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"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