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My reactions to this album have been all over the place. When I first listened to it, I really didn’t like it much at all. Then I came back to it sometime later and dug pretty much every song. Now, time has worn on and I have settled into a lukewarm relationship with it. People rave about this album, and I don’t really get it. It falls in a slump right between the decline in energy on The Crusher and aimless Fate of Norns.
It took me a while to put my finger on the problem, but it became quite obvious: this album ends far too many times. You know how a lot of viking metal albums end with that long, drawn out, epic track? Every song on here feels like one of those. In theory that sounds like it could make for one long, epic album, but it doesn’t. A good album has attention to pacing. There is none to speak of here. With every song mid-to-slow pace, it starts to drone.
There are multiple moments where I feel like hitting skip. It’s not just the speed, either. Amon Amarth has made numerous mid-tempo songs that sported some interesting instrumentation to carry them. Not so here. With the exception of the opening riff, I can’t remember a single noteworthy guitar part. This is after a few years of listening. It’s a mess of plodding power chords, uninspired drumming, and absent basswork.
The lyrics and vocals are still strong enough to carry some of these tracks to the end. There is definitely still that spark of the relentless warrior. Production is also clean and balanced. But without the song structure to back it, I’d much rather pop in one of their other albums. If you want the strengths of this record without all of the drawbacks, skip two forward to the near-perfect With Oden on Our Side.
While most modern Amon Amarth albums can be criminally boring, there are two major exceptions to this rule: With Oden on Our Side and Versus the World. By virtue of some sort of balancing act that later fell short, the mordant, gut-wrenching tremolo passages that define the band's riff assault are clearly at their most potent and venomous here. It isn't even that more recent albums like Deceiver of the Gods are far removed from this approach, but the band has bled the formula dry all the same.
At any rate, much of Versus the World exhibits lasting power and strong compositions that play to Amon Amarth's biggest strength: murky death metal passages backed by Andersson's measured percussive surge. The drumming is what raises some of these songs to greatness, such as "Death in Fire". No, the performance isn't technically impressive, but Andersson proves that less can sometimes be more if the songwriting can back it up. Amon Amarth generally wafts between two tempos, both being rather slow and deliberate in their approach. "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard" and "Across the Rainbow Bridge" embody the slower end of the spectrum here, generally being more melancholic from a melodic standpoint. On the faster side of things, you have the stomping, relentless abandon of "Bloodshed" and the title track, which both end up being highlights. The title track is by far the most impressive song here, featuring an astronomically massive main riff and surging tremolo sections that counterpoint the main melody and leave destruction in their wake. In fact, the more somber-sounding chorus serves as the only real break from it's otherwise relentless assault. Don't miss that one.
Some of the slower tracks tend to blur together, as there are more of them then there really needs to be. "Across the Rainbow Bridge" is more melodic and features some solid escalating riffs, so it gets a pass. Alternatively, "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard" kind of wallows around in it's own melodrama, never really accumulating into the atmospheric ode to war that it wants to be. The closer "...and Soon the World Will Cease to Be" appears to be yet another slower number at first blush, but actually ascends into a solid mid-paced affair that rivals the title track regarding monolithic riff-delivery. The guitars have an abrasive, overdriven sound that while lacking the low-end roar present on With Oden on Our Side, still carry the day fairly well. In fact, the muddy nature of the guitars might actually add to part of Versus the World's sonic appeal, as it adds an air of gritty intemperance to the whole affair.
Variety is still a problem, but the searingly memorable title track nearly makes up for all of these follies on its own. Amon Amarth reminds me of modern Grave Digger in that they can be consistent nearly to a fault. Part of this is due to Hegg's unwavering vocal approach. His guttural roars are unique in that you can actually understand most of his sepulchral rants instead of having to scan the lyric sheet. Regardless, the lyrics have always been an afterthought and always come off as trite and generic to my ears. Seriously, how many times can the band shoehorn in the phrase "They/I will die", or some variant of it? I consider Versus the World the first Amon Amarth album that finally realized the band's potential from a commercial standpoint. It is more accessible and less dissonant than their oft-disregarded early works, giving it a wider appeal that still holds up today.
This early 2002 release is often regarded as one of the heaviest - and most meaningful - Amon Amarth record to date, and for damn good reasons; that's exactly what it is.
Before I get into the highlights of the album, a few main things stand out to me. The first is that there's a real focus on the drumming. It's generally steady, but fast enough to carry a 'barely on the rails' type feeling for the main body of most of the songs. Regardless of the pace, though, the drum definitely serves as a proper framework for the tracks. Well-written and executed riffs comprise the majority of the instrumental listen, though, and the solos are polished and awe-inspiring.
Johan Hegg's vocals are at some of their finest points in this record (no surprise there), and the lyrical themes are dark, but interesting. As always, a lyrical focus of Norse mythology is paramount, but this record's feel is particularly dreadful and foreshadowing. From the passage in thrashy album opener "Death in Fire", which is incredibly addictive to listen to, to the album closer "...And Soon the World will Cease to Be", the end-of-the-world scenarios of Bifrost's arrival and Ragnarök aren't just present - they're literally screamed at you.
Wait, what's that? With all this crazy off-the-rails thrashiness, you say, how would one find a slower groove of a song? Listeners need not look any further than the second track, "For the Stabwounds in Our Backs", the fifth track, "Across the Rainbow Bridge, and the ninth and final track, which I've mentioned before. While "Death in Fire" is an excellent song, the second track really hits home with meaning without being too monotonously slow, and as such prevents any one track from being disinteresting. "Stabwounds" is an excellent track unto itself, showing pain in the betrayal orchestrated by the "civilised" Christian folks (a theme that's repeated in "Thousand Years of Oppression", which I'll discuss later). While lyrical themes are repeated within certain tracks, each song is distinct in its differences. The mastery Amon shows in this record is like no other, and really sets them above the rank and file.
While all the tracks are quite exceptional, my personal favourite is "Thousand Years of Oppression". It combines the pure thrashiness and brutality of death metal with severe and genuine, heartfelt emotion into what I honestly believe to be the pure embodiment of Amon Amarth. This track is an amazing listen from start to finish, from the exceptional riffage to the grinding vocals. Album closer "...And Soon the World will Cease to Be" is another very good track, showing a little soft side in the beginning before closing the book on Versus the World in an extremely satisfying way. It's one of those songs you'd hold a lighter to if they played it live, before throwing yourself into the circle pit, and it's done really well.
All in all? I think this album deserves the five stars I'm giving it. I know it's an old release, but I promised this review a long while ago. Have a look at the recommended tracks if you don't already have this album.
1.) "Death in Fire"
2.) "For the Stabwounds in Our Backs"
3.) "Across the Rainbow Bridge"
4.) "Thousand Years of Oppression"
5.) "...And Soon the World will Cease to Be"
I kind of have to like this album due to owning a Versus the Word T-shirt. I mean don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad album by any stretch of the word, but it is so Amon Amarth by the numbers. I've always gave The Crusher a bit of a break due to it standing as the amalgamate of the bands career at that point, but this is essentially just a rehash of that album with different artwork and song titles.
Reviewing the two back to back really shows how interchangeable Versus the World and The Crusher really are. The only noticeable major differences between the two would be that Versus the World is a little slower, and a little less intricate in arrangement and construction. However the slight slowing down works to the bands advantage in the case of the albums highlight "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard" which is an awesome cut, not too far away from "Victorious March" (at least in feel).
I can keep this one pretty short as there isn't too much to it, while there are some quality songs across Versus the World it really is quite interchangeable with the last release, and as a result I would make this one of the later stops in checking out the bands back catalogue. Obviously fans of the band will know what they're getting themselves in for, and of course completionist's can purchase without reserve, its still Amon Amarth and even on a decidedly average day they still kick a lot of tail.
Every once in a long while there comes a metal band who doesn’t like change; a band whose members stick by their sound no matter what happens. Some will criticize them for it, but such bands are the summit of integrity in the music world, refusing to alter their sound in a direction desired by some third party, be it the public or the band’s label. The perfect example of such a band is Amon Amarth. As I write this they’ve put out seven albums of relentless melodic death metal with an undying Viking theme to it, and they show absolutely no signs of quitting or even slowing down. Of all those albums, none of which is bad and almost all of which are downright kick-ass, Versus the World can arguably be called the pinnacle, the definitive summit of the badass Viking-inspired metal that Amon Amarth love to play.
This album truly is a monster of massive proportions. The first hint is given, or, to better put it, shoved in the listener’s face, right from the first few seconds of Death In Fire. Thick production, pounding drumming and riffs which just seem to announce a bunch of angry northern warriors coming for you, all those elements are introduced here and will remain a constant until the album’s very end. This opener is undoubtedly Amon Amarth’s most warlike to date, and that’s saying a hell of a lot with previous albums’ contenders for the throne including the classics Ride for Vengeance and Bleed for Ancient Gods. The fast-paced pounding of Death in Fire buries all that and introduces a new standard of quality which the entire album lives up to.
In this case, describing in detail each song which jumps out of the pack would amount to a detailed description of every single song on this album. Suffice it to say, most of this album varies from fast-as-hell to a more mid-paced type of uncompromising melodic death metal, running from the rousing anthem to vengeance that is For the Stabwounds in Our Backs to insane epics like Across the Rainbow Bridge and Thousand Years of Oppression, and the final slow beast …And Soon The World Will Cease to Be. As mentioned above, I’d want to name each standout but I’d end up writing down the album’s entire damn track list. Everything which was so promising and intense on the previous albums is honed to perfection here; every band member’s role is taken advantage of as much as is humanly possible, and then some. The guitar playing reaches a level of complexity and variation which may have only been grazed on the legendary Once Sent From the Golden Hall, as the magnificent solo on Death in Fire demonstrates, but this guitar playing is here coupled with the most aggressive drumming yet to be performed by Frederik Andersson. This evolution of the band’s sound in such a linear and harmonious manner can only be explained by the extreme stability of the band. In fact, there have been no line-up changes whatsoever after the release of the debut album in 1998, making Amon Amarth a unique, or at least extremely rare, phenomenon in the world of metal: a band who has now had the exact same line-up for 12 years!
Finally we come to a subject which is central to this and indeed to all of Amon Amarth’s albums, perhaps the most recognizable element in the band’s signature sound: Johan Hegg’s vocals. This man can growl as very few others can, having evolved his skills from the much more primal sound on the first EP & album to the finely honed sound featured on this album. His voice, which creates an inhumanly deep growl, needless to say goes perfectly with the rest of the band’s work, giving the entire album that final aura of defiance and power one would expect from an album with such an ambitious title. I dare say that Johan’s never sounded this good, although his skills on the following albums will return to a level of excellence on With Oden on Our Side despite a noticeable deterioration on the slightly weaker Fate of Norns.
Standing equal to the undeniably epic and powerful music are the lyrics. Amon Amarth outdid themselves this time. Now, all of the band’s albums have lyrics which could send most bands straight into retirement, but this is a level beyond. The glorious and endless violence of Death In Fire and Bloodshed, the hymns to vengeance that are For the Stabwounds in our Backs and, to a lesser extent, Thousand Years of Oppression, as well as the purely badass “we’ve fought things you didn’t even know existed” of Versus the World are all particularly loud witnesses to the excellence of the content here. But the one song which stands out, both musically and lyrically, is the closing epic, …And Soon the World Shall Cease to Be, a slow monster that simply deals with the end and subsequent renewal of the world, Norse style: Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods. This song’s lyrics are of incredible density and power, so much in fact that there’s enough material here to make a motion picture epic on the subject, which if done correctly could instantly bury every single piece of eye candy calling themselves films of the last few decades.
Is there any kind of bad side, even a slight flaw in this album? Absolutely not. Every track is a particularly brutal monster on its own and, when they’re all put together, they form an entity immensely more powerful than the sum of its parts. Versus the World is the peak of Amon Amarth’s amazing discography, symbolizing all that is great about the band. This truly is one of the best metal albums of the decade, perhaps even of all time.
Some people say that it's easy to get a sense of what something is by talking about what it is not. This is the path I have chosen to review Versus the World.
Amon Amarth have been a key player in the metal scene since their inception about thirteen years ago, and for what reason? They play music that is easy to like and digest by fans of any metal genre. Their older stuff was a little more complex and epic, but by Versus the World, they were pretty much streamlined into a blandish, formless mass with little of the exciting edge they had in their early days.
This is the kind of thing that can appeal to anyone, with heavy riffs that don't go too fast, vocals that don't offend too terribly much and a rhythm section that doesn't really do much exciting or complex at all. Amon Amarth have pretty much capitalized on the term "easy listening metal" here. I mean, I don't want to be too harsh on this kind of stuff, as it doesn't really do anything wrong aside from just being generally boring and unambitious. But then again, why shouldn't I be a bit angry at Versus the World for that reason? People need to demand more for their music. On one hand, this album is okay, with no songs that really stand out as bad or anything, but on the other...it's okay, with no songs that stand out as good or anything. This is basically just stodgy, midpaced Melodic Death Metal with the standard Gothenburg melodic trilling and also the standard Gothenburg bore factor, and it just doesn't do anything for me; the style never has.
So really, what is there to say about Versus the World? There are some decent parts, like some of the riffs in "Death in Fire" and the galloping end section in "Across the Rainbow Bridge," but even those don't really seem to have much of a point beyond proving that the band is still relevant. There's no anger here, no hungry, raw energy, not even a sense of direction on half the stuff on this boring piece of plastic. Sure, there are some good parts, but...couldn't you, in all honesty, find the same quality from bands that actually have some sort of purpose to their music other than just being decent? That's what pisses me off the most about this; it seems to be content with just being decent and passable, not trying to aim for anything more. This kind of laziness is just lame, and while I can sort of see why people like this album, I just can't endorse it myself. Pass.
Somebody said this about Amon Amarth once: Some bands sing about vikings. These guys ARE vikings.
"Versus the World" is epic melodic death metal about Valhalla, Oden, Norse runes, anti-Christianity and all that fun stuff. Lyrically these guys are no better than fantasy bands like Blind Guardian ("Amon Amarth" is basically Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings), but they are a much tighter band than Blind Guardian, and much more ballsy. They still play epic melodic death/viking metal and they are still bitter as hell (see the album title), so it isn't a huge departure from the previous albums. The difference is that this album has a more melancholic feel to it, which works surprisingly well for such an intense band.
Here's a sample of the lyrics:
"All you know will wither away
And sink into the sea
A new world will be born one day
Where everyone is free"
"The Northern wind brings snow and ice
Humans starve and freeze
The Fimbul winter has arrived
And soon the world will cease to be"
"I want to walk across the Rainbow Bridge
And see my fathers in the golden hall
They beckon me to join their feast
In my dreams I hear their call"
As you can see, "Versus the World" is intense, but also full of sorrowful moments. Overall, this is the best Amon Amarth album you can buy, or illegally download. First of all, the amount of boring speed runs is kept to a minimum and they have slowed down the tempos, allowing more moments for things to sink in and really register. Instead of leaving no reaction time like many death and thrash metal bands, they know precisely when to apply the force, which is after an emotion has been developed. This helps them build atmosphere, which many blitzcore bands forget to make use of. This really shows in "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard," a song that gets the maximum emotional impact out of an epic chord progression and Johan Hegg's intense vocal performance. "Versus the World" contrasts an epic melody in the verse with the intense groove following the chorus, making the song more effective than the majority of death metal songs, because (to generalize) the lack of these contrasts sometimes produces a "meh..." reaction. The mid-tempo approach yields opuses like the heavy-hearted "...And Soon the World Will Cease to Be." and similarly pessimistic moments.
Now, I usually hate mid-tempo metal, because it often turns out to be a sell-out tactic, lacking any sort of substance. Or, it can reveal just how boring a musical style is when not played at an inhuman tempo (ie. Dragonforce). But on this album, the guitars take their time, building epic landscapes for Johan Hegg's viking tales about "Death In Fire" and Oden's ride "Down the Slopes of Death." Amon Amarth create overwhelming melodic build-ups/passages, and then apply the full death metal fury of growled vocals, war drums, and savage guitars with awesome results. The drums and bass don't play a huge role in this, but they are definitely interesting at times (especially in that awesome groove of the title track). Every song is memorable; there is no filler as their approach succeeds most of the time.
This time around, the vikings are a bit more sad. And I like it! They are still tight and taut, with more epic than previously thought possible. Amon Amarth's riffs are still diamond-hard, but the melodies are outstanding and well thought out. The groove is mid-tempo through-out, but not the boring, incompetent kind that is usually expected. Don't misunderstand, this is still pretty fucking intense. Only now, the intensity isn't only channelled through anger and rage.
Picture long glassy meadows filled to the brim with gigantic blonde-hair blue-eyed men with horned helmets and gigantic axes and swords torching down houses, stealing people’s shit and generally kicking ass all over the place. How fucking awesome would it be to be one of those guys? Anyways, for those of us not of Nordic heritage, we still give tribute to this classic “viking metal” opus; Two discs (for those of us with the limited edition releases) of pure ass-kicking catchy head-banging brain-damaging brutality. What’s not to like?
I’ll start by saying that the mixture of melodic kinda-folky-but-still-ballsy marching riffs and tremolo picking palm muting assaults are a great death metal combo. The rhythm and the tempo aren’t on the high-end in comparison with many other death metal acts, but the drumming makes up well for it with the right usage of double-bass beats and almost tribal tom fills. The bass-work is simple but still good. Vocals are at their best grunting-quality.
Now for the bad part: The lack of variety and the lack of awesome guitar solos. I love the chunky axe attacks, but they could have made a much better effort at throwing some of those in there. While this album may be filled to the brim with catchy riffs, one quickly loses the enthusiasm garnered by the first track as they seem to just make a piss-poor effort at throwing anything new or nearly as interesting at you around half-way into the album.
Regardless, they get brownie points for putting on amazing live shows.
We've all heard those bands that while not anything particularly awful or ear-grating, just don't seem to have anything in particular going for them that would be enough to lift them above the rest of the bands in the ever-growing mass of undistinguishable bands that make up the bulk of metal and music in general. Usually their media is limited to their personal myspace pages and the like or at the very best a record deal with a minor label, releasing albums noone will ever hail as, well, anything really, and then eventually fading out and being forgotton by everyone. Not all face the same fate though, some of these bands, despite their obvious shortcomings, will garner a following, often through a gimmick or quite a lot of promotion by their label, and continue to live on even after passing the haydays of their careers. While most of them are never that huge, some manage to weasel their way to the very top of the metal world. This is a very unfortunate event for people with taste everywhere, as once a band reaches that status, they will continue to gain fans on fame alone (case in point being Metallica). Amon Amarth is one of these bands.
I first checked out Amon Amarth years ago because of the good things I kept hearing about them. Some people called it viking metal, some death metal and some melodic death metal. I thought, hey, I like all of those genres, how could I go wrong? I figured Versus The World would be a point good as any to start with as the cover art is fucking cool and since it was their newest release at the time.
The first track, Death In Fire, is actually pretty good. It's fun and catchy, definitely melodic death, yet not at all too clean and polished like most melodeath tends to be. Everything about this song is very powerful, the drums play a nice and catchy rhythm I did not expect to hear from a band of this sort. The main riff, which takes up the most attention in this song as there are only about 2 others and they're rather forgettable, could nearly be classified as epic (but not quite). The vocals are unapologetically testosterone driven and ballsy, and while they aren't the most original gruff voice in town they fit the music here. Ok, the middle part kind of sucks but the lead is good and not totally useless, and even if it doesn't display much technical skill it doesn't matter because who's expecting any from a melodeath band anyway? At this point I could definitely see myself screaming ”Death in fire!” in a drunken haze in a sweaty crowd of equally drunk metal enthusiasts at one of the many summer festivals around here where the emphasis is more on the beer than the music, taking a break from the drinking marathon that has at this point probably lasted several days already. ”Looking good so far”, I thought to myself. ”Perhaps a little overbearing, but I'm sure that'll change once the album continues”.
Alas, no it did not change, and therein lies the problem. The problem is that nothing else changes either. This is all that the album has to offer. For The Stabwounds In Our Backs still presents some things of interest, though not nearly as much as Death In Fire, but once it's over the band has exhausted it's well of ideas. The very next track Where Silent Gods Stand Guard is really insufferable garbage, featuring such great ideas as a nearly whispered growl. With this guys voice, what the hell were they thinking? I wanted variation, sure, but this is just awful. All the band can do from here is descend further into a form of self-parody, trying to mimic what it already achieved with the first track. Do they manage to do it though? Nope, no riff from this point on comes off as particularly headbangable and no guitar solo stays interesting enough to warrant its existance. Even the drums that I dug back in Death In Fire start to get really annoying and monotonous, especially in Bloodshed where there is literally nothing else going on to listen to. The vocals are clearly the worst though. There's just so much I can take of that same, I dare say melodramatic, tone all the time. It got to the point that I developed a minor headache and found myself scowling for no reason at all. How they managed to make everything else but the very first track of the album sound so ungodlily dispirited is really abysmal to me.
I think a big reason for the bands success is their accessibility. Most of the songs follow such a basic formula it's ridiculous. I'm not saying the poppy ABACB thing isn't followed by a lot of bands or that it's necessarily a bad thing but can't we have a little variation already? Honestly though, I can't remember if ALL the songs did follow that pattern, and I'm sure as hell not checking anymore because I'd be risking taking my life due to purgatory-level boredom. There is way too much filler in these songs, even when they're only about 5 minutes average. Just a lot of noise that hardly even qualifies as riffing is being made by the guitarists while the singer does his usual growl and that's it, everything here is seriously lacking in ideas. Even the ”viking” melodies manage to incite little to no interest, they're thoroughly unmemorable. The song Thousand Years Of Opression makes a little effort in this department, though when the buildup is followed by a whole lot of nonsense vocals and then some more generic noise making it ruins the whole thing. And holy hell this band manages to be loud. I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on the music because nothing at all is happening, just the luke-warm tidings of Mt. Dull. Versus the World still makes a decent ruckus but it fails to save the album as it has trouble carrying its own weight. Did they really think that they'd pull off having this little substance in the songs?
I guess it could be said that they indeed did pull it off, seeing as how Amon Amarth is already a big name in the scene and growing still. This band may very well be the archetype of the kind of band that manages to carve themselves a niche and a market and decides to play it as safe as humanly possible. Judging by the material that I've heard from them they have not changed a thing during the total of their careers and this makes it even harder for me to understand the appeal of this band, I just cannot fathom why anyone would result to listening to this? Fine, not all of the music is that bad but there is no point in settling for the second-tier when there are a whole bunch of bands that are vastly better than Amon Amarth could ever hope to be out there, though most of them don't have the sellable pseudo-viking image these guys have to enable easy and obviously succesful marketing strategies. In music there is no need to compromise, you can afford to be picky in your listening habits. Which is exactly what I'm going to do by forgetting this album ever existed. I'll be more than fine with just Death In Fire.
While 2001's The Crusher saw Amon Amarth charting slightly more brutal material, it hardly served as a turning point for the band. Though it was certainly another strong chapter in the band's discography, it didn't really bring anything new to the table or evolve on any ideas put on the table. Versus the World, however, sees a band who has long tread safe waters coming into their own niche and maturing into the band they are today. While definitely not anything experimental or "progressive," this album shows the band's sound at its absolute peak on all levels.
Whereas most bands rely on only one or two things to drive the overall sound forward, Amon Amarth come together as a full, cohesive unit to make a full listening experience. Every instrument relies on every other instrument; the drums rely on the guitars, and vice versa. Even moreso, the music seems centered around Johan's voals, which have reached a blooming point here. The clarity in his voice is astonishing, and he maintains a rough, gritty growl throughout the disc's duration that is wisely balanced with more mid-pitched raspy screams. A perfect example of this would be the album's title track, which finds the perfect equilibrium between more soaring, melodic passages and the first-pumping brutality that AA is known for. The band found a true balance here; most former albums by this band clearly segregated the fast from the slow, but that mold is clearly broken with "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard," or "Thousand Years of Oppression," which is just as hammering as it is beautiful. The slower moments seem to have been nurtured for longer here, which helps to take away the dullness of songs like "Fall Through Ginnungagap." Musicality also seems to be a bigger focus here. While some of the older songs concentrated solely on melting your face off, there's some method to the madness here. Nothing ever becomes too overwhelming, which ensures that the album can be listened to the whole way through without the listener tiring. Overall, it seems like the band became better musicians and songwriters. That's really the only way I could describe it, anyway.
Olavi and Johan's riffs are just one part of what makes this album brilliant. Not only have they learned new ways of songcraft, but they have also taken all of the old elements of their playing and improved upon them. Most noticeable to this is the barn-burner "For the Stabwounds in Our Backs." It starts out slowly, giving the illusion that it could easily be another rendition of say, "North Sea Storm" or "Annihilation of Hammerfest." But suddenly, a cascading drum fill leads into a mile-a-minute passage of lightning-paced double bass and impressive alternate picking. The song later descends into more melodic territory without sacrificing one bit of the wall of sound that established the beginning of the song. All of the evolutions in the guitars are what set this apart from the other albums, and is what makes this such a modern classic. Melodic runs are backed by drop-tune notes played in a flurry of tremolo picking; this creates a true sense of atmosphere, and gives the songs a huge boost in emotional and listenability factors. The soul-stirring climax of "Thousand Years of Oppression" is a clear example of this, as is the epic closing track.
Anders receives a huge boost on this album. His drum sound is nothing short of stellar; the bass drum maintains enough low end to bludgeon without mercy on "Down the Slopes of Death," while maintaining a tamed nature important for slower, more powerful moments where double bass isn't needed. The toms pound and boom like tribal war drums, as seen on the fist-pumping opening of the classic "Death in Fire." The snare has also come a lot more out front in the mix, and maintains a sharp attack without sounding tinny or thin. There seems to be greater flair in style this time around, and some stabs at technicality without overstepping boundaries. The album's title track stands as one of his best performances as a drummer: he maintains incredible stamina on the double bass while playing independent patterns with his hands and keeping things fresh with plenty of fills and rolls.
Johan as a vocalist hits his ultimate apex here, and I think many will agree. Not only has his degree of projection and power improved, as you can understand almost everything that leaves his mouth; but so has his voice. It's stronger and is well-rounded in vocal patterns than previous albums, and the lyrics help things out as well. The Crusher saw some of Johan's best lyrics to date, and Versus the World shows the man coming full circle. Balance is found between the call-to-arms anthems, ("Death in Fire") tales of bloodlust and revenge, ("Thousand Years of Oppression," "For the Stabwounds in Our Backs") and the introspective side, which details Norse mythology. ("...and Soon the World Will Cease to Be.") It compliments the music perfectly, and is definitely another high point.
Production-wise, AA have never been better. The dense sound of The Crusher was a bit too beefy, and The Avenger seemed too thin: Versus the World is the solution. Ted's bass is perfectly audible and comes to the front of the mix without overwhelming the guitars, and it clearly holds a considerable amount of overdrive to add some grit to the sound. Anders' drums drive the structures forward as the guitars chug, and Johan's vocals are the icing on the cake. This is a very high standard of production for a metal band, which probably explains why Fate of Norns got slammed so bad for its production techniques.
This is the ultimate Amon Amarth record, and will probably get you hooked on the band. Everything guarantees to be a consistent, entertaining, fist-pumping and intense listening session. Prepare yourself. The Vikings are coming.
My story with this album began about 4 years ago in my local FYE CD store as I was perusing the metal section for something to complement my growing collection of power metal releases. When I cam across a rather brilliant art work depicting a lone Viking warrior poised to impale the planet Earth with the fire’s of Mount Doom as the audience for this epic battle, I naturally expected to hear grand anthems of glory and triumph on my first listen, and I did. However, as someone who was not predisposed to liking death metal, I was a bit surprised to find myself liking every single thing I heard.
Amon Amarth play a blend of melodic death metal that is quite unique, combining down tempo doom tracks and high speed thrash beats to complement the usual perpetual atmosphere of blast beats and down tuned guitars. In fact, the only thing that keeps this band firmly in the death sub-genre Johan Hegg’s voice, which unlike most vocalists in this particular style I’m familiar with, doesn’t sound one dimensional. He has the typical tinge to his voice that most Scandinavian death vocalists have, but successfully shifts the tone of his grunts and shrieks to avoid redundancy, as well as providing some well placed spoken parts on one or two songs.
This band also does well to avoid the trap of overusing the blast beat, a pitfall that is common in this style. “Death in Fire” and “And soon the world will cease to be” are perfect examples of spot on section transitioning, going back and forth between the constant thud of the double kick drum to a toned down quasi-doom metal beat. Likewise, the high tempo thrasher “For the stabwounds in our backs” cooks like an early MegaDeth song, transitions quickly, and rivals Nocturnal Rites’ heavy edged riffing style.
Another strong point on here is the thematic stuff going on in the guitars, which is where the melodic side of the death metal coin. Unlike the brutal death style, these songs can actually leave an impression on you after your finished listening. “Where silent gods stand guard”, “Across the rainbow bridge” and “Thousand years of oppression” are the catchiest of the bunch, containing plenty of melodic hooks in the guitar parts, and at certain moments even the tone of Hegg’s voice can be recalled, despite the lack of a melody to hum.
To fans of the melo-death style, particularly those of you lost children who follow the Gothenburg scene; this is the real deal, spoken from someone who generally doesn’t go for music with harsh vocals. When you listen to this album, you get an album, not a collection of 9 or 10 tracks that either repeat themselves over and over or meander for 4 to 6 minutes each. And for those of you core Amon Amarth fans out there who haven’t gotten this album yet and are searching for their earlier demos and the “Sorrow throughout the nine worlds” EP, there are still a few of those special edition double CDs left out there, believe me when I say that it is well worth the additional cost.
Amon Amarth.... Wow, what can I say? The gods of Death Metal never seems to make anyone disappointed. The overall sound on this CD is just perfect with very clean production. The opening track "Death In Fire" starts out with intense dumming that makes you feel like you're marching to a battlefield where you'll fight with the vikings for the mighty Oden. And BOOM, when the riff brakes the silence you can really feel how two great armies are fighting against eachother. When the chorus starts and Mr. Hegg roars "Death In Fire" you'll know that this is some very good stuff. Both melody and brutality in every move.
I think you can guess what the lyrics are about. Yeah, you're right. They're all about vikings and war. Amon Amarth's vikingtheme is one of the best I've ever heard and seen, beautiful lyrics that definitely force you to sing along.
The album will continue in the same way like "Death In Fire". But when I had heard it a few times I felt that something was missing. This great CD seems to lack the brutality and speed of their earlier albums. Now I'm mostly thinking on "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" and "The Avenger". Sure, it's still a very good album. But I had rated it a little bit higher if it just had a little more speed.
If you're looking for some great Death Metal with a wonderful melodic touch you should absolutely check out Amon Amarth - "Versus The World".
"Death In Fire"
"Where Silent Gods Stand Guard"
"Across The Rainbow Bridge" (A very epic song and one of my favourites with Amon Amarth)
This is one of the albums that need to be listened to with a booklet of lyrics in front in order to attain the entire experience. Bal-Sagoth is another band of such characteristic. Although there are no epic stories such as on Bal-Sagoth’s albums, Amon Amarth’s albums are better appreciated when the lyrics are read and understood. The lyrics are a defining trait on this album as is the background melody, which is a predominant feature. The negative side of this is that it does get repetitious at times as the melody stays constant throughout.
Compared to albums such as The Crusher, this album, in general, is not as energetic but it is not as noisy either. Some of the tracks, such as “Vs The World,” do have a similar type of energetic flow to it with quick and violent spurts, as in the chorus where the lyrics “Vs the World” are shouted adding the aggression to the album.
“Thousand Years of Oppression,” offers diversity between the general sounds that dominated the album until this point, with a relatively different compositional approach. This is apparent towards the beginning where the vocals are calmer and the instrumentals and melodies are more varied then the rest of the songs.
Although this album does have a general, almost monotonous, feel to it, it does not hinder the overall satisfaction you get from listening to it. This is an energetic album with great lyrics whose only off-putting trait are the similar melodies, which are apparent throughout. The album ends with one of the highlight songs, “...And Soon The World Will Cease To Be,” which is much more melodic then the previous tracks and shows where the band will be going in the future albums.
This is a very solid album and is a worthwhile addition to most Metal collections. This is a must buy for fans of previous Amon Amarth albums as it offers a pleasurable listening experience and contains many head-banging tracks.
CRUSHING VIKING DEATH METAL.
That term is synonymous with Amon Amarth, and the Swedes deliver just that with their latest, VERSUS THE WORLD, their best album since their first full-length, ONCE SENT FROM THE GOLDEN HALL.
I have been excited about this album since Metal Blade released the opening track, “Death In Fire” onto the internet several months ago. This track signifies everything Amon Amarth is about: epic lead melodies, a rhythm section that is the hammer of Thor himself, thundering double bass kicks, and of course, lyrical hymns sung high in praise to the mighty Norse warriors and Gods. What else can I say about this album except that it is at the level of excellence that we have come to expect from Amon Amarth?
Two slight musical changes really push this album to the forefront of Amon Amarth’s catalog. First is the guitar tone, downtuned and with the perfect amount of distortion, creating some of the fullest, richest guitar work the band has laid down to date. I find the guitars on VERSUS THE WORLD to have more of the epic, melodic flair shared with ONCE SENT, but still crushingly heavy. Secondly, vocalist Johann Hegg growls deeper and fiercer than ever. Everything else is up to par musically; it amazes me how Amon Amarth can keep the same style over so many albums and yet each one remains fresh and enticing. These guys just know how to write great songs!
While every track on VERSUS THE WORLD is very good, a couple of them especially stand out. First, the opener, “Death In Fire,” which is everything a metalhead could dream for, as well as, “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard,” with its driving chords and pummeling rhythm, as well as some great lead work. Finally “Thousand Years Oppression” is a brooding, angry track sure to get your warrior’s heart pounding.
VERSUS THE WORLD is another example of the great talent that Amon Amarth have carried through all their albums. Fans of the band, new, old, and yet-to-be will certainly love this album, so grab your sword, your ale, and drink up with several of your best comrades-in-arms, crank this one up, and join Amon Amarth as they usher in the days of Viking glory once more.
(Originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, January, 2003)
What a tremendous album.... That's all that I kept saying to myself within the brief seconds it took me to take my headphones off my head. This album is definitely the best melodic death metal album ever produced. Viking themes, melody riffs, stupendous leads, good fast drumming, and great Viking theme lyrics screeched out by the blonde Viking of a vocalist, Johan Hegg.
The CD starts off with a bang (Death in fire) and ends in a melodic epic "...And soon the world will cease to be." "Death in fire", kicks your ass right from the beginning with a war drum beat and a terrific melodic guitar riff. The songs on the album vary from fast brutal war like songs, to melodic songs, which even though are slow in pace still keep the overall aggression of Amon Amarth at full strength, such as tracks like, Down the Slopes of Death and Across the Rainbow Bridge.
Drum wise, Fredrik Andersson keeps good pace with average double bass and in my own opinion, does not show as much talent on this CD as I think he could. The guitar players, Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Goderberg, keep the tempo up with very melodic riffage. Just check out the opening riff on "For the stabwounds in our back" to see what I mean. The Bass playing like in most death metal is barley even noticed. The thing that most impressed me about Amon Amarth was Johan Hegg, his screechy Viking yell impressed me very much, and his guttural death metal growl added variety to the mix.
This album had two noticeably terrific epic songs, "...And soon the world will cease to be" and "Thousand years of oppression". Both of which are terrific, but the slow build up and spoken word intro to "Thousand years of oppression" makes that song more enjoyable. With great guitar leads and lyrics it is by far the best soon on the CD.
Well all in all, Amon Amarth brings to the table possibly the greatest Melodic Death album ever. Great leads, vocals and lyrics. Best tracks: Thousand Years of Oppression, Death in Fire, For the Stabwounds in our Backs, and (the triumphant war march song) Versus the World.
Amon Amarth is in a world of its own. The band continually puts out solid Viking/death metal albums, and Versus The World is no exception. When I first heard the opening bars of "Death In Fire," I knew I was an Amon Amarth fan. The hypnotic, brutal 'wall of sound' style riffing, accentuated with thumping double kick drumming and some very haunting and well played lead work gives you the backbone of Amon Amarth. Add to that Johan Hegg's gutteral Viking growling, and you have yourself a very nice recipe for some kick-ass metal.
First off, the vocals. Johan Hegg is recognized as one of the metal world's best growlers, and he is in tip-top shape on this record. Throughout the album, he lays down some very harsh but controlled growling, which at first is damn near impossible to understand, but after listening to this album many times, you can certainly pick out basically everything he's singing about. As far as the lyrical content goes, it's typical AA fare, viking mythology and war, and so on. The music fits the growled lyrics perfectly, nothing seems out of place with respect to that.
On axes (not real axes, even though these guys are vikings!) we have Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. The riffs these guys lay down are positively punishing from start to finish. Anywhere from slower, melodic style riffs ("Silent Gods") to full on thrashy stuff ("Stabwounds") all of it is viking goodness. If you've heard AA, you know the style of riffs these guys employ, and they are always headache enducing. If you're new to AA, I hope you've got some Aspirin handy because these riffs are brutal, and if you listen to this album really loud, you'll probably have a headache at the end. The riffing is hypnotic, even though it is still headbang worthy. The riffs just sort of beat you into submission.
As far as solo guitar goes, both axemen take shots at laying down some lead work. It is used fairly sparingly, but always fits in nicely with the song. Don't expect any Dave Murray speed-soloing... it's very controlled, melodic type stuff, nicely accentuating the riffs.
On the 4-string, we have Ted Lundström. The bass is solid, making a nice meaty Viking base for the hypnotic death riffing. At various points in the album, you can hear the bass rumble on it's own and it always sounds great. Don't expect any Steve Harris bass work here (too many Maiden references!) but it's still nicely played.
Finally, behind the kit, we've got the double kick madness of Fredrik Andersson. This guy pounds the shit out of his drumkit for the entire album. Full on double kick is used about 95% of the time, with some great mix up chops here and there ("Death In Fire") This is mostly just typical death drumming, ripping double kick with alot of snare mashing. When he does go off on an original beat, it is always very solid and sounds great, always matching the riffs well. All in all, the instruments are excellently played.
As far as the songs themselves... well, they all completely kick ass. There's no filler here, no songs you'll be tempted to skip, since they are all in the same vein, but all have something different to offer.
The only place where the album loses points is due to fairly shoddy production. While it is an improvement over their earlier records, it's still not the best (yes, I know 98% of death metal albums are produced like crap) but the axes fuzz out alot, making it sort of grating.
Metalest moment on the record: 3:00 of "Versus The World." I dare anyone not to break their neck while listening to the next minute or so of the song.
Choice cuts: All of it. Remember to keep the aspirin handy. Grab your axe, put on your helmet, we're goin' pillaging! And this is the soundtrack.
This album is definatly worth owning and also a great buy since its still the price of a single cd but comes as a two disc st including Amon Amarth's first two demos and mini cd/EP. So its nice to have in the collection, since it has Amon Amarths earliest and latest work all on one album.
The type of death metal that Amon Amarth does on this album seem to be quite popular among alot of death metal bands formed in the last 5 -7 years. (Arch Enemy for example do this to). Amon Amarth combine two styles of death metal on Versus The World. They combine the brutal american style of death metal, heavy and fast, with the more technical melodic european style of death metal. At times on this album Amarth is just plain brutal, and at other times they come close to being as Technical as Death. The combination works well, with a nice balance of sheer brutality for headbanging and technical skill with melodies and riffs for enjoyment.
The drums on this album are fast and brutal as hell, and the bass also adds alot of volume to this album. On the opening track the intro with the drums is so damn powerful, with alot of attitude. The vocals are coherant but brutal, the singer knows how to prolong his singing and make his voice real deep, its very enjoyable. The chorus's in these songs are great two, very well done and with alot of attitude, especially in the title track Versus The World.
If this cd were just the music, I would give it somewhere in the mid 90' range, but since it comes with all these extra features (the demos and ep), the actuay quality and value of this cd is great. No reason not to buy this album if you don't like death metal, even thrash and heavy metal fans may enjoy this if they are looking for a death metal band to get into. The only flaw this album has that I can think of is that there is no extreme high point in it, its all equally a good album, which also can be viewed as good, but I always like to have one moment that stands out in an album, or several. There are times when it comes very close though. Definatly buy.