden on our Sides was released, and since I'm a huge fan of that record, I took offense to the inflammatory remark. Two years later, Twilight of the Thunder God was released, and I sent the man an email containing a video of me eating my hat.
Apart from the fact that he must've been a fucking time traveler in order to know what this album was going to sound like years before recording, he was also 100% right. While Twilight of the Thunder God isn't a bad album per se, it's a noticeable step down from their earlier mastery of modern melodeath. Sure, it contains the title track, which is far and away the best song the band has EVER written, but it also contains garbage like "Guardians of Asgaard". Overall, the good outweighs the bad, but this is still unsettling on the whole. The problem is that they rose to initial prominence with a crappy record (Versus the World), and therefore the boring, plodding formula that was utilized there will forever be what people associate with the band, despite their stellar first three albums. While it seems like the band themselves can't let go of their former glory, as evidenced by releasing high speed pummeling tracks like "Asator" on the previous album, they can't shake the retardedly simple and catchy ideas that garnered them their popularity in the first place. Listen to the bouncy vocal patterns on "Where is Your God?" and "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags" and tell me that they aren't taking cues from the mega successful AOR bands from the 80s. Hell, "Guardians of Asgaard" wouldn't sound out of place in a group of skinny, hairy dudes in spandex if only the vocals were different.
Occasionally, they hearken back to their successful formula from WOooS on "No Fear for the Setting Sun" and the title track, but I get the feeling like they are trying to take the worn path of just mixing their two styles in order to please fans of both eras. It's honestly a good idea financially, since the new fans think they've gotten much heavier and the old fans think they're returning to their roots, but I'm not fooled. No doubt that this is a decent album, but it lacks whatever made the previous album so special, and it sounds like they made the album more out of an obligation just to churn out an album as opposed to writing an album full of songs they loved. It feels overall uninspired and some songs are frankly just fucking lazily written. They struck gold with the title track, and "No Fear for the Setting Sun" and "Live for the Kill" are also aggressive numbers reminiscent of what the band does best. "Guardians of Asgaard" and "Varyags of Miklagaard" are awful and should be ignored, and "Where is Your God?" is plagued by a ridiculous bouncy vocal pattern, but is otherwise pretty good. Like I said, this album isn't BAD, but I was expecting much more than I got.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Ever since Quorthon decided that combining Norse mythology with heave metal would lead to awesome results, many bands have been steadily absorbing inspiration from the last of the great European pagan beliefs to fall. Perhaps the band which utilises this lyrical approach the most consistently is Amon Amarth, having now released seven albums of melodic death metal with absolutely nothing other than Viking themes to them.
The unmistakably consistent approach to the band's lyrical themes is only matched by their music: album after album, the band never succumbs to the temptation to change their sound in a direction which could be seen as a betrayal of their roots. While Twilight of the Thunder God has a much more polished production job than each previous album, the sound becoming progressively rawer as we explore their discography further in the past, the music has lost none of the power and tenacity which made Once Sent from the Golden Hall and each following album excellent.
Twilight of the Thunder God contains ten songs, which despite being impossible to confuse with the music of any other band on Earth are all vastly different from each other. For a band which is constantly accused of "getting too comfortable" with their sound and not evolving I find that Amon Amarth write very varied albums. Every song is not only unique, it's essential to the entirety of the album, each giving something with which to make of this album a masterpiece. From the fast-paced opening title track, which thunders on with a catchy, well, everything, to the epic closer Embrace the Endless Ocean, no two songs are alike.
Special mention must be given to the vocals here. Johan Hegg has always been a very talented vocalist, always putting forth much emotion into his performance throughout the band’s career, but this album almost makes his previous efforts seem sub-par by comparison. Maybe it's the bigger effort put forth for the production or something to do with the song structures, but his vocals are better here than they ever were in the past. The growls feel much more convincing, and there are sections which border on the inhuman, such as the fastest parts on the already breakneck speed song Where is Your God? in addition to the savage portion of Live For the Kill which follows the cello section done by Apocalyptica. I named those two because they're probably the most intense sections, as I'd end up naming each song if I were to talk about what I like about the verses and the choruses throughout.
The whole band makes an incredible effort here though, not just Johan. The drumming is both varied and technical throughout, although there is one particular song in which the drums are the driving force. This song is Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags, a battlefield song if there ever was one. Combined with the incredible riffs the band conceived for this particularly epic ode to war, the drums create a crushing atmosphere of a brutal fight between two massive armies. The chorus, which is repeated twice, first at the middle of the song and then at the end, gives the song an epic atmosphere rarely heard in music. Such epic sections are present throughout the album, although to a lesser degree when compared to Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags. The instrumental work throughout the album is very good, possibly not as impressive as their best songs off Versus the World or With Oden on our Side but coming so close as to be nearly unnoticeable.
Naming highlights in this album is rather hard since all songs are incredible and worth listening to on their own. The aforementioned Tattered Banners, Live For the Kill with the very well done cello section near the end of the song, the title track and Free Will Sacrifice might all be named highlights, but none of the other songs even come close to being forgettable. Catchy albums such as this one might end up causing listeners to become jaded with some/all of the songs after a certain period of time, but even after over a hundred listens not only have I not lost even a shred of my appreciation for the songs I thought were incredible upon first listen, I've also learned to appreciate those songs which initially did not impress me as much, such as Guardians of Asgaard because of its slowdown chorus or No Fear For the Setting Sun.
Twilight of the Thunder God is yet another masterpiece of an album crafted by Amon Amarth, one of the most talented bands in the current world of metal. This is just one of those albums which are written so well as to be both instantly appreciable upon first listen and excellent upon the ninety-ninth listen. It might not be as good as the previous album or Versus the World, but it certainly lives up to the name Amon Amarth and is in no way a "watering down" of the same old formula, actually adding many new interesting elements to the band's work.
Vikings are highly conducive to the metal medium, not merely for the steely swords, grand two-handed battle axes, or even the dragon headed longboats, but also because the spirit of the mighty Norsemen was untamable. It stands to reason that any music depicting such people need have a similarly unrestrained sense of artistry as well as a soldier’s discipline and consistency. In this respect Amon Amarth has always been well suited for the task as aside from updates in production, they have exhibited an almost stubborn tenacity within their highly catchy, melodic and heavily formulaic sound that only the likes of Axel Rudi Pell and Overkill could truly appreciate.
“Twilight Of The Thunder God” is the next logical step in terms of production from “With Oden On Our Side”, because aside from Johan Hegg’s manic berserker grunts and morose war cries, this album’s mixing work is about as crystal clear as a pool of distilled, unsullied water. A good example can be heard throughout most of “Where Is Your God?”, which is built almost completely out of those blurry tremolo riffs that Kreator introduced us to back in 1986, but surprisingly with such a crisp pick attack and precise execution that it lacks the stereotypical sloppiness heard in many mid-90s Gotherburg releases. But whether it’s galloping riffs, down-tuned low end grooves, or simple melodic drones, everything is balanced in a manner that gives the album a slick outer layer of sound to hide weathered beards, stained teeth and hairy torsos beneath.
Though as a whole this is not quite as consistent songwriting wise as its predecessor, several songs on here actually surpass much of this band’s previous works. The obvious winner is the title track, which brings forth an unbelievably triumphant melodic riff right at the get go, almost like a grand overture to rival Wagner’s “Walkürenritt” but with a darker and less cliché nature. It’s fast and furious, makes frequent references to the thrash metal and Iron Maiden influences that birthed this genre, yet at the same time is fresh and inviting. This consistently intricate and up tempo approach, which hearkens back to their early demo days and was reintroduced on the last album, pops up again on nearly as intricate songs such as “No Fear For The Setting Sun” and “Live For The Kill”.
On most of the rest of the music occupying this solid opus, things tend to listen well rather than outright extravagant. Part of the fault may lie in placing such a towering epic right at the very beginning of the album and then following it with a couple of mid-tempo numbers in “Free Will Sacrifice” and “Guardians Of Asgaard” which feature very catchy riffs, but are just a bit too settled and subdued, allowing the euphoria that has been produced to tapper off. “The Hero” and “Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags” have very interesting solos and plenty of pleasing melodic passages during buildup points between the verses and choruses, but sort of coast along and don’t quite break out into spellbinding territory. There are a few guitar solos that filter in and out of some of the songs that grab the ears since they occur with a greater frequency than usual, but the most amazing lead break is the guest slot provided by Roope Latvala on the album’s already riveting title track.
It’s a very safe bet that if you liked the previous album, this one will be a sure winner. Like a few others in the metal world, the chief criticism levied against this band and this solid album is that the band isn’t changing and is too safe. But if the measurement of a worthwhile album is found only in mere innovation, there would be no such thing as development and eventual perfection of style, and we’d be left owning a miniscule handful of albums that we’d get bored of within a few months. Staying within a given format does not leave one with zero latitude for variation, and is a necessary function of musical progression that does occasionally lead to incredible leaps in metal's evolution. But to expect anything other than a melodic death metal album from these veteran Viking folk is unrealistic, and the resulting problem between the listener and the music is a direct result of expectation, nothing more. But instead of dwelling on the opinions of others, the truly metal thing to do would be to simply check this out for yourself, form your own opinion, and enjoy.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 11, 2009.
This album is simply too good for me to let the minority of mediocre reviews drag it's percentage down. I am in the crowd who thought Versus the World would be the defining Amon Amarth release, but this has dethroned it in savage viking fashion to take its place at the top of the hill.
The first and least important triumph of the album is its artwork, depicting a defining moment of Norse mythology and keeping to the strict flame and hammer concept of the band's best works. The second and second most important exploit is the title track, which opens the album with a classic AA epic. If anyone asked me what this band was all about, I would play this track for them. Roope's solo (Which opens with a brief arpeggio that must be Finnish notation for 'Hello There") is just a little bonus to push the track over the top of fine, typical AA and into distinctive memorability.
Three tracks follow that exemplify everything good, vibrant, and exiting about what the band refuses to call viking metal, that put the melody into melodic death metal and, 'Where is Your God?' especially, keep the death. It's hard, it's so fun it's almost power metal, and it's so catchy that Grieg might have written it. Then track 4 hits. The Varyags of Miklagaard: As Oden peaked with the Blackbirds and Silent Gods topped Vs. The World, Varyags is the pinnacle, the magnum opus, the absolute high point of the album and therefore of AA, and perhaps then of viking metal. There are no words of praise too high for these 4 minutes of glory. It crashes from one riff to another, every theme an epic in itself, but together as they mingle and refrain the effect is akin to Pagan Prosperity or Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture, all compressed into a few seconds of brute force ear penetrating metal that makes me speed every time I hear it in the car, and instills a strange desire in me to die gloriously for the emperor of Istanbul.
After that last paragraph, all I can rightly say about the next few songs is that they have a tough act to follow, but they follow it well, each of them would be the hit single from any other album, but here they are the meat of the hour, the connective tissue and all remain individually compelling, each is catchy and original in it's own right. The Hero's repeated closing lyric is a perfect anthem for the philosophy of Scandinavian metal, Apocalyptica's interlude in Live for the Kill adds another brief Finnish touch and sets the stage for the grand finale.
And what a finale it is. Like Varyags before it, the Embrace of the Endless Ocean masters that AA trait in which the song is both meloncholy yet exiting, somber and awe inspiring at the same time. As the album draws to a close, I am always forced to admit I have heard few albums so great, so perfect. Rarely do I hear guitars sound so good, and I am hard pressed to find anything on the same level of great music among the classics. I frankly can't imagine any way this thing could have been better, anything on top of what's here would just be icing on the cake, like maybe a live dvd or comic book or, hell, why not bobble-head dolls of all the band members? Well, I can't speak for the $150 edition, I just have the album, and that's so much more than enough.
If you know Amon Amarth and want more, you have no excuse not to get this. If you read this review trying to figure out which album should introduce you to the band or viking metal or melodic death in general, you found your intro. If you have even the slightest capacity to be invigorated and inspired by great music and great metal, you cannot overlook Twilight of the Thunder God.
"It's been two years, time for another album!" is the underlying tone of this release, because 'Twilight of the Thunder God' is yet another Amon Amarth album; nothing more, quite a bit less though. While the majority of their discography is difficult to distinguish at times, except by production values, this album displays quite a notable dip in the quality of material presented. In layman's terms, they're really phoning it in by giving us what is a fairly inoffensive and unadventurous album.
Amon Amarth's usual brand of melodic death metal is still on display and there are moments when it reaches their previous standards; the opening title track is a good example of what you'd find on 'With Oden on our Side' with plenty of speed along with a well-timed thrash break followed by the usual solo. "Where is your God?" is the heaviest song, sporting some simple but percussive death metal riffs and is just long enough to hold your interest. "No Fear for the Setting Sun" is quite similar, sporting some heavy riffs and generally eschewing the overtly sweet melodic lines that subdue the other songs.
The rest of the album is a retread of ground that we're all too familiar with, and while the aforementioned highlights are not innocent of such an accusation, they manage to diverge from the formula enough to keep things interesting without alienating the listener. It is something of a challenge to describe the experience of listening to 'Twilight of the Thunder God': it's tedious but at the same time you're not compelled to shut it off because at least it is competent noise filling the air. The main riff to each of the other songs is exceedingly dull; either due to an unimaginative set of chords or because the intensity was dialled down to 4. Even when they move into the usual tremolo picked section there's no intensity behind the instrumentation, it's part of the song because that's how Amon Amarth write their songs. The aforementioned increase in melodies can be attributed to an overall decrease in song quality mainly because their inception into every song is performed with a notable absence of subtlety. It's like launching a mortar into the sky only to have it suddenly dive into the ground just as it was about to reach the peak of its trajectory.
It feels unfair to bash Amon Amarth for having a consistent sound, but with every new album they release it's getting ridiculous because there are no risks in purchasing (or "obtaining") their new material. While people would argue that an absence of risk is a positive attribute, they are forgetting that you're not gaining anything from an album that sounds like the missing ten tracks from the previous one. Oh sure, now you've got another ten Amon Amarth songs to listen to in case you somehow got sick of the other sixty or so, but their consistency has resulted in stagnation. They neither decrease nor increase in quality. The excitement of a new album is in seeing what new ideas are coming to the forefront, and even if those albums happen to suck harder than a nuclear-powered dust buster it just makes the band's older material that much better by comparison. Where those bands fail plenty of others succeed which makes up for the pain and suffering of the previous infractions.
Amon Amarth is a safe band, and 'Twilight of the Thunder God' is another safe album. I'd love to disdain this album but there are glimpses of actual effort being put into the song writing and of course the instrumental skill is up to standard. This is not a great album, it is merely competent.
On first listen I thought Twilight of the Thunder God sounds good but not as good as the last one, by the tenth listen I am anticipating the music, nice catchy riffs, cool melodies, tremendous power, you know the formula, by the twentieth listen it felt like an old friend, a classic and I’ve only had it a week. I’m sitting here on a Wednesday, the disk is being released in Sweden and Finland today, and in the rest of Europe on Friday and Monday. North America gets it the following Tuesday. It is only fitting it should have been released on a Thursday, and that is my only gripe with this album. Seriously.
The main thing I look for in Amon Amarth is consistency. They know what works in the studio and they stick with it, so sound quality is always spot on. They also know what image they want the songs to fit within, and they always do. Pick any release and any song would fit on any other release. Overall this is a diverse album, as long as you describe diverse as fitting within the confines of the predetermined Amon Amarth sound. Not only is there fast powerful riffing and high tempo drumming, but also somber melodies and heartfelt sorrow expressed with grace. “Embrace of the Endless Ocean” is an album closer that makes you pause in what you are doing and take notice. It also makes you hesitate in starting up another disc as you devote some time to reflection.
“Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” grabs your attention with the drum rolls to start and keeps it with the guitar leads. “Where is your God?” has repeating riffs that will haunt your dreams they are so memorable. No need to mention the growls of Johan, as dynamic and powerful as ever and once again they dominate in the mix. And, as always he has a story to tell and he relates it beautifully. A few years back Johan told me his favorite passage from the Eddas is Ragnarok, and now he has successfully scripted the story for this album, a continuation of “The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter”, “Burning Creation” and “...and Soon the World Will Cease to Be,” the title track is Thor’s battle with Jormungandr, as magnificently rendered on the album cover. The song is a frenzy befitting this monumental battle that decides the fate of the world, easily one of the most powerful songs that band has ever written. Olavi Mikkonen is in top form.
About two years ago I started loading all my cds and records into my computer in anticipation of getting an ipod. According to itunes I have 2148 bands represented and only one band has received more airplay in the last two years than Amon Amarth, Enslaved. There is something to be said about the company you keep… In addition to the cd release there will be a 2CD & DVD digipack, a double etched LP (1500 copies), a picture disc LP (500 copies) and a 'Bubblehead' edition (2000 copies). Does Twilight of the Thunder God measure up to the damn near perfect With Oden On Our Side? Damn straight it does.
Originally written for http://teethofthedivine.com
Get ready to pillage and burn the towns of your enemies because Amon Amarth are back with a new set of glorious battle hymns entitled “Twilight of the Thundergod”. This album marks the 7th full-length release by the band in 10 years, and brings to mind a few things; Amon Amarth are consistent in the sense that their brand of powerful, viking-themed melodic death metal does not drastically change from album to album and also that they have been able to maintain the same, steady lineup for almost a decade. While their style hasn’t really changed since “Once Sent from the Golden Hall”, Amon Amarth have tweaked their music to create maximum impact, and “Twilight of the Thundergod” is their strongest effort overall so far.
Amon Amarth start things off with the title track, which is a fast and hard hitting track that brings to mind the song “Cry of the Blackbirds” from “With Oden on Our Side”. The churning guitars create an epic, melodic, and powerful atmosphere while drummer Fredrik Andersson drives the rhythm along with his relentless double bass attack. Johan Hegg unleashes his monstrous roar, and he has never sounded better. His growls have become a little lower on this album, but maintain the intensity and clarity that Johan is known for. This song is perfect way to open the album.
Amon Amarth then follow the opening track with two mid-paced songs, “Free Will Sacrifice” and “Guardians of Asgaard”. Both songs lose none of their bite or epic atmosphere, and feature memorable growl-along choruses. “Where Is Your God?” sees the band return to the speedy, tremolo-picked, double bass fury of the title track, albeit with a darker tone. The track rages along much like “Asator” from their previous album. The next few songs are similar to the first four in that they follow the same aggressive but melodic formula perfected by Amon Amarth. The songs vary in tempo but are always intense and blood-pumping tunes.
The biggest and best surprise in the album comes in the song “Live For the Kill”. The song begins with all of the components that make up the speedy Amon Amarth song, including pounding double bass, searing rhythm guitar, and memorable lead guitar melodies. The song comes off as another killer anthem, but after the guitar solo towards the end of the track something happens; the entire band stops playing and a new instrument is introduced for the first time in Amon Amarth’s history. What could it be? If you guessed strings in the form of Finland’s Apocalyptica you are absolutely correct. Apocalyptica come in mimicking a lead guitar line from earlier in the song, and when it is Amon Amarth’s turn to rejoin the action, the resulting remainder of the song becomes the most pleasing moment in an album that has no weak points or filler material.
The album comes to a close with the last track “Embrace the Endless Ocean”. At nearly 7 minutes and containing a variety of tempos, this is the perfect way to close an epic musical journey that invokes images of vikings, Norse tales, longboats, and Ragnarok (as illustrated in the mind-blowing artwork).
Onto the band’s performance. “Twilight of the Thundergod” sees every member of Amon Amarth in top shape. As mentioned earlier, Johan Hegg has never sounded better. He growls with more conviction and passion than most vocalists could only dream of. He expanded his growling range to incorporate more lows on this album, and his efforts really pay off. The title track and “Free Will Sacrifice” highlight the power and clarity of his low growls, both featuring some of his lowest growling on any album. His midrange and high vocals are still as venomous as ever.
Fredrik Andersson once again delivers the goods and holds back nothing as he tears through the album’s ten tracks like Jörmungandr (the sea serpent in the artwork) tears through ships. His double bass work is impressive and proves to be an important element of Amon Amarth’s driving rhythm. Fredrik also complements his powerful style with tasteful cymbal work and tom fills. Ted Lundström anchors the rest of the rhythm section with his style augmenting the drum attack.
The guitar work of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen is nothing short of excellent. These Swedes know how to create the perfect balance of melody and aggression. The lead lines and solos are more melodic and epic this time around, but do not venture into sappy Gothenburg territory. The guitar solos are well thought out, adding additional emotion to the songs. Their power chords and low tremolo-picked rhythm parts provide plenty of low-end muscle to back the melodic guitar harmonies.
The production is excellent as well. The album as a whole has a more powerful and fuller sound than “With Oden on Our Side” (not that there was anything wrong with that production). The first thing about the production that I noticed was that Fredrik’s bass drums have a thicker and more natural sound this time around. The rest of the drum kit is nicely mixed as well. The guitars sound as big and powerful as ever, sporting a slightly more distorted and warmer tone. The low end of the guitar sound is appropriately pounding while the lead guitar sound is clear and bright. The production and mixing attains a great balance between every instrument, making sure that everything is clearly heard and no one instrument gets more attention and volume than the next.
“Twilight of the Thundergod” sees Amon Amarth in top shape. They have made many great albums over the years, but they have never sounded better and more convincing. All of the songs shine in some way and there are no boring parts or fillers in this album. This album displays the consistent quality and unique style that we’ve come to expect from Amon Amarth, coupled with better production and topped off with stellar artwork. If you’re already a fan you know what this album is going to sound like, and if you’re into melodic and aggressive metal I encourage you to check it out. Be sure to get the special edition with the bonus live album.
Amon Amarth are a band reputed for being consistent. Whether this means earning some criticism for never changing their formula, or the rabid fandom of countless metalheads eating up every release, it seems to work just fine for them. I happen to love every one of their releases. I'm a massive fan of the band, but I am also aware that their albums suffer from repetition syndrome. Having said this, it was feared that Amon Amarth had peaked with last year's extraordinary "With Oden On Our Side." The album perfectly blended crushing riffs with soaring melodies and the occasional ballad-esque song; the result was, in my eyes, a melodic death metal masterpiece. This year, the band has come up with an offering that, while not as truly memorable as WOOOS, manages to broaden their musical horizons while still delivering the same old ass kicking viking-tinged metal we know and love. Or maybe you don't.
In a recent interview with Chad Bowar, Johan Hegg was asked what the band had done to make "Twilight" different from their other releases. He said the most important difference was that they'd lifted the melodies in the mix, making them more prominent. From the beginning of the album, this is immediately obvious. Previous songs, such as "Hermod's Ride to Hel" off last year's album, have seen the melodic leads of Olavi and Johan being forced to compete with the drums and Johan's growls. The title track, however, shows us that the guitars have been given more room to demonstrate the impressive melodies these guitarists are capable of producing. Other songs such as "Varyags of Miklagaard" continue to showcase these soaring leads, and contribute a more grand atmosphere to the album. I would love to see "Thousand Years of Oppression" re-recorded with this new production technique.
The songs on "Twilight of the Thunder God" have not suffered or been "toned down" thanks to this new production technique, however. Not by any means. Johan's vocals are harsher than ever, and songs such as "Where is Your God?" (think a more guttural Asator) and "Guardians of Asgaard" demonstrate how brutal the band can still be. The lyrical themes have also been expanded from the simplistic, sometimes comical, lines of previous releases. The band's story-telling abilities have improved dramatically, without resorting to straight forward methods. "The Hero" in particular is an impressive piece with an awesome ending and story arch. Fredrik's drumming is still top-notch and provides a solid base for the rest of the band to work from. Perhaps lacking, though, is his masterful and varied work from previous tracks such as "Death in Fire" and "Cry of the Black Birds."
Putting aside the stronger presence of melody, there are more changes to Amon Amarth' sound on this album. "Live For The Kill" kicks off with an awesome intro, and some impressive guitar work. Seems like a standard Amon track.Then comes the completely unexpected cello break, provided by Finnish trio Apocalyptica. Amon Amarth have never done anything like this before, and the results are stunning. The guitar is a versatile instrument, but sometimes cannot provide the sheer emotional atmosphere invoked when classical instruments are brought into the mix. An overuse of this technique would ruin the album, but the band has been smart enough to only give us a taste. Following this track is the album's vast, almost progressive, end track; "Embrace of the Endless Ocean." Bringing back the awesome tapping techniques used sparingly on "Versus the World", the guitarists not only give us some more excellent melodic work, but have also shifted their tone to a less 'metal' sound. The result is something entirely new for Amon Amarth, and hopefully a glimpse of what is to come.
"Twilight of the Thunder God" is an excellent album. It delivers what is expected from Amon Amarth, while simultaneously incorporating new ideas and instrumentation. What prevents it from being a classic, however, is the ever-present filler track ("No Fear For The Setting Sun) and nothing new from Fredrik in the percussion department. Even if you aren't a fan of the band's previous work, I suggest giving this album a try. That kickass cover art should be a welcome addition to any collection.
If there is any September release that is getting a fair amount of hype (except for the universally expected new Metallica album, “Death Magnetic”), look no further. Amon Amarth is a band which has been around here rather long, since 1994. In 1997, they released their debut album “Once Sent From The Golden Hall”, which pretty much introduced the words “Viking metal” to the world (as their specific style of melodic death metal is often branded). However, the follow-up, “The Avenger”, didn’t quite impress the metal community. It was 2003’s “Versus The World” which was the band’s finest hour, where they displayed their talent to the fullest and launched themselves to international stardom (well, within the tiny confinements of the metal scene at least). After another so-so album “Fate Of Norns”, the band releases “With Oden On Our Side”, an album incredible by all standards: songwriting, production, performance – the closest they could’ve been to perfection. You can sort of get the idea of what tremendous expectations the band had on their backs before entering the studio.
And they fall short of them. Which is understandable, in a way. Just like the oh-so-expected Kataklysm album earlier this year, Amon Amarth’s 6th offering also (shockingly) fails to impress. The opening and title track of the album hides this fact for a while, but only for its 5 minutes or so of length. After that, the album becomes an ECG diagram – a flat line with more or less frequent peaks. There are moments where the band’s creativity shines in all its glory, but they are too few and far between. Not that the album is boring, though! You will hardly get the urge to press the “skip” button while listening. Still, by the end of the 10th track, you are not likely to find yourself holding the devil horns high up, as you most certainly would after listening to the previous album. The riffs are OK, if not great, everything seems to be in order, but something just doesn’t work out, and my impression is that it’s because everything is so damn formulaic. It seems the band was thinking in an “OK, it’s time to record an album, start composing” direction rather than “OK, now we have enough great riffs to enter the studio and record an album”. Don’t get me wrong, these guys still have what it takes to make up a great song, but not all of them are like this, that’s the issue. The technical side is perfect. Precise playing, polished production, even Johan Hegg’s vocals sound more brutal than before. But you can feel the dissection in the songwriting, the “this riff should go here, this song should go here” way of thought. And just when the opening track gets your hopes up and yourself all warmed up, you get a filler track like “Guardians Of Asgaard”, which is flat and just plain boring beyond belief. If this was a debut of a newbie band in the scene, I would not hesitate to congratulate them on the result, but this is Amon Amarth, people. I know that they can compose tracks like “Cry Of The Black Birds” or “Gods Of War Arise”, and that intensity is lacking here. I deem that and the lack of any sort of intrigue (anyone remember “Hermod’s Ride To Hel”?) the main reasons for the mild impression this album leaves.
The “odd number, even number” principle seems to still be bothering this band. Simply put, it looks as if they are going on a new adventure with each odd, and triumphantly returning home with each even-numbered album, enjoying their victories and resting on their laurels. Which, ironically, makes me wait for their next opus with anxiety.
(originally written for the Metal Sound webzine)