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There's a question about Amon Amarth that needs answering. To do so I'm going to paint a picture, which is actually one of Amon Amarth's own. Imagine this: a great battle with a great many warriors on either side, men fighting tooth and nail for survival, using only the most physical of weapons to cut and hack the enemy to death; on each side a heroic leader astride a horse who fights for victory alongside his men; one of those leaders has his horse killed early in the battle and must continue on foot; he is no longer in sight since he cannot be raised above the heads of the other combatants, though he continues to fight nonetheless; the opposing leader's horse suffers no such violence and keeps him aloft, easily cutting through attacks from every side. Now here's the question: which of those leaders is the more worthy of praise? The leader who was successful in battle, who all could see as he fought, and who was surely on the victorious side? Or the leader who fell from his horse, who was invisible as he struggled courageously, and surely did not survive the battle? Who do you choose?
In that situation, Amon Amarth are of course the horseback leader - the prominent one in this arena. They have been one of the most well-known melodic death metal bands for many years now and surely are also famous for their Viking themes. The unhorsed leader could represent many other bands: perhaps Unleashed or Bathory or Enslaved, who took Viking themes as their main subject during the early 1990s, or perhaps Insomnium or Kataklysm or Ensiferum, who are probably their closest kin in the melodeath/extreme/folk genres. The prominence of Amon Amarth has come upon the world forcefully and suddenly, bringing their music some mainstream attention and descending in the period from With Oden on Our Side to the more deliberately commercial Twilight of the Thunder God. What many are sceptical about is whether Amon Amarth deserve the praise and attention bestowed on them or whether there are other worthier bands who are producing similar music in a more sincere and creative fashion. In short, since its release this album has become a source of much argument and controversy.
So, what should we expect from With Oden on Our Side? There is the same kind of mid-paced melodeath that the band had originally displayed on their debut album, deviating from the common generic trend of thrashy, pounding rhythms and hooks, utilizing instead smoother riffing styles that borrow heavily from the moody tremolos of black metal or offer a loping chug that demands to be stamped along to. The mood is present in the riffing style, either sending a surge of nostalgia and wonder through the listener with the tremolos, creating a spirited, celebratory mood at foot-stomping speed, or producing more of a dangerous, adrenalized feeling with more standard death metal parts, as in the savage 'Asator'. There's an epic, widescreen quality to the music that brings Amon Amarth musically much closer to Enslaved than many would expect, which certainly increases the drama of the album, though occasionally causes parts of songs to blur together. There are not a great many lead moments on the album, the rhythm players tending to keep things tight as well, Fredrik Andersson maintaining standard pace for much of the time and Ted Lundström doing little to make the bass stand out. Johan Hegg's vocals are a strange mixture of the extreme and the accessible, possessing a very deep and belchy voice similar to Insomnium's Niilo Sevänen, but one that has surprising clarity and includes few strained moments.
That description may make Amon Amarth seem rather plain, seeing as it is left mainly to the guitarists to create mood and excitement. However, the mix is very good and the guitars are pushed weightily against the front of the sound, plus the drums have a bit of reverb that gives the whole thing a cavernous effect, making everything grand and epic. Usually that quality is a cause for celebration, particularly as Hegg's lyrics about battles and journeys are gripping, although when the intensity is lost on songs like 'Under the Northern Star' and 'Runes to My Memory' there appears to be a gap that the rest of the band can't fill. A few riffs also cut oddly stark shapes compared to the general fullness of sound, mostly those which jump on the low E and plug the gaps, such as the opening riff of 'Valhall Awaits Me' or the early part of 'Hermod's Ride to Hel'. There are a few really excellent moments, such as the bluster of 'Asator' as it takes off, the lamenting solo in 'Valhall Awaits Me', and the glorious momentum that accrues during 'Gods of War', perhaps the most complete song here. In general, the songs are strong and reasonably compact, though the end of the album from 'Cry of the Black Birds' seems weaker than the rest.
The real subject that seems worth examining, however, is whether WIth Oden on Our Side is an album that makes Amon Amarth worthy of the attention subsequently given them. It is almost certainly among their best releases, arguably compacting all that had made them noteworthy in the first place into a well-defined whole, although introducing few novel ideas into a well-established style. One thing that seems to hold it back from truly taking the crown at the end of the battle is something as straightforward as a lack of confidence: some of the songs (particularly those three mentioned as highlights, in addition to the title track) grab hold of the moment and brandish it proudly, while others aren't as consistent or feel underwhelming when they finish. The least that can be said is that Amon Amarth had forged a distinct sound by this point in their career and - however much or little that sound has been altered since - stand as a representative for the scenes in which they harbour. Not necessarily the true hero of the battle, but surely a satisfactory example of a hero nonetheless.
Oh boy, where do I even start with this one? I do wish I could just write “Boring As Fuck” in big block letters and leave it at that, but a review is a review so let’s get on with it. Out of all the things people have criticized the band for, the one thing that stands out the most is their painfully obvious and crippling lack of variety. When you’re listening to a 9 song album and everything starts sounding the same by the 3rd song itself, you know something is wrong. Very wrong. The previous sentence itself should give you a fair idea of what this band is about. Clearly “viking metal” is not my cup of tea. Also rather funny that they call themselves by that genre tagline when their music barely has any power to it aye? Something to think about, that’s all. Songwriting seems to be pretty much non-existent on this album.
Also I’m sorry but the riffs are barely metal to begin with. They sound more like straightforward rock or punk riffs with extra distortion and boring chug riffs that never end rather than anything by a melodeath band. Okay that was a bit harsh and there are exceptions in the case of a few songs but regardless. Even the solos and leads are nothing to write home about, being just some random generic harmonisation that Maiden have already done to death since the 80s or a scale run. There are even some tremolo riffs that sound like Cradle Of Filth rejects sapped of all their energy and vitality. Equally boring are the vocals just being ultra-low guttural growls that borders close to harsh whispering at times. Yawn. I was seriously considering turning this album off halfway through itself, but I soldiered on. Big mistake. If you’re even a casual fan of melodeath you’d have heard all these licks and riffs a good million times before. No kidding. Also the band almost NEVER gets out of the mid-paced rut they’ve set themselves in from the first song onward. I mean okay I’m not asking for time signature changes or any of that complex stuff but at least change it up a bit willya?
I seriously just don’t get it. Why the fuck is this band so revered? Is it because their riffs just go THUD THUD THUD PLONK PLONK on and on forever with no sense of variation or dynamics and that’s what metalheads dig the most nowadays? Is it because nowadays metal fans simply want to mindlessly jump/mosh to anything and everything brutal/heavy without bothering about the music having any lasting power? Granted death metal (or even melodic death metal for that matter) is not known for having dynamics in that sense, but COME ON! You could at least TRY and sound interested in playing the music you do, but these guys sound bored as fuck. Just like the music itself, so I guess that’s pretty apt. It’s like they went to the studio literally saying “So we’re gonna compose this song in the key of Ab and that song in the key of D#” or whatever. I mean this is just so by-the-numbers and manufactured that a part of my brain actually finds it difficult to believe that actual musicians wrote this music and more the fact that it could’ve just been whipped up on a damn computer one fine day and nobody would even know. There’s no fire or passion or feel or atmosphere or literally ANYTHING of worth to be found on this album that would make you want to listen to it again. Background music of the most mundane kind. You could flip the tracklist backwards from 9 to 1 and put “Prediction of Warfare” in the place of “Valhall Awaits Me” and it would make NO DAMN DIFFERENCE whatsoever. That’s how samey and interchangeable the songs are. Some would say that’s a good thing and consistency and all that jazz, but definitely not in the case of this band. Seriously its bands and albums like these that prove every halfwit metal-hater out there claiming that “Man, metal is boring as fuck” right at the end of the day because that’s exactly what it is. Fucking boring. What pisses me off the most is that now, because of their widespread popularity (for reasons completely beyond my understanding) most metal newbies will most-probably end up hearing Amon Amarth before the better (and more underrated) Gothenburg bands and subsequently think they know all about melodeath. Sheesh. Not good. And this is one of their best albums?? Christ on a fucking pogo stick, I don’t think I even want to know what their other albums sound like. No thanks.
I mean seriously, I consider myself a die-hard fan of melodeath and yet I can’t help but find these guys unbearably dull. The last sentence should speak for itself. If you still want to go ahead and waste your time checking these guys out when there are literally hundreds of underrated melodeath bands out there who are a million times more deserving of your attention, by all means knock yourself out. However if you’re not an idiot, don’t even bother. If you’re that curious just listen to “Asator” (the only song actually worth hearing) and call it a day.
With Oden On Our Side is generally seen as Amon Amarth's magnum opus, and rightfully so. It came right between two periods and took the best of both to pour it into this one set of 9 songs. It really is a shame it only held up for one album. This album shines on all fronts; the production is crisp, palm muted guitars sound great and there is not one single annoying drum sound on this record. I kind of wished they had turned the bass up a little bit though. The vocals are not yet at their peak, but sound a lot less strained than on previous albums. Riffing is epic and relentless, but can be melancholic at times. The drumming is varied, he does more way more than just keep the beat and is a very big factor in the pace of the songs. The vocals are really good; not yet at his peak here, but the low growls and higher pitched screams sound downright fantastic. That is one of Amon Amarth's greatest strengths. There are tons of bands with great instrumentation, but great vocalists are rather hard to come by.
A quick note about the cover art: I do not really like it. However much Amon Amarth's recent album covers are circlejerked, they do look pretty awesome and fit with the music. The cover for With Oden On Our Side is really uninspired and nearly all the same color. The band logo sticks out the most, and let's be honest: they have a pretty shitty logo.
This album does have a few problems. One of the most apparent is the track order; the album opens with "Valhalla Awaits Me". It grabs you by the throat and throws you right into the battlefield. Second track "Runes To My Memory" however feels really out of place, as it has very different energy and is a bit slower. "Asator" is again very fast, and "Hermod's Ride To Hel - Loke's Treachery Part 1" is more like the second song. From there it flows decent, but the first 4 songs really have a weird track order. If put differently it would have been better to listen to all the way through for sure.
There is really only one track that does not stand up to the task; that being "Hermod's Ride To Hel - Loke's Treachery Part 1". It is kind of dull and boring and adds nothing that makes it special or stand out from any other melodic death metal song. "Cry Of the Black Birds" is another weak-ish track because of its repetitiveness and lack of riffs, but just about gets away with it. I do not understand why people think it to be that good, as nearly every other track outclasses it with a pretty big margin. I do feel as if the longer tracks are often longer than they need to be, "Gods Of War Arise" not included.
The remaining songs make up for it though. On almost every track there are at least a few good riffs or an awesome solo. I play songs from this album a lot when doing any kind of physical activity, be it cycling or running. They really get me going, although it is hard to headbang at times.
Lyrical content is not terribly original but it really fits the music. The album is filled with tales of Vikings raping and pillaging foreign shores. One standout is the opener. Its first person perspective works really well and makes it all the more epic. Sometimes the lyrics sound really silly, when they are sung in short and very literal sentences. This is especially noticeable on "Runes To My Memory".
Overall, With Oden On Our Side is worth the praise it gets, and I would definitely recommend it. It has few flaws, and only one track isn't up to the standard for this album. Even if you are generally not fond of melodeath, this album represents one of the genres finest hours. Whatever you think of the direction Amon Amarth went in, you cannot deny the growls and riffs and shrieks that will keep this album stuck in your head for days.
"Valhall Awaits Me"
"Gods Of War Arise"
"With Oden On Our Side"
I've known about Amon Amarth for a while now (who doesn't?), and really I should have reviewed some of their work earlier seeing as I'd enjoyed quite a lot of it. But I'm here now, so let me pass judgement on what is arguably their best album, With Odin on Our Side. If Odin really is on their side then they'll get a good score... Yeah, I think we'll forget that pun ever happened.
Anyway, something worth pointing out: their music is quite simplistic. It doesn't need to be complex, it just sounds good. People will say that it doesn't qualify as death metal (which is partly true as their style is more akin to NWOBHM than pure and simple death metal) and therefore it is just nothingness if it doesn't have any sort of intricate guitar riff to it, but I completely disagree. Think of this album like J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series: it's not going to win any prizes for being the most amazingly exaggerated work of art out there, but why does it need to be? What's the point in having an incredible idea if nobody's going to give it any notice? Sure, it'll get some hate from the critics, but that's part and parcel of becoming famous. The number of fans will far outweigh the number of haters.
Onto the thing I actually came to do. The sounds coming from the guitars are - as I have just felt the need to point out - nothing seemingly impossible. For the most part they play the same riffs over and over again in the verses, but tend to step up a gear during the chorus and produce something that always seems to be enchanting. Simple yet beautiful melodies come from multiple angles on nearly every track, and usually there's a neat little solo somewhere in the works. Very nice to listen to no matter what your take on the band or the genre happens to be.
As expected, Johan Hegg's voice remains one of the best in the genre. I'm not sure what it is about it that's quite so awesome, but it just adds an extra dimension to the already great music. Meanwhile in the background the drumming is pretty sensational too, mostly featuring a constant double bass but also other elements that really work in great harmony with the thundering riffs of the verses. The poor bassist is mostly forgotten about, but we'll give him credit too seeing as how the rest of the band is doing so well.
There are so many good things to take from this record that I can't really choose any particular tracks to recommend to anyone reading this. My advice would be to start from the beginning and listen to the entire thing. It's just brilliant, and although many will find that the verses get too samey I personally never get bored of hearing the stuff that this band produce played over and over and over again. Recommended for anyone that likes metal, whatever type it is that you enjoy.
I remember seeing Amon Amarth live a few years back, and all I remember was the overweight nordic dude behind me bellowing the lyrics. Other than that, the music seemed altogether disappointing. I tried to get into the band again, since everyone says they're the best in viking metal, but it proved to be a losing battle. At the forefront was With Oden On Our Side, which was loudly proclaimed to be their strongest effort, with "The Cry Of The Blackbirds" in particular.
Well, are we even listening to the same band? Never before have I heard such a homogenous gaggle of songs; riffs change, drumbeats change, but I can't help but get the impression that Amon Amarth are not drawing from a very large bag of ideas, and that is the main reason why I cannot stand this band anymore. They're not bad, per se', and their performance was definitely powerful, tight, and top notch, and all the chorii and "mosh pit" sections are in place, but it doesn't seem to have any lasting impact. Through all the lashings and bludgeonings with their mighty war hammers, there seems to be, for the most part, no sonic damage, and I remain unmoved by their music as a result.
A large part, in issue, is that the tempos used are very similar and interchangeable. A song on this album would not be out of place on either of its surrounding albums, and any riff on this album would not be out of place on any other song, as well. The only thing differentiating the riffs seem to be what key they're in, but as there are only so many keys to put a song in (and I doubt Amarth have much experience with complex chords like m7M9 type chords or sus chords) it becomes stale. The drums gallop, and onward they gallop with a thunder akin to Sleipnir, but do they do anything else but gallop? No. No blastbeats, no nuance, no rhythm even approaching challenging. It seems that rhythmically Amon Amarth are drawing from an equally miniscule idea pool as they are in the songwriting department. Similarly, dynamics are an unknown concept to Amon Amarth, but death metal as a whole is not known for its sense of dynamics, so this is forgivable, although calling Amon Amarth death metal is only true in the loose sense of the word.
What Amon Amarth are, despite all labels to the contrary, are generic extreme metal. Take the opening riff of the album. This is not a death metal riff. This is heavy metal riff that would sound lame and dated even in 1985. Despite the steely production, vocals of Johan, and constant double bass, this is nothing but generic heavy metal riffs interspersed with tremolo picked sections. Surface attributes do not a genre make, and after all, Children of Bodom is not death metal or black metal, despite the snarled vocals and steely production, so why should Amon Amarth? Truth be told, this is just a roughly death metal skin grafted on to a dated heavy metal skeleton, and as a result, this remains boring as shit to listen to. I mentioned earlier that all the good aesthetics seem to be in place, like performances and chorii, and that everything is neatly structured and put together, and said that despite all that, this has no lasting impact. Well, I'm changing that. It's precisely BECAUSE all the attributes are so neatly presented that I lose interest. Death metal is supposed to be raw and aggressive, ugly and merciless, and horrific and grotesque. This is pretty. This should actually offend 2 groups of people: fans of death metal, and fans of viking culture, because it dramatically oversimplifies both and attempts to sell them to the scene kids in their clothes they purchased at Hot Topic.
Well count me out. All these riffs were better used by the NWOBHM and proto-power metal bands in the 80's who Amon Amarth stole them from. I gave them a shot, and listened to their supposed "best album" from start to finish twice in a row, and see absolutely nothing in them that would motivate me to listen to them again. I gave 45 points because of the flawless production and tight performances, but it's not technical by any stretch of the imagination and the songwriting is somewhere between stale and downright plagiarism. This is one of the most dishonest albums made by one of the most dishonest bands. Avoid, especially since there's better death metal bands, better viking bands, and bands who use these generic heavy metal riffs far better.
Take all of the best attributes present on Versus the World, up the ante regarding the production values, and something akin to With Oden on Our Side should begin to take form. The muddy, overdriven aesthetics present on Fate of Norns served it moderately well, but the band wisely discarded that approach in favor of a more straightforward, modern sheen here. The moderated, singeing zest of "Valhall Awaits Me", the subsonic distortion achieved during the title track, the compressive aesthetics of "Runes to my Memory"; these are all among Amon Amarth's best compositions to date.
Even the slower, more deliberate songs - which are usually more patience-testing than they need to be - come off as novel here. Take the closer "Prediction of Warfare", for example. Once the wistful opening melody (which reminds me of the forest theme from Chrono Trigger of all things) wraps up, the song detonates into a cacophony of percussive riffs and ascending powerchords. It isn't that the band comes off as any more primal in their delivery, the compositions are simply more succinct and take advantage of the massive sounding aesthetics. The one-two punch of "Gods of War Arise" and the title track is a hard act to follow, both rivaling the namesake piece from Versus the World in monolithic riff delivery.
Upping the ante regarding the production was a wise choice, as it breathes new life into the band's otherwise stagnated approach. Andersson's kit undoubtedly benefits the most from this. His snare and cymbals sound amazing, most evident during the percussive swells that open the title track. The splash cymbal in particular cuts through the distortion and adds a unique counterpoint to the normally straightforward drum approach. The minor key that the band is always fluttering around in is utilized to it's full potential during "Cry of the Black Birds", which must be the most memorable song here from a melodic standpoint. The atmosphere evoked is tense and foreboding, but at the same time triumphant. Some old habits die hard, such as the proclivity to settle into pedestrian, staccato riffing patterns like during the verses of "Runes to my Memory". Even so, the melodic chorus swings the affairs back into a more positive direction, saving the track from mediocrity.
The same sadly doesn't occur during "Under the Northern Star", which falls victim to many of the same pitfalls present on Fate of Norns, coming off as something of an afterthought in the procession. I can also go either way regarding "Hermod's Ride to Hel - Loke's Treachery Part I", the galloping verses have some bite to them, but the main melody lacks the appeal of most of the other songs here. The riffs are so massive that they finally befit the subject matter being espoused by frontman Hegg. His rants come off as a little less trite than usual, which is refreshing. Many of these songs should run together as they all feature a similar approach and atmosphere as per most modern Amon Amarth, but the strength of the compositions keep this from happening in With Oden on Our Side's case. A high water mark for the band that has yet to be challenged.
My first encounter with the Viking blades of Amon Amarth was Fate of Norns, an album that sadly remains much underappreciated among fans due to its admittedly simple, yet in my opinion, amazingly catchy compositions. When it came out I thought it was their strongest offering so far, well balanced and with zero point zero filler tracks. However, even though I was confident the Vikings would release a worthy successor, I didn’t expect it to blow away the preceding album like dust upon a sleeve. And that’s not only my own perception, for it is the general consensus that With Oden on Our Side is the band’s ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE. Moreover, I do not only believe this album is the best material Amon Amarth has offered so far to the metal-craving masses, but also one of melodic death metal’s finest hours, on par with Carcass’ Heartwork and Callenish Circle’s My Passion // Your Pain. Those three gems constitute my own "Unholy Trinity" of melodeath albums, my absolute favorites in the genre.
Blood starts to flow like the Iguazu Falls and limbs start to fly everywhere with the first riffs and the pounding drums of “Valhall Awaits Me”, an adrenaline pumping opener that’ll instantly compel you to go berserk, get a rune-carved battle axe or whatever similar object you find nearby, and FUCKIN’ DESTROY! The first person point of view lyrics of the song totally own, you can put yourself in the place of the bearskin-clad warrior and visualize the carnage unfold before your very eyes. I’ve always loved Johan Hegg’s lyrics about Viking mythology and history but I find that his best songs narrate the mighty deeds and unfortunate fates of faceless, unnamed characters. It gives a more personal insight to the Viking-era world, in a dramatic and authentic way. This lyrical style is used on most songs of WOoOS and second axe blow “Runes to My Memory” is no exception, an ill-fated tale of a Viking incursion into Russia wrapped around another high dosage of ass-kicking riffs, epic melodies, tempo changes and forceful roars by the bearded giant himself. A one-two punch that’ll leave you maimed, battered and bruised, aching for more… and that’s precisely what you’ll get!
With this first couple of tracks Amon Amarth shows a return to the speedy numbers of earlier works, now empowered with the catchiness developed during Versus the World and Fate of Norns. Well, get prepared, cos' track number three is even faster! A lightning speed three-minute Thor invocation, “Asator” will leave your neck’s vertebrae completely pulverized. Afterwards the album relents a bit with a couple of slower but equally bone-breaking tunes: the mythological “Helmod’s Ride to Hel – Loke’s Treachery Part I” and “Gods of War Arise”. The first one ranks among the less amazing songs of the album and yet, it boasts epic riffs, battle percussion and an overall great atmosphere. It’s also vastly superior to its disappointing 2011 sequel. “Gods of Wars Arise” is bigger, longer and meaner, a tale of conquest and subjugation that has Manowar-like levels of testosterone and one of Amon Amarth’s best choruses:
“Sacrifice to Gods of old
Bleed them of their lives
Fresh blood on our swords
Gods of war arise!”
Simple and LETHAL! Now, I’ve listened to the CD version, but if you happened to get the vinyl, that’d be the end of Side A. As Side B starts, you’d be in for a pummeling with the arrival of the title-track itself, showing the great pacing this album has, the songs arranged in perfect order for a more concussive effect. “With Oden on Our Side” displays great percussion by skin-basher Fredrik Andersson, including a tasty crashing of plates during the intro and excellent use of double bass bursts. It also has a very powerful chorus, a trait it shares with most songs of this Hel of an album. “Cry of the Blackbirds” needs no introduction, as it’s one of the songs responsible for converting hundreds of metalheads into Amon Amarth’s loyal followers. It boasts stellar percussion AGAIN, memorable riffs and melodies AGAIN, thunderous vocals AGAIN and it kicks enormous amounts of ass, AGAIN and AGAIN! A battle song that ranks amongst Amon Amarth’s most cherished tunes, it will always be a crowd pleaser and one my personal favorites.
The aftermath of the skirmish leaves us with two slower tracks. First we have the ballad equivalent to an Amon Amarth song in “Under the Northern Star”. It has some of the most beautiful melodies ever crafted by a metal band, and a soothing cadence that makes you feel as if you were aboard a drakkar, balancing over the waves and staring at the dark blanket of the night, with only a dim light overhead showing the way. But it’s still a melodic death metal song, and Johan Hegg’s growls remind us there might be just another raid ahead. And it comes in the form of the climatic ending with “Prediction of Warfare”, a historical-themed six-minute closer that recalls the days of Viking-era Ireland. Honestly, it is the least interesting track of the album but it still manages to stay afloat on the vast ocean of greatness that is this masterpiece. It lacks the dynamism of the preceding songs, but it does have its moments and it’s a fitting finale. Hence we conclude that: Side B is as killer as Side A.
With the best production vales so far in their entire career, Amon Amarth fully crowned themselves the undisputed kings of melodeath with this album, in my opinion ruling supreme on the top of the genre from 2004 ‘til the release of 2011’s Surtur Rising, when they stepped down a notch or two. WOoOS successor ensured this dominion, albeit I do find Twilight of the Thunder God a tiny bit less compelling in comparison, somehow making it up by being marginally more accessible and catchier. Nonetheless, With Oden on Our Side continues to be the one album by this band that I rate as virtually flawless, the one I urge fellow metal brothers and sisters to fetch and experience. It has everything done right and the riff crafting of both Olavi Mikkonen Johan Söderberg is simply mind-blowing, a perfect environment for Johan Hegg’s inspired and inspiring tales of the Viking Era to come to life. This is MANDATORY listen for fans of the band, melodeath fans, Viking metal enthusiasts and any metalhead that enjoys the clashing of riffs and drum beats… in other words, GET IT NOW!
After the lacklustre Fate of Norns Amon Amarth needed something pretty darn special to get themselves out of the funk they had got themselves into. I don't know what kind of viking shit Johan and co. were smoking in the two years between this and their last album, but by the ball-hair of Thor does this bad-boy rip.
"Vahall Awaits Me" YES! Uncontrollable windmilling ensues, I can feel the fires in the eyes of each band member raging, this is exactly the kind of fist pumping, foot stomping magic I've come to expect from these Swedish death metal masters. The riffs have a weight behind them that the band hadn't seen in years, blazing across my speakers with scorching passion, even the leads are damn cool.
Next up is one of my absolute favorite Amon Amarth tunes. "Runes to my fucking MEMORY", holy crap does that intro riff smoke, this song is one of the more melodic tracks on the album. Ideal to hold up your replica sword/beer drinking horn/fist/whatever to and belt out that majestic chorus at the top of your voice. That melodic build up to the chorus is so epic, watching it live I shed one manly tear of metal and then head-banged myself into oblivion.
I'm veering into track by track territory here, I'll try not to go on too much, but it is With Oden On Our Side after all. So, next up we have the almighty "ASATOR" which is completely worthy of being typed in caps lock because this is one of Amon Amarth's heaviest numbers, which is no small feat. The intro exudes levels of bad-ass that verge on superhuman, I remember when they played this fucker live; my neck was ruined. Three minutes of insane head-banging madness.
From here onwards Amon Amarth display the mastery of their given style and genre, this rivals the bands finest works, and for my money is their finest work. I could seriously go on and on with the tracks but this review would surely turn into an unintelligible mess of superlatives, exclamation marks, bad puns, caps lock, and a sickening dose of expleteives...
So I'll leave it at that. With Oden On Our Side is Amon Amarth's masterpiece, and any fan of the band who fancies contesting that is probably living a lie. Their debut and Thunder God come close, but in terms of sheer quality, and as far asriffs, and songs go; accept no substitute. A modern classic.
I don’t think this is a bad album, but I can’t help thinking there are just so much more interesting things to listen to than With Oden On Our Side, and Amon Amarth in general. It’s tough to pin down an opinion on these guys because I have no grounds to hate them and they never bother me when a song starts or anything, but at the same time they just lose my attention so quickly with their rather vapid and uninspiring songwriting - which admittedly did start to bother me as the album went on, as I yearned for something with substance to listen to, or at least something moderately entertaining. There simply isn’t much to this music, and the simplicity doesn’t hit hard enough for it to be one of the band’s strengths.
This is pretty much the most cookie-cutter modern metal you can ask for, with little that is creative or interesting about it. The lyrics are pretty simple Viking gimmick-stuff and are delivered by the rather restrained and bland growls of Johan Hegg, worshiped the world over for reasons I’ll never get. He doesn’t have a bad voice but he just never lets loose and really puts his whole self into the performance, making it sound like he’s just restraining himself so as to not scare anyone. He’s very listenable in general, but why bother having harsh vocals if you’re going to do it so tamely and unimpressively? I think this stuff would work just fine with clean vocals. It’s not like this is really that extreme or anything, and the growls are just boring as it is.
The music itself is also very tame, with mostly midpaced songs that occasionally lapse into ‘fast’ sections, though never anything truly unhinged or passionate-sounding like they actually give a crap about the music they're playing. The songs are all well written and contain some decent riffs and melodies, but none of them ever break out of the stodgy and unimpressive restraint they have going. There’s very little, if any, atmosphere on this, and that’s largely due to the dry production job, but the rather redundant songwriting also plays a part. The riffs are tightly played, but they're also pretty unexciting on the whole. "Runes to my Memory" and "Asator" probably have the highest quotient of riffs that didn't bore me, but even those are only decent, not really any more than that. On the other hand, "Gods of War Arise" and "Prediction of Warfare" are interminal slices of undiluted blandness than I felt very tempted to skip, with dull, dull riffs and rather listless melodies that didn't do anything for me at all.
Everything about this just sounds so small and average. I'm not asking for ornate prog-isms and complex songwriting, but With Oden just sounds meager. The songs' scope is small, the melodies are small, the riffs are small, the vocals are small. Nothing here aspires to greater heights; it is all very by-the-numbers and stale. The songwriting does not inspire me to bang my head or sing along, which is what it was going for, so I guess that makes it kind of a failure to me. The band seems very much content to just keep marching along and achieving only the barest minimum of quality possible, which isn't a good thing. They never do anything wrong on this, but very little right, either, and mostly I was just bored as hell listening to this. Amon Amarth have a lot of fans, and I'm sure no matter what I say, those fans won't be deterred, but me, this isn't my kind of thing, and I find it too unimaginative and uncreative to really get into. Why should I waste my time on this? I really don't see a reason. So 50%, because while I can't say this inspires any kind of rage or disgust, it is definitely lacking in any positive traits for me to give it any higher.
It will probably come as no surprise to most people that new Amon Amarth album could not only be defined by the cliché more of the same, but maybe also by the marginally wittier “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. However, with a group whose thematic notions play an important, if not fundamental, role in shaping their music, it is understandable why this is the case.
With the huge success pf predecessor, “Fate of norns”, it makes sense why further scrutiny has been made in respect of the production for this, their follow-up, “With Oden on our side”. Needless to say, producer Jens Bogren has made a sterling effort from atmospheric opener “Valhalla awaits me”, to majestic closer “Prediction of warfare”. Formidable frontman Johan Hegg, is also firing on all cylinders as he reminisces with booming nostalgia, the past lives of Viking honor and their noble raping, pillaging and conquests. Along with the impressive title track, other notables include “Hermod’s ride to Hel (Lokes treachery part1)” and “Gods of war arise”, that all demonstrate the sheer vocal extremities and quality musicianship within. But the primary appeal of this album is the impeccable balance of melody and harsh, Scandinavian death metal, a skill that most groups rarely pull off well. The painstaking production emphasises this aspect of Amon Amarth even more so this time round and the epic riffing of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen helps the album to this end. However, with the craze of its predecessor dying off slightly, fans may find the new offering to be a little too predictable for it to achieve anything on the scale that “Fate of norns” did. After all, it came when the whole Viking-metal obsession was becoming more appealing again, whereas “With Oden...” comes just as everyone’s beginning to tire of it.’
Nevertheless, a much welcome limited edition digipak version of the album will feature many collectables. These include two live tracks from their immense 2am performance at Wacken Open Air in 2004, two demo versions from tracks off “With Oden...” and two tracks from the 1997 Sunlight studio recordings.
What does make Amon Amarth stand out from the rest of death metal bands in terms of popularity? This question might seem rhetorical at first, but anyone who knows at least some of the band’s work would take no more than fifteen seconds to answer it. The fact is that with their never-changing formula of “smooth”, mid-paced death metal with massive growls that doesn’t show much technique is extremely easy to listen to, and even if they might not be your favorite death metal band, but few bands appeal to more people than Amon Amarth: apart from those who absolutely hate any form of death metal, anyone who enjoys metal a little bit tends to listen to this band once in a while.
“With Oden on Our Side” is surely an amazing release, and it is not because Amon Amarth chose to make it so: they were simply at their peak of creativity. There are some characteristics that make this release a little different from what the band had released before, which include louder vocals, noticeable bass and better production, but in its essence, the album is Versus the World 2.0, with catchy riffs, creative melodies and without focus on technique or too much aggression. The vocals are the highlight of this release, and are helped by a production that made them extremely clear even when they are as low as Johan Hegg is capable of going. The rest of the band is definitely there, but the other instruments (with the possible exception of the guitars) position themselves as background to Hegg’s inhuman growls, never bothering to deliver something extremely memorable technically speaking.
It is rare for an Amon Amarth release to have actual highlights, and this album is no different: there are so many riffs and melodies that it is difficult to stop at one song and hear it repeatedly. “Valhalla Awaits Me” introduces us to a thashier side of Amon Amarth by using fast yet melodically interesting riffs to tell us about a dying berserker in the field of battle. It impresses from beginning to end and gives way to “Runes to My Memory”, perhaps the strongest track of the album. The second track is a mid-paced song that is incredibly heavy even in death metal standards, with root-note-spamming bass hidden beneath three massive guitars that sometimes deliver three different riffs at once. The lyrics tell us another dying Viking story, but this time in the aftermath of a battle, and the first-person point of view does a hell of a job in immersing the listener. Sometimes it almost feels like you are personally hearing the man’s last words, and the merciless double bass and some simple yet amazing percussive breakdowns give way to some solid headbanging.
With “Asator”, “Gods of War Arise” and “With Oden on Our Side” the band keeps you headbanging like there is no tomorrow. Holy crap, there are no fillers here. Not a single fucking filler. Every song feels right in the album, yet is unique when played individually. No riffs fall short in terms of creativity (even if in “Cry of the Black Birds” the riffs are clearly overused) and every track is melodically interesting (with highlights on “Under The Northern Star”). Norse mythology and wars involving a lot of bearded men are the obvious theme of the album, and just like in “Versus the World”, there is space for sadness and longing, but the optimistic loyalty to Odin and the courage when facing battles overwhelms anything else. The epic feeling is always there, and is emphasized by the sincerity that the lyrics emanate (I am sure that real Vikings would not come up with lyrics much different from these…
“Under the Northern Star” is a very slow and emotional interlude with rather interesting melodies that also works as a display of Hegg’s incredible guttural range. It has some capable leads, but some of the lowest growls I have ever seen are what actually holds the song together. It might be the most emotional song of the album, and its solo pretty much obligates the listener to picture the scene that is being described. With “Prediction of Warfare”, the album closes as it started: with the band trying to break your neck from headbanging alone. The 6 minutes epic is extremely memorable, and although the track drags as it approaches the end it has some elaborate guitar harmonies riffs that prevent actual boredom.
If this album does flaws, the lack of variation is certainly one of them. Not all songs suffer from it, but some songs that are incredibly catchy, like “Cry of The Black Birds” end up becoming boring after the three minutes mark. Riffs are overused sometimes, which by itself does not make any song bad, but I cannot help but feel that this kind of problem simply shouldn’t happen in an album that has varied melodies as its main selling point.
This album is great because it appeals to basically anyone, including those who have never heard of death metal. If you haven’t heard of Amon Amarth yet this is the ideal album to start with, and if you have you probably already own a copy.
Amon Amarth is an iconic band destined to hit it big in the mainstream. They are one of those groups that is so true to what they believe, so unabashedly able to take on such an obscure subject (to the mainstream) as Viking culture and employ such exceptional raw character in their music that they are poised to become a guilty pleasure of many a mainstream pop/rock/punk/EMO fan. By the time of their sixth full-length album in 2006, Amon Amarth was still a hidden gem in the melodic death metal sphere, but after the release of their singles “Runes to my Memory” and “Cry of the Blackbirds” for their upcoming album, “With Oden on Our Side”, Amon Amarth showed just how capable they were of creating extreme metal songs that were catchy, unique, and passionate enough to break the extreme metal boundary and appeal to scores of different musical tastes. Of course, the mainstream would be perplexed by Johan Hegg’s guttural vocal technique, the mainstream wouldn’t understand the need for a bass guitar within the maelstrom of unforgiving low and heavy sounds, and the mainstream would be astonished by the intense pace and aggression of the music, but Amon Amarth’s triumphant bravery in the name of metal and passion for their craft would ensure many passionate fans would gravitate toward the band and reciprocate the emotion that Amon Amarth produced.
This album, “With Oden on Our Side” is not only the quintessential Amon Amarth album, but is one of the greatest tributes to a bygone era of human history that we, for some reason, still feel closely attached to. This album is a message to all those that reject their Viking ancestry, who see the ancient northern people as bloodthirsty savages, and makes them understand that they were a complex society with a code of honor to abide by, a dedicated people who fought for their beliefs, and a hard people shaped by their climates and obligations to their race and ancestors. This is an album that drives people’s fervor for their culture and their lineage as it plays on the importance of both individuality and community. As many a metalhead feels passion for the music they hold dear, passion for the broad but unspoken coven that we are all make up, and passion for the culture, style, and language that we have developed and live on a daily basis, Amon Amarth aided in the unearthing of another passion we share. We feel a need to hold dear the ancient and nearly forgotten cultures of our ancestors that go unnoticed by a mainstream focusing on the next technological toy or simplistic, mindless beat.
Though there may be few who feel the intense zeal engendered by the opening track, “Valhall Awaits Me”, the furious horde grows steadily as the song plays out. Like the battle cries of the Gaul at Alesia, French Revolutionaries in 1789, the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Russian Bolsheviks in 1917, and thousands of other movements, the anthem of “Valhall Awaits Me” is one of many furious calls to arms that transform the quiet masses into the violent forces that have moved mountains and changed history. Amon Amarth focuses on the warlike tendencies of the Viking people and their proud understanding of tactics, military might, superior battlefield technology, and unflinching acceptance of the cold embrace of death as they prepare for ascendance to the fabled hall of Oden’s heroes, Valhalla. Describing the death of a Viking man at arms, the songwriting of “Valhall Awaits Me” is perfect. At one point, the soldier is described as falling in battle, at the point that he falls to his knees, a melodic melancholy solo comes in both ending his life and reviving him in Valhall. This description of this proud warrior’s unflinching acceptance of his final moments in Midgard represents Viking commitment to their cause and their gods. As metalheads, we show our unflinching commitment to our music and the gods of metal, we identify with the ancients of our lineage and we are emboldened by their deeds. This is one of the reasons why such powerful emotions are created by this music, and Amon Amarth perfectly captures this essence.
Driving the wild host forward is a spectacular combination of melodic and brutal riffing, galloping hordes of drums and bass, the gravely growls and wild screams of Johan Hegg, and a notorious penchant for bringing in memorable anthemic chants. Chants like that in the title track featuring Hegg growling, “Under the winter skies, we stand glorious, and with Oden on our side we are victorious. No retreat, no remorse, victory will be ours. Blood on steel, sacrifice, victory will be ours. Under the winter skies, we stand glorious, and with Oden on our side we are victorious” not only demonstrate the religious loyalty of the Viking people to the Allfather, Oden, but the cultural significance of victory in death on the battlefield, the significance of powerful chant in the metal world, and the uplifting of emotions that all of these elements contribute to within Amon Amarth’s audience. The title track, the chorus of “Asator”, and even the choruses of “Prediction of Warfare” are great songs to do vocals along with. Because they are so memorable and feature the same style of inspiring anthem that eighties bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest of NWOBHM fame became known for, Amon Amarth shows their musical influences and keeps some of their formulas though the music has changed.
Amon Amarth does tone down the aggression at times to truly account for their designation as a melodic death metal band. “Hermod’s Ride to Hel” and “Under the North Star” are two ballads concerning the Aesir god, Hermod saving his brother, Baldr from Hel and the importance of astrology to the seafaring Vikings as they fought and died in lands far away from their homes respectively. Employing a slower pace with very melodic riffs at the forefront of each song, louder drum sounds, and Johan Hegg’s same vocal styles, these songs are two of the most powerful songs of the album demonstrating the strong emotions that Amon Amarth express with their music. If there are two songs that epitomize the melancholy of losing a battle, these songs are those two. This isn’t Amon Amarth losing their balls at all, though. Instead these songs provide different views on two very important aspects of Viking culture and history, religious stories and seafaring put to the tune of dulcet melodic riffs rather than the fast, aggressive thunder that rolls through the other songs on the album.
On the final track of this album, “Prediction of Warfare”, Amon Amarth brings out all the stops. Reminiscent of the story in Iron Maiden’s “Invaders” from their famous “Number of the Beast” album, this six and a half minute epic surrounds the story of Thor’s fight with the Midgard Serpent foreshadowing the escape of the Irish king from a two thousand man Viking host attacking across the sea. The thundering of drums marches at virtually the same pace throughout the song as the guitars take center stage with a melodic tremolo section that is eventually covered by Hegg’s vocals. The two choruses are very strong, bringing in wailing melodic riffs and screaming vocals as the march of the drums continues. In all, this song’s focus is definitely the story which is told perfectly. Rather than go through every lyric, the general concept of the story is artistically created to be a religious story becoming allegorical for enemies of the Vikings not performing their honorable duty of remaining on the battlefield to the last man as they had. Just like Thor, the archetype of the Norse warrior, the two thousand man host fights well and fearlessly whereas the Celts see their king retreat as soon as the battle is lost. The lyrics also compare Thor to King Olaf as they, both in possession of great power; use their power to fight even greater powers among them and to pacify their domains. Amon Amarth rounds this album out with “Prediction of Warfare” and sets the stage for “Twilight of the Thunder God” which comes two years later.
Amon Amarth’s “With Oden on Our Side” is the quintessential Viking battle cry. I have been listening to a lot of Amon Amarth lately, and I can easily say that this album has the most inspiring lyrics, amazing guitar riffs, beautiful solos, and intense drums of the band’s entire discography. Looking beyond the music, it is obvious that Amon Amarth has touched a nerve among metalheads of Viking heritage, but the songs are written in a style that many can identify with. Because of this and many other factors, it seems that Amon Amarth is gaining more than just recognition in the broad metal community, but around the world in mainstream culture as their unique brand is more approachable than most other bands in the death metal genre. We can only hope that Amon Amarth remembers where they came from in their future success and does not let their leaf fall from the modern Yggdrasil that is heavy metal.
Amon Amarth are known for their tenacious consistency, sticking to a formulaic hybrid of melodic heavy metal that focuses mostly on simplistic musical themes that are easy to grab onto, coupled with a harsh yet intelligible vocal delivery that brings images of long bearded Norsemen with war on their minds. There has been no variation in their chosen lyrical themes, nor any significant modifications to their musical formula, since their inception in the early 90s. The question that naturally arises is how do they keep from repeating themselves within such a strict and boxed in conceptual approach? The obvious answer is that while there is a definite sense of commonality that all of their releases share, the albums differentiate themselves in terms of the potency and power of the delivery.
“With Oden On Our Side” immediately establishes itself as among the better of their releases right from the beginning, wasting no time with developing some sort of musical introduction to give a solemn blessing to their quest. It just goes right for the jugular with a set of killer yet simple songs, and exploits an enormous upgrade in the band’s production. This band is probably one of very few that have actually benefited from a modern production and maintained the epic feel of their music. The tremolo melodies, the down-tuned riffs, the bass and drums, and Hegg’s berserker-like ravings just meld together perfectly into a thunderous celebration.
But even more auspicious than the positive result of updating their audio’s fidelity is how remarkably simple the entire song set is. There’s often no more than 4 or 5 riffs per song, and the interchanges between parts is done in a very obvious and methodical way, leading to one of the most formulaic outcomes heard from a melodic death band. The principle riffs of “Valhalla Awaits Me”, “Asator” and “With Oden By Our Side” are among the most memorable, yet also the most intense and speed happy songs that the band has ever put together, taking care not to overuse one of the style’s clichés too much, yet ultimately sticking to only a couple of contrasting ideas. Melodic development and lead guitar breaks are a bit more common here than they have been on previous efforts, though they don’t go off quite to the same level of technical showmanship heard out of older Death Metal bands that influenced this style.
The lyrical themes are also a bit streamlined, concentrating mostly on descriptive storytelling of historical battles, or otherwise centering around the concept of Vikings at war. There’s a lot less mysticism and mythology to be found here aside from the names of the gods being invoked before a battle charge, and everything is told from the standpoint of an unnamed narrator speaking from the view of a collective of people, rather than talking about the individual exploits of singular characters. Even the somewhat differently titled “Cry Of The Blackbirds”, which is one of the more intense yet catchy fast songs on here, is lyrically quite straightforward in its depiction of Norse invaders challenging without fear or question.
Though this isn’t necessarily the best of Amon Amarth’s releases, this would probably be the best one to get if you’re just becoming familiar with the band. It’s simplicity, it’s catchiness and it’s high energy level approach to this style is fairly uncharacteristic of many Swedish melodic death bands. From a riff standpoint, it comes a bit closer to a power/thrash character than most of its contemporaries in this style, as well when compared to previous efforts. It’s a definite improvement over the fairly lackluster “Fate Of Norns” and has plenty of head banging moments and fanfare melodies to sate all of the frequent concert goers.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 22, 2009.
Part two of the best death metal released within the last ten years, or maybe of all time.
It could be argued that Amon Amarth isn't pure death metal, whatever the fuck that means. This is DM whether you like it or not. Labeling bands may help you categorize them, but other than that it's useless. Not everyone has to sound like fucking Cannibal Craps to be considered death metal.
With Oden On Our Side is part of a continuing evolution in sound. Amon Amarth doesn't really change a whole lot from recording to recording, only using a different take on the same ideas each time. Fortunately, they pull it off well on nearly every release. Their entire discography is damn strong but this album is the ultimate execution of what this band is going for. A previous reviewer made a reference to Oden and Thor joining the band. I concur, it's as if they were sitting in for session work on this album or something. By, Oden! I feel a navy blue vicar coming on...
THUNDERBOLT RIFF UP YOUR ASS, SIDEWAYS PERHAPS.
GALLOPING KING KONG DRUMMING TRAMPLES YOUR MUM.
Sorry, I felt that necessary just to underline how fucking epic this is. I usually take epic to mean "dramatic". But this is dramatic in the sense that a humongous Viking asshole is kicking the shit out of you after he robs your house and sets it on fire. That bastard even took your girlfriend. VIKING DRAMA. The lyrics are pure win. And the vocal delivery is described with words like "big" and "Scandinavian". You can clearly hear the words too, which is a big plus. Let me lay a few lines on you.
I drop the shield
and grab my axe.
A weapon in each fist!
The first blow
makes the helmet crack.
The axe cut to the teeth!
I rip the axe
from the head,
covered in blood and brains!
Leave the body lying dead,
ready to strike again!
Yeah. There are no doubts about what this music is about. To quote a friend who has seen them live, "These dudes really think they're Vikings or something!" The ultimate beer + headbanging music for sure. Everything is highly memorable, catchy even, with plenty of neck wrecking anthems. At times it really makes me think "Saving Private Viking" because the feeling of brotherhood is so strong, particularly on Under The Northern Star. This is in addition to the more pervasive feeling of invading some unsuspecting villagers and totally owning them. It's like your riding into battle with the band and this is the soundtrack. Now where's my fucking share of the loot?
Production is clean and spacious, the instrument sounds are great. The best I've heard from them (the following album is equal but not nearly as fulfilling otherwise). The melodic riffing on here is extremely epic. Lots of tremolo picking and the usual heavy power chord progressions and such. This is understated though since it's all absolutely amazing and is bested by only one other death metal album (the last to be featured in this series of reviews). The drumming is refreshingly restrained and manages to be suitably epic with plenty of different fills and cymbals to keep things interesting.
The pacing is generally mid tempo and the songs structures are rather conventional. They still please though, no glaring flaws with the composition. They don't really do anything revolutionary, however. Amon Amarth plays a unique brand of Swedish death that's better than similar bands like Entombed and Dismember along with more melodic acts like (gag) In Flames. More so than anyone else, I could compare them to Bolt Thrower the best. Both good, but again...Amon Amarth is better with this album!
What can be said about this album? To start off, no matter if you're a long-time fan of Melodic Death Metal or a newcomer to the genre, it's a great listen and not too hard to get into.
Starting off with the heavy yet melodic Valhall Awaits Me, we are immediately introduced to the signature Amon Amarth sound, and Johan Hegg starts the song, fittingly, with the lines Blood gushes from the wound/The cut is wide and deep/Right before I turn around/He falls to his knees, in the vein of the song and in fact the album, which is mostly about Viking battles, death, and valor. No one better than Hegg to be able sing about this, his voice fitting perfectly with the subject material.
However, before you know it, the song is over, and Runes to My Memory starts off, this time with slightly different subject material. Instead of dealing with the afterlife, the lyrics in Runes... are about what to do with the protagonist (probably the leader of the Viking clan), suggesting that he be glorified after his death with ancient runes describing his valorous acts. The melody keeps somewhat in tune with that of Valhall Awaits Me, so even if they are both amazing songs, they seem somewhat similar at first impression.
Now we are treated to one of the less amazing (though still worthwhile) songs on the album, Asator. As one of the fastest songs, it is also one of the only ones that does not deal with battles or themes concerning the Vikings themselves, this song is more of a glorification of the Thunder God, Asator (which, by the way, is the Swedish name for Thor). The song does have one of the catchiest solos of the album, and all in all is just a good listen.
Hermod's Ride to Hel - Lokes Treachery, Part 1 implies that there might be a Part 2 somewhere, but so far it hasn't been announced, not even on the new album slated for release in September (Twilight of the Thunder Gods). Like Asator, this is one of not many lesser good songs on the album, though they are still all worth listening to with every listen of the album. Lyrically, however, this is an epic that could even be taken from an ancient book of folklore, very intricately relating Hermod and his journey to Hell.
Now we get to the beginning of the second half of the album, which is somewhat better than the first half. Gods of War Arise, even when just listening to the chorus (Sacrifice to Gods of old/Bleed them of their lives/Fresh blood on our swords/Gods of war arise) makes you think of epic battles (and possibly part of a soundtrack to a multiplayer God of War game or Viking game). In similar vein as the first two songs on the album, the song elaborately describes battles worthy of the Vikings of old (to which the band members bear a striking resemblance). We are treated to multiple amazing solos, all fitting to the melody still being played in the background, and Hegg's vocal performance, like in all other songs, is top-notch.
The title track of the album, With Oden on Our Side, again goes back to the main theme of the album: battles (and valor). It describes the protagonist Viking clan at nightfall, waiting to attack an enemy village. Courageous, they attack, expecting nothing but to be valorous worthy of entrance to Valhalla (For each of us there are four of them/It matters not to us/We won't leave this field in shame/We are here to crush). Repeating lines of The battle is already won refers to their bloodthirstiness and their unwillingness to give up. This comes paired with the courage given to them by Oden (Under winter skies/We stand glorious/And with Oden on our side/We are victorious) they gain the strength needed to win the battle with no difficulty. One of the best songs of the album.
Almost as good, next is Cry of the Black Birds, a song which at first seems not to fit with the major themes of the album, but after consequent listens it is definite that it does. The black birds, of course, are ravens, that invoke anger and fear and take care of the dead. Lyrically, the last verse (The enemies are in disarray ride them down as they run/Send them to their violent graves, don't spare anyone/Dead and wounded lie all around see the pain in their eyes/Over the field an eerie sound, as we hear the raven's cry) and the third line of the chorus (Have no fear of death when it's your time) are some of the best on the album, for obvious reasons. The melodies played during the battle scenes are also amazingly done, resembling the charging horses portrayed and the wrath of the Vikings.
We now get to the softest (though still incredibly heavy for someone not used to the genre) yet most melodic song of the album, Under the Northern Star (ironically, Hegg's vocals in this song are some of the heaviest and deepest of all the songs). The battlefields strategically placed in other songs are here replaced by the open seas that the Vikings look to in order to return back home after such a long time. Telling some small parts of things that have happened, (The many hardships we've endured/Have brought us rich reward/Now the north star guides us home/With cargo full of gold) the protagonist implies that everyone has fought bravely, and paired with typical themes of Viking valor (Many friends died on the way/Only few of us survived/But I would gladly take their place/In Oden's hall up high) makes this a somewhat atypical but very successful song. In fact, I would place this at the top if I were to choose the best song on the album, abnormalities aside.
Taking a departure back the the normal style heard in the other songs, now comes the last and longest song, Prediction of Warfare. Like Under the Northern Star, the Vikings must head to sea, to conquer Ireland. On the way there, the protagonist (presumably still the clan leader as described in earlier songs) has a nightmare, an omen, as he calls it, of a sea serpent attacking their ship. The serpent was scared off by the wrath of the furious Vikings, and as the warlord wakes up, land is seen. Attacking the Irish that have already prepared on land became harder as more were killed (The fight was short and deadly intense/The Irish fought us well/But as we gained the upperhand/Their fighting spirit grew), but as they kept on fighting, in the end, the king just escaped instead of fighting the Vikings (closely interlinking with what happened to the serpent). A very nice closure to the album.
All in all, this is an amazing album. Incredibly catchy from the first few listens on, Hegg's vocals are very deep and heavy, fitting amazingly well with Amon Amarth's subject matter. The album could have maybe one more song, but as is it already near perfect. Another thing is the album art. Though nicely done, it's a pretty big leap away from earlier Amon Amarth albums, which were not only more colorful, but also more descriptive. This is somewhat bland.
Melodic death metal, as a term, often strikes fear into the hearts of metalheads everywhere. Bombarded with the mallcorish Children Of Bodom and In Flames in reference to this phrase, the metal community has, for the most part, tried to disown such a genre of metal. But not every melodic death metal band are power metal with extreme vocals.
Amon Amarth are melodic death metal. They are death metal, except that there is quite a lot of melody. Not only that, but With Oden On Our Side is absolutely fantastic. It loses a few points for not being absolutely perfect and gains a few for being a great example of how to implant melody into death metal without losing the death metal appeal.
It's very difficult to pick a song that, above all others, stands out but after weeks of listening to this album I believe the most powerful track to be "Asator", thanks to its explosive chorus and Maidenesque solo. When the tremolo picking comes in and the speakers roar "Fire! Burning in the skies!", it becomes clear that this is THE band, and possibly THE album to launch traditional death metal (for that is what Amon Amarth are, first and foremost) into a stratospheric resurgence of activity.
Most of the other tracks on the record are almost as strong, with perhaps only "Cry Of The Black Birds" and "Hermod's Ride To Hel" falling short of the rest although they are, by no means, weak tracks. They simply don't live up to the quality of the rest of the album, like "Paranoid" on Black Sabbath's album of the same name. Except that they're better songs than "Paranoid", don't worry.
The guitars have quite clean production, although it's definately not crystal clear as there is a touch of death metal grit. This holds true for the bass as well, although being lower in the mix, the bass will of course seem somewhat muddier. The drums hold a fairly significant place, being clearly audible but somewhat forgettable considering the strength of the guitar tracks, but they compliment the music very well indeed. The vocals, given the death metal genre, needed and received a very, very clean production to ensure easy(ish!) comprehension. In short, all of that means that there is nothing about the production that gets in the way of the music, with Amon Amarth having an overall sound approaching black metal in terms of atmosphere, power metal in terms of scope and death metal in terms of pure brutality.
Let's talk about the lyrics! Or perhaps not. The lyrics are about Vikings and Norse Mythology and stuff. Some people like it, some don't and since lyrics are an almost universal part of modern music I've decided not to rate them in this review.
To look at what this album has going for it:
- Excellent songwriting
- A unique sound
- Varied songs
- Brilliant vocals and instrumentation
And in comparison, its wrongdoings:
- Some songs aren't quite as good as others
- Some people don't like death metal
- But they're faggots
Looks like we have a winner.
Amon Amarth... what a band. When I went off on my tangent about how much Sweden sucks in my Persuader review, I managed to completely forget about one of the greatest prospects from that ass of a country, Amon Amarth. To me, they have the Alpha and Omega, but none of the rest of the alphabet. What I mean by that is that their beginning and end are astounding, but the middle never goes much higher than "a bit above mediocre". Once Sent from the Golden Hall is their Alpha, and With Oden on our Sides is the Omega at this point in their careers. I really hope this isn't the last good album though, but so far this stands as the only amazing one since their debut.
Lets get one thing straight, this album is LOUD! Holy dick, I almost blew out my car speakers after buying this one. This adds nothing but positivity though, so don't think I'm knocking the production or anything. Most of the songs are slightly above mid pace (although there are songs like Asator that completely obliterate), and all are rife with melody. So I guess this could be classified as melodic death metal by definition, but it should never be grouped with the likes of At the Gates or In Flames, it is far more aggressive than anything they've ever pulled off. Johan Hegg is one of the better death growlers in the business right now. His wet, vicious, and throaty roar compliments the tales of bloody viking violence very well. You can actually see the poor chump getting his head split open in Valhall Awaits One while the vocalist stands there, wind from the storm on the battlefield blowing his hair and beard back, standing triumphantly with one arm slightly behind him, clenched fist, and the other arm holding the axe that is now fully embedded in his foe's skull while he lets out the mighty roar of "VAAALHAALL AWAITS MEE.... WHEN I DIIIIIEEEE". So in case you can't tell, the vocals are the highlight of this album. That's not to say there aren't great solos or melodies or that the drums aren't solid, they just don't stand out over Hegg's best performance to date.
The album opens with the aforementioned Valhall Awaits One, and it is one hell of an opener. It doesn't play around with a pretty intro, it just starts and kills you from the beginning. Lyrically, this is essentially just a five minute long, graphic description of somebody getting an axe driven through his forehead, but that is pretty much the manliest of all subjects one can possibly write a song about. It features a nice melodic solo, with plenty of memorable and equally melodic... well, melodies throughout. This also reminds you one of the reasons many people got into Amon Amarth in the first place, the riffs. These guys are masterful riff writers, and even when they were in their musical slump, the riffs were always heavy and memorable.
Runes to my Memory, Gods of War Arise, Hermod's Ride to Hel Lokes Treachery part. I, and Under the Northern Star are all mid paced, but they are just as furious as the sheer speed in the title track or Cry of the Black Birds or the even more extreme speed of Asator. Asator ranks as my favorite song, not only on the album, but in Amon Amarth's entire discography. That's right, in front of fan favorites such as Death in Fire, Victorious March, or Releasing Surtur's Fire, Asator is the one song that just rips face from beginning to end with no apologies. It is ironically also the shortest song they have ever written, so maybe that means their songs tend to drag on usually?
In a way, yes. I hate to say it, but Gods of War Arise and Prediction of Warfare really go on for far too long. That is one of the only complaints on the album though. For the most part, the songs are catchy, the riffs are amazing, the melodies are memorable, the song structures vary and remain interesting. I've always been amazed by the sound they manage to get out of their guitars. The riffs are all really, REALLY thundering and crunchy. They pretty much cover and aspect of "heavy" that Black Sabbath might have forgotten to define. Most of them gallop, but they are almost always just..... great. It's hard to explain. Watch the video for Cry of the Black Birds if you don't understand what I'm saying.
So in the end, another A-. The last two songs bring the record down a bit, as does Gods of War Arise, but the sheer masculinity and godliness of Asator and Cry of the Blackbirds will more than make up for any shortcomings that you can find elsewhere. A definite recommendation for all death metal fans and anybody who loves viking metal (this isn't your typical folky viking band though, these guys are pure, balls to the wall, heavy fucking metal through and through).
Amon Amarth is one of the most successful death metal bands in the industry. They have dominated metal-heads all over the globe with their Viking prowess without changing their image or sound like many bands do these days. Being their latest album ‘With Odin On Our Side’, is as good as it’s going to get, In my opinion it is their best album after ‘Versus The World’.
Now let’s talk about Johan Hegg. In the previous albums’ his vocals were quite good, harsh yet understandable with a little growl here and there. For some reason it was always overwhelmed by the guitar and drums, the vocals never got the attention that they deserved. You really had focus if you wanted to hear them properly, and sure they were there but were they noticed? All that has changed in ‘With Odin on Our Side’! The vocals overpower everything, and it sounds great! As for the lyrics, they too are kick ass, I mean come on! “THE FIRST BLOW MAKES THE HELMET CRACK! THE AXE CUT TO THE TEETH!”. The one thing I love about the lyrics is that there is always a story, something that could be turned into a movie, something that authors could write a novel about, it truly is awe-inspiring.
Now to the important bit, the actual music (not saying vocals aren’t important, they are! but it’s the music that counts). Most of the guitar work in the earlier albums starts of good and ends good, but for some strange reason there was always that void in the middle of most songs were the guitar would fall into some melody that wasn’t heavy enough and lacked that punch, not saying it wasn’t good but it had yet to be perfected: this void of strange melodies ruined the image of the songs, it’s hard to explain but music says a thousand words. However in this album this is quite different, none of the tracks on ‘With Odin on Our Side’ fall into this once regular trap, all the melodies and riffs keep on pummeling away at your head till you cream yourself, the Bass is also a little more audible unlike the previous works.
Solos are a must. By far the greatest solo on this album is the ‘Asator’ one, just under 25 seconds with quick finger work and a memorable tune, this masterpiece is a sure way to find yourself pulling out your air guitar and shredding along. And oh yes don’t think that just because there is one amazing solo that there aren’t going to be anymore, because my friend, this whole album has some of the most graceful solo’s I’ve heard in a long time, some that skillfully draw out out like one in ‘Valhall Awaits Me’ and some that just come in and dash off yet still bring the fire i.e. the ‘Asator’ solo. The guitar work is incredible on this album.
The Drums are in a whole different league of their own. Most of the songs are fast paced yet hold the symmetry line, so that it doesn’t sound like Fred (A.A’s drummer) is just swinging around aimlessly hitting the nearest piece and actually sounds like some sort of effort went into it, a lot of effort! The drum beats are flawlessly set out so that they don’t bore you but instead regularly adjust to fit with the guitar work to bring about a sense of change to the atmosphere of the song. (A lot of death metal bands seem to keep a monotone of a drum beat in their songs; this on certain occasions really starts to bore me and doesn’t really bring a feel to the song like A.A does).
In conclusion ‘With Odin on Our Side’ really brings the heat to the table, but the one thing that Amon Amarth really do best is bring an awesome atmosphere with their music in this album, like seriously if this album doesn’t make you wanna pick up an axe and start hacking at your little brother, then I don’t know what will. All up a 5 star album than everyone should listen to. \m/
Yep, this is one of those albums that never leaves your CD player, you know all the words to all the songs, sings about Vikings, has the most badass front man in the world, and becomes an instant classic. This is also the perfect example of a masterpiece album late in a band's career, which is possibly the best they've ever recorded. Amon Amarth have been one of the longest, most respected and repeatedly successful death metal bands out there and with this 2006 full length release, With Oden On Our Side, they have proved all the naysayers of the Fate of Norns album wrong, all the naysayers that said it's impossible to release another good album for them, and proved that the Vikings still got it.
Everything about Amon Amarth's career; the musicians, the songwriting and previous records all culminate to this record. This is the hard work of roughly a decade into this album. Of course Amon Amarth is far from calling it quits, but I think that they wanted to pull all the stops and make this the best damn Viking themed death metal album out there, and they did. With Oden On Our Side is by far one of the greatest accomplishments they've ever achieved, making an album full of so many classic songs, great musicianship and everything put together - all done with great enthusiasm and vigor.
Beautifully bearded band leader Johan Hegg forces his way to victory singing about battle, dying and Norse mythology with the power of 10 men. He has such force in his voice that it is possibly the highlight of the album, his growling is top notch and probably the best he's ever done, he's on top of the game making a memorable performance with such classic parts in songs like Runes to My Memory where his growls are so melodic and emotional it hits home, or like in Astator where you almost feel his rage and fury. I think this is the most accessible his vocals have ever been on an Amon Amarth album. The guitars are the perfect blend of melody and still keeping the semi-raw and brutal feel of death metal and allowing for such great riffs (Runes to My Memory, Valhall Awaits Me, Gods of War Arise) and solos (Astator). Also on Runes to My Memory it contains possibly one the greatest most melodic yet pounding riffs I've ever heard. Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg know what they are doing and easily represent the death metal scene with the short but fast as hell solo in Astator and the riffing that will break you neck.
Ted Lundstrom on bass does a great job on this record, easily complimenting the guitars well with many moments of notoriety. Frederik Andersson behind the kit is the perfect man for Amon Amarth with much double bass godliness and showing such variety that many others don't rely on. Straight from the get go on the opener Valhall Awaits Me he makes a straight shot for death metal blasting away. He really shines on the fast and furious songs like Astator and shows much his style perfectly on Gods of War Arise and Cry of the Black Birds where it varies from fast to mid-tempo.
The individual songs on here are simply spectacular. From the opener to the closer there is not a single filler, single bad song, or single non-headbanger. I find myself constantly coming back and listening to this album all the time, not just one individual song but the entire song all the way through because every song is amazing here. Several here are instantly turned to concert staples to be played at every Amon Amarth show for eternity, such as Valhall Awaits Me, Runes to My Memory, Hermod's Ride to Hel, Astator, and Cry of the Blackbirds. I swear every time I listen to this album I have all the words to all the songs flying through my head at once they are all so catchy and all can be sung along with making this one of the catchiest albums I've ever heard.
With Oden On Our Side is a testament to Amon Amarth's ability to create good music, I still have yet to be disappointed by the Vikings. Quality music by quality musicians, this is the perfect blend of all that is great in death metal with great melody and easily accessible growled vocals. Whether headbanging until your neck snaps or singing along until your throat is bleeding, this is one of the greatest albums you'll find in melodic death metal, maybe in all of metal.
In my opinion this is the best release of 2006, and that is saying a lot. But this no-filler-disc of war, blood, and pagan worship blows everything else out of the water. Amon Amarth are a rare example of a band who has improved with time. Actually the only other obvious band that comes to mind is Behemoth. And the Norseman do not disappoint with their latest offering to hungry fans, With Oden On Our Side.
Music-wise With Oden On Our Side doesn’t sound unlike their last several releases. It is perhaps a bit heavier than Fate of the Norns and still carries the warlike feel of Verses the World. The opening track, Valhall Awaits Me, will mesmerise the listener and drop them straight in the middle of a Viking pillage. One thing you might notice immediately is the masterful vocals by Johan Hegg. There isn’t much to add to that other than he really shines on this album and is one of the best front men of modern metal. If you aren’t convinced just look at that beard! The album carries out a theme with most of the lyrics consisting of battles and death. Gods Of War Arise will, no doubt, have you singing along with the immortal lines: “Some seek shelter in the church/A refuge for those with faith/But we know how to smoke them out/A pyre will be raised.” The album slows down a bit when we hear some melodic guitars and get a Norse mythology lesson with the notable track Hermod's Ride to Hel - Lokes Treachery, Part 1.
Musically this album is very true to what Amon Amarth have become known for and I can only hope they continue down this path and continue making music for their Viking ancestors. The drums are fast and pummelling and the duel guitars are nothing short of captivating. The crisp production on this album is a vast improvement from Once Sent From The Golden Halls. There really is something for everybody on this album, from the heavy as hell Asator, to the beautifully melodic Hermod's Ride to Hel and Cry of the Blackbirds, to the epic ballad Under the Northern Star.
I would strongly recommend With Oden On Our Side to any fans of melodic death metal, death metal, Viking metal, or anyone who has an interest in Norse mythology. So grab a pint of mead and give Amon Amarth the attention they deserve!
From all the previous years of solid, albeit redundant, melodic death these guys have put out since they shattered the nine worlds, no one can debate the layer of intricate musicianship the group has stepped up. One thing to notice is the production, and by that I mean hear every instrument. With Fate Of Norns you had mediocre songs full of inconsistency which led to a less appealing sound all over. However, WOOOS achieves stand-out tracks with memorable tunes that are individually backed up with a prestigious presentation.
Popular tracks are usually not the best tracks on most albums and here is no exception. Do not take it the wrong way though. “Runes To My Memory” and “Cry Of The Black Birds,” the two hits on this album that garnish music videos, both incorporate and improve all of the previous tactics – traditional Norse riffs, lyrics of old, and a persuasive attitude – to outperform any previous hits these Swedes have unleashed on us. This only gets better though, as Amon Amarth conceived original plans in creating more catchy (though not sold-out) and laid back tunes like “Under The Northern Star” and the mid-paced “Gods Of War Arise,” which shares it’s closest qualities with “Death In Fire” off of Versus The World (though it still retains its own addicting sound).
No doubt Amon Amarth was aiming at a more riff-mesmerizing album, hence the accessibility in all the songs. Like I brought up earlier, the production allows the album to have a greater impact on the individual. All the instruments can clearly be heard without any serious distortion from the guitars – riffs or solos -, the drums – still in some cases tribal sounding - , and the bass – the sole reason why this album has a hotter, heavier, and tighter feeling that the others. You sure played hooky in school to play bass, Ted. A huge improvement lies in Johan’s vocal leadership, as his voice delves deeper to a signature growl (one that was lost on Fate Of Norns). Of all the Melodic Death bands, Johan is really the only one retaining the traditional growl to an extent with success. By in large, he isn’t embarrassed to sound like a beast on here.
Lyrically, Amon continues to cite strict influences to Scandinavia’s past. Pillaging, religion, and nature are the norm once again. One usually doesn’t get tired after such a repeated approach because the music each one is armed with becomes a new adventure or mission to the ears. Such a lyrical bounty is worth your time, as each one is a story to tell. Put down any book you’re reading and listen to a tale Amon tell. “Gods Of War Arise” and the title track, although already musically superior to the others, are my recommended listen.
Regardless of preference, all listeners of melodic death metal will find something enjoyable on this release. All the tactics Amon have implemented are found on here and are refined so well that many have concluded the integrity the album holds. Under any circumstance, come in contact with this record to see Amon’s refined style and you’re sure to have Odin on your side soon enough.
After having to listen to Fate of Norns, it's safe to say that some of us grew skeptical about where Amon Amarth were headed. Had they finally lost steam, or were they just trying something new? Fate of Norns was certainly a more introspective and darker album on the band's half. Some fans however, myself included, saw the album as lazy, unmotivated, and uninteresting aside from 2 or 3 songs. So the question remained of whether the band would get back on track with writing barn-burning Viking anthems with the new album. This is a fucking comeback.
The first thing that launches this album into such a high status is the production job. It's not as shiny and glittery as Versus the World, but it's certainly better than the dirgy, hampered, demo-like qualities of Fate of Norns. Instead of either of those, the band have found an organic balance between the vastness and the more up-front sound used on the mentioned albums. The guitars certainly sound better: clearer, thicker, and heavier. Anders' drum sound also got a makeover, and sound more akin to The Crusher, but without the weird gating effects on the toms. The bass drum isn't as sterile this time either, and has more low-frequency punch to it.
And just when you thought the band no longer improve on their formula, they did. With Oden on Our Side showcases the band's more melodic tendencies without sacrificing balls or adrenaline. "Asator" is a living testament to this; powered by rolling double bass drums and savagely low guitars, this song single-handedly beats out the ferocity of "Releasing Surtur's Fire" or "Bloodshed." The chorus in the song is both catchy and merciless, with its highly melodic guitar runs. More mid-paced tunes like "Cry of the Black Birds" and "Runes to My Memory" highlight the apex of the band's epic sense while remaining highly accessible, as both of these songs have gone on to be singles. And of course, everything comes full force with the slower, epic tracks. "Gods of War Arise" and the title track are both huge in their scope, and the closer "Prediction of Warfare" balances a sense of urgency with chugging verses and elaborate guitar harmonies. Fate of Norns saw the exploration of more introspective Viking themes, and With Oden on Our Side shows the maturity of it, clearly shown on "Under the Northern Star" and "Hermods Ride to Hel."
As a vocalist and lyricist, Johan continuously progresses. There are still strong ties to Norse myth, but this album sees the return of the brutal, bloody, gore-soaked pillages seen in the band's early career, such as on the opening cut, "Valhall Awaits One." The second verse features lines like, "I rip the axe from the head, covered in blood and brains/Leave the body dead/Ready to strike again." And it doesn't stop there. Other songs graphically describe the chaos that the Vikings brought upon their unfortunate enemies, including throwing them into slavery and burning their churches down while people are still inside. It all works perfectly in the head-swinging, violent, emotional, and ultimately epic context of the music.
Overall, With Oden on Our Side is without question the band's best since Versus the World. Sure, there's only been one album between the former and this one, but on its own merits, With Oden on Our Side breathes new life into Amon Amarth's consistent sound.
What fools we were to defy this band; well, at least what a fool I was. Pick up this album; a strong comeback, and one of the best of 2006.
After the weaker album “The Fate Of Norns” Amon Amarth shows once again that they’re one of the best Melodic Death Metal bands in the world.
The best thing about this album is, that the powerful produced sound varies a lot so that this never gets boring. You can listen how often you want and you still will find new details that you didn’t know.
Even the drums alone are so great that you never can get enough of them. Fast and technical double basses, brutal crushed drums and slow stamping midtempo parts complete each other to a endless powerful fundament for each song.
And then the guitars! The riffs are very fast most of the time. But they are still able to create that thick epic atmosphere with that Amon Amarth typical majestic mood. If you think that they just play some good melodic riffs, then you’re wrong. They also play some of the most amazing solos I know. This solos are so emotional and they have so much power that you even will get goose pimples while listening.
So let me tell something about the bass guitar: Like in the most Death Metal bands the bass is almost not audible. But if you hear it, then you know that nothing in this band is just average. In the beginning of the eigth song, “Under The Northern Star”, you can hear the bass and it’s awesome, like everything else on this album, too.
But the best thing on this album is, that Hegg has developed his growls one more time. His voice reaches from ultra deep (almost grunting) growls to hoarse (almost screamed) growls. A variable growling is good for each band, but if the vocalist knows when the best time comes to go higher or deeper with his voice, then it’s perfect. And Hegg knows how he has to use his growling skills. His voice is also responsible that each song gets this unmistakable
Amon Amarth note. So he is the superior part here.
If you want to find a mistake on this album, you only can mention the first song “Valhall Awaits Me”. It combines each positive aspect that I mentioned above, but it has a lack of atmosphere.
The absolute best song here is the already mentioned “Under The Northern Star”. It is a rough ballad to the northern homeland. It is a mixture between epic Power Metal guitar sound (especially the solo at about three minutes sounds like Firewind or Hammerfall plays it) and the deep throaty growls of Hegg. So you can say that this is a Power/Death Metal ballad with a loomy atmosphere. A ultimate hymn to the home of the Vikings.
Final resume: A great album that is not as perfect as “Versus The World” was. But if you like Melodic Death Metal, then it is your fucking duty to get it!
Yes, Oden is indeed on the side of Amon Amarth. Before the new Amon Amarth, I could only get my Indian girlfriend to listen to Opeth, and newer Opeth at that. But she just needed to hear "Hermod's Ride to Hel" once to become a complete convert to the Norsemen's pounding, epic, stirring barnd of Viking death metal.
Not only that, but I put a few tracks into her MP3 player, which she brought with her on a recent trip to India. Soon enough, her 11 YEAR OLD SISTER and MOM were completely hooked on 'Marth. When even little kids and older women half the world away request double-bass drenched tales of Nordic mythology with harsh vocals, you know the Swedes have done something right this time.
They have really developed their slower, melodic side to the point where guitar lines stick in your head like a double-bladed axe. I saw them live recently, and they can't quite get these melodies out in the forefront - but on the CD it sounds awesome. My only downside would be that there is certainly some repetition, but with Amon Amarth that shouldn't be a surprise.
Highlights include the aforementioned "Hermod's Ride to Hel," a fucking AMAZING track that tells a piece of the mythology that will hopefully have a part II and eventually (I'm assuming) end with Loki bound to a rock, poison dripping into his eyes. The last minute and half is the very definition of epic melody, and I memorized the lines between Hermod and the Hel guy immediately. Also good are "Runes to My Memory," "Gods of War" (take that Christians, again!), the stirring title track (which suffers from some lyrical repetition), the ride-into-battle themed "Cry of the Blackbirds," and the very cool and slow "Under the Northern Star" with a great vocal effect about halfway through.
So really, that's most of the tracks. It is quite easy to put it on from start to finish, and I find myself doing so at least twice a week. The lyrics are still good, though not up to some of their previous efforts. Get back to work on that gang, think more "Hermod" and less "With Oden On Our Side." Nonetheless, I think this will most certainly help to break them big. I wouldn't be surprised to see Amon Amarth in the mainstream someday, though I'm sure these Vikings have the integrity to ride up that mainstream and plunder any monasteries on its banks.
Once again, Amon Amarth have returned with an album filled with aggressive songs which describe Viking melee in detail. The lyrics are perhaps not that varied, but that is really the only thing I am a little dissatisfied with on this release. However, three songs: “Asator”, “Under the North Star” and “Hermod’s Ride to Hel - Lokes Treachery part 1” have slightly other themes and that is a good thing.
I bought this album because of the very positive reviews I had read, and because I had heard “Runes to my Memory”, which I liked. I was positively surprised and Amon Amarth gained much more respect from me. I have only heard “Once Sent from the Golden Hall” before, and it was not this good.
Overall, this album is a solid rock-hard release with a base of distorted rhythm guitar and bass, which creates a heavy and speedy fundament for the songs. Because of this ongoing background music, the lead guitar is much more striking when it plays its melodies over the rest. This way to build up the music may seem very annoying for those who don’t like metal, because if you don’t really listen to this album, but only play it in the background, the music will only sound like noise. Inside this though, there are subtle and sophisticated melody parts. The cold, half-distorted, brutal and yet melodic lead guitar does a wonderful job.
The drumming is very effective in doing its task. The drums are in the background all the time, and before writing this review I had not even thought about them. But that is the best thing about them; in this kind of music, they should provide the backbone for the string instruments while they can be more prominent in Power or Heavy metal for example. The drums are however excellent for building on to the powerful whole of this album.
The vocals are very powerful and darker than those of growlers with more high-pitched voices, like Petri Lindroos for example. There is also a mix of the more bear-like growls and some which are a little more shrill, which is a nice tool to avoid monotony. The only problem with the vocals is connected with the lyrics. Not the content, but the way they are written. Almost all lyrics on this album are written with verses of four lines where the first rhymes with the third, and the second with the fourth. This is the easiest way to write lyrics, and often it works well, but if you restrict yourself to the use of this way of writing and try no other, it can sometimes make the song material a little repetitive.
The best song on this album is the closer “Prediction of Warfare”. Lyrically it manages to include some details which separate it from the other “We-Vikings-Slaughter-All-Enemies”-lyrics. Musically, it contains a few really nice solos and the main riff is also a good one. Together with this one, four other songs are a little better than the rest. The varied “Runes to my Memory”, the fast “Asator”, the dark “Hermod’s Ride to Hel” and the epic “Under the Northern Star” make up this group. The other four songs are a bit more monotonous and not as interesting, neither from a musical or lyrical perspective.
As a whole, this is a great release, which made me more positive towards both Amon Amarth as a band, and Melodic Death Metal as a genre. I will now check out some more of the earlier releases of this band, and see if I like them as much. If it is at all possible for you to tolerate growled vocals, buy this album!
Gather your axes, spears and swords! For the victorious men from the North hath returned from their campaings againt the followers of Christ!
Personally I can not see where this has any American school Death Metal, to me, and many other "Asator" sounds like traditional Scandinavian Death Metal. This may sound like a completley different band since they have gone back to their older more epic sound, instead of the more crushing midpace of Vs The World or Fate of Norns, also Johan said that they went for a more Once Sent From the Holden Hall sound. To me this is a great change as their previous lps lacked the power of their first 3.
What we have here is more faster paced songs, as the other reviewers said that "Under The Northern Star" is the best song, this is my favourite track too, this is possibly the most melodic song that these vikings have ever produced! "Hermod's Ride To Hel (Lokes Treachery Part 1)" is a prime example of the faster epic sound, strong riffing with strong vocals.
Over all this is a great disc, full of emotion, epic hymns of war, speed and also some slower passages to crush the Christian with. This bears the trademark of a classic Amon Amarth album with the epic yet still skull crushing riffs and leads of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. The booming drums of Fredrik Andersson, the pumping bass of Ted Lundström and the bellowing Norse vocals of Johan Hegg