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Amon Amarth's Finest - 99%

Sue, December 13th, 2008

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.