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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.