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Oops, sounds like Heavy Metal... - 84%

lonerider, February 17th, 2005

I stumbled upon Amon Amarth only about two years ago, but these five Swedes immediately managed to grab my attention, and I have checked out most of their albums by now. “Fate of Norns” is their fifth full-length album to date, and let me say it in advance: it’s a darn good one!

I know that many people – especially ardent supporters of Death Metal, I suppose – are not all that enthusiastic about this one as about some of their previous albums, the reason being mainly that “Fate of Norns” doesn’t feature any particularly fast songs, but focuses more on stomping rhythms and epic melodies.

Overall, I think that apart from Johan Hegg’s Death growls, which are as brilliant as always, the music on here is very much reminiscent of more “traditional” (what a goofy term!) Metal bands such as Maiden or Priest. Which – unless your musical agenda is strictly limited to ultra-fast and brutal Death Metal, and the mere mention of these bands is enough to make you feel nauseated – is really not a bad thing at all, especially when it’s done as tastefully as here.

The production is quite good, particularly if you happen to like HUGE double bass drums and lead guitars. The downside is that the snare gets drowned out by all the double bass mayhem sometimes, but that fits the music quite well and is not a serious point of criticism. The vocal delivery by front warrior Johan Hegg might be his best yet, that guy is definitely one of the band’s greatest assets and perhaps the best vocalist in the whole Death Metal genre. Most importantly, however, the melodies that are featured in abundance in every song are killer, turning some of the cuts into hymns that are guaranteed to make you raise your drinking horns and/or ravage a couple of villages in Oden’s honor!

In conclusion, while this is not Amon Amarth’s strongest showing so far – that distinction goes to their debut “Once Sent from the Golden Hall”, and while the guys may have played it a bit safe with this one, “Fate of Norns” is still one hell of an album and a very worthy addition to their impressive background catalogue as well as to every metalhead’s record collection. It will be very interesting to see in which direction the band is headed with regard to their next album, though, as they can’t possibly become even more melodic. A little more variety really couldn’t hurt!

Choicest cuts: This band has not written a crappy song to date, and this album is no exception. The best ones on here are probably the opener “An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm”, the crushing “Pursuit of Vikings”, and the closer “Once Sealed in Blood”.