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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