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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”.