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A modern sign of escalating debility. - 45%

Diamhea, January 31st, 2014

Fate of Norns exists as the biggest misstep the Norsemen ever committed to disc. How could they fall so far after the ripping, methodical Versus the World? The songwriting is similar, but comes off as anemic and toothless all the same. The production is also a hot mess this time around, making even Twilight of the Thunder God sound colossal in comparison. As Andersson's plastic drums pitter-patter away alongside Hegg's inert ramblings, you just end up wishing the whole band would jump off their ship and sacrifice themselves to the fishes.

To address the few positives right away, Lundström's popping, clangy bass presence is a cool aesthetic decision on the band's part. It adds a decent counterpoint to some of the more enterprising riff passages. "Arson" features some solid moments driven by the groove of the bass alone, adding a potent atmosphere to the more somber melodies the guitars are churning out. Sadly, few listeners will probably ever make it that far into the album. "An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm" comes off as a potent opener at first blush, but the potential lasts for exactly twenty seconds as Hegg's first raspy croak rushes through your speakers and neuters the inertia. What is going on with the vocals here? Hegg almost comes off as a black metal vocalist on a bad day, as he completely fails to evoke the primal intonations he is traditionally lauded for. Even while Fate of Norns is mercifully short, it still manages to overstay it's welcome several times over.

If there is one unique aspect on Fate of Norns from a songwriting standpoint, it is it's depressive atmosphere. I can't tell if it is a side effect of the band's indolent performance or a stylistic decision. Regardless, "Where Death Seems to Dwell" comes off as especially melancholic and depressive, along with the aforementioned "Arson". It doesn't necessarily play to Amon Amarth's strengths, but it is an interesting sonic attribute that only seems to be prominent on this album. The normally virulent, macerating guitar tone is so buried that the bass actually begins to take the reins from it. It isn't that the guitars sound any different than on Versus the World, they just lack presence in the mix, neutering the band's Teutonic aesthetics just when it seems like they might rise from mediocrity.

The only song that is passable on the whole (and this is even stretching it) is "The Pursuit of Vikings", which has a decent bouncy inclination to it's procession. It also features some more traditionally churning tremolo passages along with stop-start riffing patterns that have some neck-jerking potential. Even this requires you to overlook the ghastly sounding drums. Andersson's kit is completely gutted, as evident by the typewriter-esque sound he achieves during the tepid intro of "Valkyries Ride".

Fate of Norns stinks more than the piles of rotting bodies normally accrued after a traditional Amon Amarth album is released. Burn it just like you'd burn them and save us all the sight of it.