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Row to the Halls - 69%

Five_Nails, April 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records

Standing menacingly over the corpse of his fallen foe, a solitary figure poses with his crimson covered axe and gives a death glare to all who enter his line of sight. Waves crash against rocks in the background as the dragon figurehead of a viking ship claws its way ashore, heralding another wave of savage manpower to turn the tide of battle. Ravens circle, lightning flashes, and a shield wall crashes along the beach as sea-foam soaks in the spilled blood. Amon Amarth is prepared to meet the gods, chomping at the bit to dine in Valhalla, but not before tasting the fruits of victory in Midgard.

The attention to detail adorning the jacket of 'Jomsviking' shows this Stockholm stalwart in top form as the band embarks on its tenth conquest. The invasion brings blooded axes, spears, and swords into less treacherous waters and more forgiving territory, as though a pack of wolves descends upon a flock of unsuspecting sheep confined to its paddock, akin to the slaughter of medieval monks at Lindisfarne, crashing down with the fantastic peril of a Dothraki horde on the Lamb Men in Martin's epic. Amon Amarth retains its attitude, filtered through more catch than kitsch with appeals to arenas in its big sound, but tones back its brutality by laying down a mesh of Maiden tropes on which to fall back for inspiration. The cover exemplifies this approach with its evocative azure environment featuring a menagerie of textures. Its own attempt at Eddie brings brawn and bravery to the forefront while behind him the clash of shield walls, dragon adorned raiding ship, and another stumbling Norseman make their own ways out of the sea to exemplify the thicker and more pronounced backdrop featured in this heavier metal. The only downside to this packaging is my own regret of not buying the vinyl version of this album because to see this stellar cover in full-framed glory would be truly magnificent.

With a grisly grin as he plunges his knife into a bewildered man's throat, “First Kill” begins this disc's journey with the dishonor of killing a noble for the love of a woman to the blistering harmonic fury for which Amon Amarth is famous. Taking the flowery fun of Iron Maiden, adding the machinery of Judas Priest, and offering abrupt and savage signature sweeps and time changes, the guitars fill a heady atmosphere with a simultaneously intense and enjoyable pitch that sets frets and ears alight. Taking a tuneful footing makes for easily hummable songs throughout the album as 'Jomsviking' reaches for more anthemic tones that derive from death metal massacres. The theatrical onrush of vocal, double bass, and tremolo in “Wanderer” provides palpable distinction from the heavier moments that are expected in this extreme style, like the choking chest pounding power of “One Against All”. However the mainstays maintained throughout this album come in catchy compositions that culminate in chanting choruses, leads that linger through triumphant sonorous riffs, and a squeaky clean swath of production that sweeps the listener into the fray and gallantly involves him in each cut and clash.

As is necessary to maintain its credibility, the band needs to truly tear throats from necks in order to satisfy its most bloodthirsty followers. These moments have become easier to underpin in each album as Amon Amarth has taken a very direct approach to cordoning off its appealing elements throughout each offering into categories that could thusly be listed as “catchy choruses”, “chant songs”, “rippers”, “slow somber songs”, the “epic ending”, and the latest addition to the band's rather uniform bulwark, the “terrible duet”. In this vein, the band hasn't stepped out of line and instead steeps itself even deeper into its sticky vats of headbanger candy with the most delicious moments sprinkled throughout the first bites of the album. “On A Sea of Blood”, “One Against All”, and “The Way of Vikings” have their fair shares of thickened tones, rampant paces, gruff growls, and drawn out pummeling. “On A Sea of Blood” is beefed up with a slowed down version of the thrashy riff found in Trivium's “Fugue” from 'Ember to Inferno'. Later on the song takes a turn of a guitar helix, the like of which has been imbued in the DNA of Amon Amarth for decades and reminds the listener that this institution, while running away with the 'Powerslave' catchiness, still brings fury, especially when going into the “Under Siege” style of “One Against All”. “The Way of Vikings” is a surely inspiring song. Albeit more concentrated than “The Duelists”, the force of the wailing harmony as it rises out in the chorus shows a very closely held NWOBHM influence. If only the solos dueled rather than harmonized in order to embody the passion of combat occurring in the lyrics, but Amon Amarth may have wanted to lay off on that idea with this song due to how closely its followup song sounds compared to the '80s revolutionaries.

While “First Kill” and “At Dawn's First Light” make up the catchy chorus songs that certainly have been discussed ad nauseum, “One Thousand Burning Arrows” and “Back on Northern Shores” show that slow somber songs can still serve as sobering emotional investments in Amon Amarth albums. “One Thousand Burning Arrows” reprises the template of “Under the Northern Star” while “Back on Northern Shores” continues the band's “epic ending” legacy of featuring drawn out, complex instrumentation imbued with intricacies that display the development of the band's talents in less lewd fits. Blast beat drum fills throughout a quickly-paced passage, as the guitars dance through a battle narrated by the vocals, shows off the young guest drummer, Tobias Gustafsson's, desire to take flight over an atmosphere soaked with ocean spray and weeping guitar verses.

The instrumentation is on point throughout this album. Having been together for nearly twenty years, bassist Ted Lundström and guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg so naturally hinge each harmony from the giant sail, as though summoning the wind with their guitars and conquering the sea. Unfortunately, the songwriting finds itself stymied by interchangeably amassing the same armada over and over again. The only major deviation from this form, Amon Amarth's latest attempt at reinvention, comes in the cringe of vocal duets. Where L-G Petrov from Entombed came off as confused in “Guardians of Asgard” and Messiah Marcolin came off as a wailing troll in “Hel”, Doro Pesch sounds like she's choking on the goatly cud left over from Stevie Nicks' career. Her awful affectation, a false vibrato best left on the farm, sounds like utter crap that could at least line up with the overpowering double bass if done by someone with talent so that no one needs to hear as much showboating. “A Dream that Cannot Be” is one of the most shallow songs from the 'we can't be together' catalogue of sappy, crappy attempts to not only round out a flagging story, but to throw a “celebrity” at the mix in the hope of drawing a few more bucks out of an already exhausted audience by creating a soulless 'girl power' anthem of apathy. In the next duet Amon Amarth would be better off teaming up with Meatloaf in order to do a rendition of “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, maybe as part of a concept album about the first gay viking lovers to Eiffel Tower over the Welsh monk that they're spit roasting.

Amon Amarth remains solidly death metal's Iron Maiden, expressing the instrumental range and virtuosity best known from the NWOBHM band's storied discography. In this vein, the new breed hasn't done anything new but repackaged a very consumable approach for younger audiences desiring a heavier sound, and the band does it well. The energy of this album, the eye catching artwork, glorious guitar passages and precise recording combine for a series of solid songs. That being said, the band is not without its idiosyncrasies.

'Jomsviking' doesn't feature any immediately gripping hooks like in “As Loke Falls”, rarely capturing a listener from the first note. This is most sadly apparent in the single “At Dawn's First Light” where the aggressive opening is abandoned for a by-the-numbers verse-chorus charade that has been done to death. The guitarists miss an opportunity to truly blow their audience away with dueling solos in “The Way of Vikings”. The most offending aspect is in how the lyrics attempt to be too open ended and vague to truly give the overarching story any legs, aiming for catchy choruses in every song rather than telling the tale, never stepping out of line give wind to its sail. I would be far more inclined to believe the explanation that each song was written to accompany a past tragedy than that this album is a single story throughout. Where is the theme in the guitars? What links every song together on this album, other than the fact that the protagonist doesn't die in nine tracks out of eleven through these forty-seven minutes? Why does the protagonist leave one place, come back to it, and at no point is that reflected in a familiar moment of music to remind the listener that he has come back home? If 'Jomsviking' is a concept album, then Spinal Tap's “Stonehenge” is progressive metal.

That isn't to say that every song has to sound the same throughout a concept album. The Who, Pink Floyd, and even Kendrick Lamar have created fantastic stories throughout their concept albums. In no way would, could, or should Amon Amarth share in that list with 'Jomsviking'. Unlike the more focused aspects of Amon Amarth albums in describing wars between the Norse gods, historical groups like the Varyags employed by the Byzantine Empire, or fictional situations that show the values that societies uphold like in “The Hero”, this album is vague, forced, and open ended in so many areas that spite its 'concept' as an interwoven epic, coming off instead as just another album with as many foci as there are songs. Despite the fact that 'Jomsviking' is slightly better ordered than 'Twilight of the Thunder God', the pacing remains perplexing. A newcomer band, Divine Element, created a more cohesive 'concept album' as an Amon Amarth clone, what's more is that it serves as a companion piece to a novel. This release seems more like a halfhearted afterthought, packaged by advertisers rather than initially drafted as a journey.

Amon Amarth shoehorns the idea of a 'concept album' into another average release as though this is some great change of direction for a band that has been plodding down the same path since hitting it big on 'With Oden on Our Side'. Despite my jaded ranting, I still enjoy this album for the most part, but let's be realistic here it is not a fully realized concept. This album, like every Amon Amarth release, is a set of songs that provides snippets of Viking life, battle, religion, and values, except that this time around a lack of flow is excused due to fleshing out a base lyrical story. So essentially the choppiness of rehashing the 'Deceiver of the Gods' template is supposed to be made up for in the lyrics? The disjointed ordering on this album flows about as well as an infant waking up to scream every half hour until you shake it to sleep. This is a 'concept album' in lyrics only and even on that front there is no full commitment.

Mimicking a ninth century barbarian's speech with weak and informally educated lyrics is about as close to a cohesive direction for the storyline. Even Johan Hegg said he was having trouble writing lyrics and described the process of putting the album into a story as “horrible” but “fun as well”. He elaborates by saying “just to complete the story was a nightmare really”. That does not seem conducive to creativity, and it shows throughout 'Jomsviking' with song after song blatantly describing isolation with the same interchangeable lyrical phrases Hegg has used for the past twenty years. At least Nathan Explosion has a couple of new words peppered throughout his lyrics, and that band parodies this music. Either the band wants nothing to do with him anymore or he had to thoroughly 'isolate his genius' in order to form such great and memorable lines as “running, from my sword, victory, my reward” in order to advance a b-movie plot best left to Troma's direction.

To call 'Jomsviking' a 'concept album' is to call any album put into a listenable or logical order a 'concept album', let alone the fact that such a loose definition can easily be applied to every Amon Amarth album considering the band's bull-headed ambition that rarely deviates from its prescribed persona. Unfortunately, Amon Amarth drops the ball in that aspect while still creating a solid, inspiring, and quality album in its stead. If you want a good understanding of how incompatible this album is with the phrase 'concept album', just look to the music video for “The Way of Vikings” where the band portrays a bunch of boxers training and fighting while a television, a television in a world where everyone wears clothes from the 1920s and 1930s mind you, shows vikings fighting for merely a couple of frames. It's obvious that 'Jomsviking' is half-baked as a concept album and there was little support for the notion, it was merely packaged and advertised that way as an afterthought. The band has simply diluted its product into such an easily soluble formula that it can fill any container into which it is poured.

Too typical in too many places, 'Jomsviking' has its points that will elicit an eye roll here and there from longtime fans, but there is some inspiration to be found in snippets throughout this release. The fact of the matter is that Amon Amarth is comprised of men in their mid forties who have run out of ideas but still want to LARP. This could be the midlife crisis of a band in desperate need of a Porsche and a twenty year old homewrecker, or the death knell of a death metal institution. Only time will tell.

A total departure from their early albums - 75%

EzraBlumenfeld, November 18th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records

When it comes to Amon Amarth's large discography of Viking-themed blackened melodic death metal, Jomsviking certainly stands out. Marketed as "Amon Amarth's first concept album," it supposedly contains a story; the story is pretty hard to follow, though, with no set characters and a pretty boring plot. If they hadn't said so themselves, I never would've thought of it as a concept album at all.

Jomsviking sees Amon Amarth departing from their classic ball-smashing heaviness for a lighter, more melodic approach on some songs. While a handful ("First Kill," "On A Sea of Blood," "One Against All") retain their well-known and well-loved sheer metal approach, the band clearly was trying to break the mainstream with songs like "At Dawn's First Light," "One Thousand Burning Arrows," and "A Dream That Cannot Be," which features metal goddess Doro Pesch singing an awkward duet with the macho growling giant Johan Hegg.

Although more mainstream than their past albums, this one certainly has a few songs for their old-school fans: Songs like ''At Dawn's First Light,'' ''On A Sea of Blood,'' and ''Vengeance is My Name'' retain some of the band's original heaviness despite having a more melodic and accessible sound.

This album is overall decent, but not one of the band's best like Twilight of the Thunder God or With Oden on Our Side. It's worth a listen if you already are familiar with their other albums and understand their true purpose as a metal band.

A nice melodic Viking-led attack - 90%

slayrrr666, August 17th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records

One of the first bands in the style, Swedish melodic death metal mainstays Amon Amarth have been steadily employing their blend of black and melodic death metal into being one of the best bands in this style. With long-time drummer Fredrik Andersson stepping down and the studio parts recorded by Tobias Gustafsson, the bands’ tenth full-length effort was released March 25, 2016 on Metal Blade Records.

As has been the case from the start, the group here certainly knows their way around melodic death metal riffing, and that continues here with this one generating the kind of fiery melodic rhythms that has long been apart of the group’ core sound. Blazing with hummable, dynamic riffing that’s filled with swirling melodic leads alongside the deep, driving charge that propels the songs forward, the melodic tendencies of the band are at the forefront of the album overall. With the main rhythms adopting their signature swirling tremolo-picked patterns while alternating between the glorious, triumphant marches, full-speed thrash-paced frenzies or a more relaxed mid-tempo pace with a deeper, churning crunch pattern to the main rhythm-work, there’s quite an impressive mix of their usual work featured here that creates a driving blend of black, death and minor elements of thrash into the overall package that’s found here. This usual amount of variance creates a wholly appealing ebb and flow within the album as the different pieces take prominence on select tracks which is always wrapped up with melodic lead-work that’s all tight, frantic and off-sets the vicious work on display here as the album does continually shift gears to a fault. There’s way too many sections within this one that could’ve been handled with a slightly more upbeat vibe as the attempts to showcase the metalcore-leaning riffs don’t gel well with their sound at all. It’s just obviously attempted to interject a variety into the tracks but the mechanical, chugging rhythms are out-of-place and stick out quite obviously against the more natural-sounding riffing elsewhere here. As well, it’s all too familiar and does the same thing too many times over, but as it’s been there since the beginning it’s not that bad of a detriment and doesn’t hurt it that much.

Still sticking with their formula through thick-and-thin, the group’s obviously patented sound that hasn’t bit them before continues to serve them well as it generates a strong overall effort that while not as important or dynamic as what came before it still has plenty of appeal for fans of the band so far as well as those looking for genuine melodic death metal acts.

The battlefield begets a storybook. - 85%

hells_unicorn, August 6th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records (Digibook, Deluxe edition)

When a particular niche of storytelling sums up the entire career of a band, it's often only a matter of time before the story will absorb an entire album, if it hasn't been doing so from the very beginning. The topic of Vikings naturally has a rich history with metal music in general, though the marriage of it with a death metal sound came about a bit later, and was popularized largely thanks to the efforts of Unleashed and their better known melodic Swedish counterparts Amon Amarth. Nevertheless, while the entirety of Amon Amarth's albums has been steeped in Viking history and lore, it has not been until the current year with the release of Jomsviking that a story dedicated to them has spanned an entire conceptual opus. If anything, this band has gotten into the concept album craze extremely late, and a close inspection of the resulting body of music reveals a band that is continuing its very slow evolution where consistency is the rule, and all development having been relegated to the periphery.

The story itself is a straightforward man vs. society tale set in the Viking ages where an individual finds himself a fugitive in his native land and takes up with the Jomsviking, a merciless band of Viking mercenaries who's historicity is disputed, if not legendary in character. The usual foray of bloodshed and revenge follows, though in contrast to most stories of a heroic nature, the quest ultimately ends in failure and death, though with the silver-lining of a hero's welcome to Valhalla. Given the somewhat more ambitious demeanor of the album's lyrical pursuits relative to past efforts, one might venture a guess that the accompanying music might find the band exploring more adventurous territory, but stylistically speaking this is an exercise all but entirely in the familiar. While arguably a bit more intricate than the generally slow paced and dark middle era of Versus The World and Fate Of Norns, this is an album that sticks to the same general format as every album following With Oden By Our Side, with a particularly similar melodic and quick-paced character to Surtur Rising.

At first glance, this album would seem to be more ambitious than anything heard previously, but after the initial excitement of the highlight moments and the generally consistency of one song to the next, it tends to settle into tried and true territory for this band. Fast paced cruisers like "On A Sea Of Blood", "First Kill" and "One Against Many" being front-loaded onto the first half of the album might fool one into thinking that Amon Amarth plans on moving closer to the speed-infused character of The Crown, but as things progress beyond things sort of veer off into a heavier, mid-paced direction with some occasional hints at an actual Viking/Folk influence (something that ordinarily would be associated with metal music on the given subject, but in this band's case has never been so), particularly on "The Way Of Vikings" and the tragic closing epic "Back On Northern Shores", the former heaving an almost symphonic film score introduction and a heavily folksy melodic drive, the latter being generally slow and heavy, not to mention a bit long and expansive relative to past albums.

Perhaps the continual comparisons to past works can get a bit tiresome, but they are a necessity in assessing Amon Amarth's newer material as it tends to compare best to their extensive past. If there is anything that truly sets this album apart from others bearing the band's insignia, it's a greater degree of technical ambition, largely in the guitar department where solos tend to be a bit more common and melodic leads tend to wander about a bit more. It also veers ever so slightly closer to the cinema obsessed character of a lot of newer bands, but unlike some exaggerated reactions to this album, goes nowhere near Rhapsody Of Fire or Ensiferum territory. There's a few narrated voice-over parts here and there, but nothing that really crosses over into being overtly campy. It's final impression, conceptual aspects not withstanding, is largely of the typical catchy and formulaic character of Surtur Rising and Twilight Of The Thunder God, and with it comes the same array of complaints from detractors and praise from the steadfast. That's ultimately what Amon Amarth is, steadfast, and though they don't record the same album over and over, they have a clearly defined sound and they are sticking to it.

Celebrating Viking lore on autopilot. - 55%

ConorFynes, May 17th, 2016

I find it something astounding that someone could dedicate their lives to art, and lack the drive to push themselves in a fresh direction at some point. I'm perfectly aware that Amon Amarth have occasionally done things to spruce up their sound, but the fact remains: If we get an album from them twenty years from now, you'll already know exactly what to expect from it.

I saw them play for a packed house last night for the first time in over a decade, and I realize I understand the appeal without necessarily sharing it myself. For a band like Amon Amarth, fans aren't looking for something new. They're looking for thick, anthemic songs to serve simultaneously as a vessel for Viking legends and a backdrop for socially-enabled alcoholism. Not that any of that is a bad thing. Fun can be a neat thing to have sometimes. But it does beg the question: How excited can one be for an album where everything expected is granted? Jomsviking is crafted from most of the same ingredients we've heard previously, and the few curveballs they offer are iffy at best. In most respects it's perfectly functional as a melodic death metal record, but their formula has long since worn thin.

At this stage in Amon Amarth's career, their style is practically set in stone. I wouldn't say this is entire a bad thing; where many bands fall short of earning themselves a unique character, you can hear a single track off Jomsviking and instantly recognize the band. By melodeath standards, Amon Amarth are consummately mid-paced, with the thick rhythms and growls striking a contrast with pretty lead melodies. It's almost redundant to describe the style at this point; for better or worse, they've stuck to that template throughout their career. There's not a ton of variety within the formula. Tales of Viking loss, sacrifice and/or victory are all expressed in much of the same way. Despite this predictable nature, there are songs that manage to stand out. "First Kill" opens the album on a hopeful note, and "The Way of Vikings" pairs an interesting lyrical insight with above-average melodic writing.

The song that's been getting the most attention is easily "A Dream That Cannot Be", and this is where the half-successful innovation I was talking about earlier comes in. The heavy metal icon Doro Pesch jumps in for a guest segment alongside Johan Hegg's gruff delivery. I've never cared much for her music as Doro, but the inclusion of her vocals here feels incredibly contrived. She may have the vocal pipes for it, but her style clashes with the antiquated Viking atmosphere the band tries to evoke. To their credit, the idea of including a female vocalist seems to fit the album. Jomsviking is labelled as Amon Amarth's first concept album, telling the story of a Viking who is exiled for killing someone in defence of his woman, longing to return to his home. In a sense, it's not a world away from Opeth's Still Life concept, although any sense of running narrative is overswept by the broad Viking themes. I've always liked Amon Amarth's lyrics for their cultural expertise and storytelling, and the idea of hearing a larger story from them was promising. The lyrics are still probably the most engaging thing on Jomsviking, but the concept album potential here was only half-realized. Most of the songs work best on their own, and only a handful (like "First Kill" and "A Dream That Cannot Be") serve to place the concept front and centre.

Jomsviking is an enjoyable continuation of the band's legacy. It pales in comparison with Versus the World and With Oden on Our Side, but I think as much could have been expected from any of the band's subsequent output. As predictable and rote as these guys have become, I almost commend them for sticking to what they know best. When so many bands reinvent themselves tastelessly, I suppose there's a certain elegance to staying true to yourself for over two decades and counting. Thinking that way doesn't make Jomsviking any more interesting to listen to, but it is something to consider.

Sure To Be Sold Out At Your Local Hot Topic - 50%

PerfectB, May 9th, 2016

If you asked some Amon Amarth fans, they’d probably tell you that I was part of the problem. I didn’t discover AA until I caught some prerelease hype for With Oden On Our Side and late the next year drove 4 hours for the second half of that tour. Oden, and to a lesser extent Fate Of Norns and Versus The World, are the total intersection of accessibility and quality for a band like Amon, which is no small feat considering too many fans of death metal music would argue that the two traits are at worst mutually exclusive and at best inversely related.

Regardless, the band’s output since has been slowly declining in quality (though I’ll admit Twilight Of The Thundergod did grow on me at some point in the last eight years). The general consensus seems to be that the band is sticking too much to their guns, but I happen to think that they’ve gotten so much more accessible that the music has become diluted (or maybe I’m just salty that I’m losing my ‘underground metal cred’ as Amon gets picked up on late-night metal blocks on hard rock stations).

I guess if we’re giving credit where it’s due then it’s fairly impressive that Amon Amarth have managed to release 10 records with exactly one lyrical theme.

Which brings us to the next point: Jomsviking is a concept album. When speaking of metal, this is either a pretentious way to stir up some buzz around a record with shallow lazy lyricism, or it’s code for ‘we wrote a ham-fisted love story’ (spoilers: it’s mostly the latter). I’ll applaud Amon for trying something new and attempting to shed the power fantasy trappings of their previous records, but it does fall a little flat. But at the same time, how could I knock the lyrics of a Viking melodic death metal record for being cheesy with a straight face?

So we’re left mostly with the musicality of the record. I hesitate to call it bad, because it many ways it’s very similar to what we were given with Deceiver Of The Gods. On the other hand, the new ground it covers sounds even more…poppy? Let me clarify that I have little problem with metal that contains pop elements and many bands blend the two to great effect; the direction Amon goes with it unfortunately comes across as uninspired.

I read another review that used the word ‘stock’ to describe the riffing and I’m inclined to agree. I can’t say I really noticed the bass guitar. The solos are weak. The drumming lacks the complexity of their past performances and in some cases seems so dialed back that it doesn’t exactly ‘fit’ with the riffing. Worse, it’s not simplistic in the crushing, neck motivating vein of Pursuit of Vikings. It’s simplistic in the sense that some passages almost sound like a heavy rock band with harsh vocals. With that said, all of the elements of an AA song are present and recognizable from the first note to the last. If I had to pick standout tracks, I’d say First Kill, On A Sea Of Blood, and Back On Northern Shores are definitely the high points, but I’d hesitate to put them alongside the other songs on my AA mix playlist.

I’m struggling to come up with a decent summary of the record. On one hand, it’s Amon paint-by-numbers and it seems that the last two records generated a buzz with a lot of people so maybe I’m just yelling at air here. Perhaps I’d be content with more of what they were putting out 10 years ago, but I can hardly fault a band that’s been toiling for 20 something years for playing it safe. If you weren’t impressed with much post-Twilight, you can play it safe too and skip Jomsviking.

Overhyped - 55%

JokerFarts, May 5th, 2016

Amon Amarth is a band that requires no introduction, if you're a metalhead and you are a fan of melodic death metal, you should know Amon Amarth and if you don't then, well now you know. Amon Amarth is probably one of, if not the most famous viking themed band in the metal genre and for good reason. However many long time fans and even some new fans of the band have noticed that slowly the band has not been releasing as good material as before, including me.

Quite awhile ago Amon Amarth decided to change their sound from a more heavier form of melodeath to a more melodic form of the same genre, which is fine, I personally prefer the new melodic sound. They still have been releasing great albums such as With Odin On Our Side, Twilight of the Thunder God, and Surtur Rising. Then Deceiver of the Gods came out and a lot of fans noticed that their sound changed ever so slightly, but the album was still rather good. 3 years later Amon Amarth releases their next album: Jomsviking...

To be completely honest I was really disappointed with this album considering how much hype was put into it by the band. There's only a few songs off of the album that I really like, those being First Kill, Raise Your Horns, and One Thousand Burning Arrows. The rest of songs are just... meh. "Meh." That's a word you don't want to describe your album. Especially after all the hype they raised for this album.

See, Amon Amarth always had a atmosphere they produced in their music which usually gave you an awesome feeling while listening. That feeling you get is the feeling of pure epicness. It's like watching an action movie or playing a video game, during that final fight scene when all the awesome stuff is happening, in your head you are thinking "This is fucking awesome!" but to be completely honest that feeling is almost completely absent from this album.

Half of the album is the band's attempt at making something symphonic at utterly failing at it most of the time, and the other half of it is them forcing the brutalness of the music. Take the song Wanderer for example: the song is ok but the chorus is the main part you should be looking at. The chorus starts with a more melodic piece just for the flow to be interrupted by what I can only assume to be the band's attempt at being brutal but it's not. This happens multiple times throughout the entire album! Why did they do this? Did they think it was a good idea; because it clearly wasn't!

Most of the songs are so mediocre that I found myself skipping songs half-way through or walking away from my computer to go do something else for a few minutes. To be completely honest I haven't even listened to the final song yet because I had to wash away the utter disappointment that this album is with some other band. In fact, the only reason why I am giving this album a 55% is because the few good songs on this album are really good. If First Kill and Raise Your Horns weren't as good as they were I'd probably give this album a 38%.

Lost in a dreadful dream. - 55%

Diamhea, April 21st, 2016

The three year wait since Deceiver of the Gods gave me some inkling of hope that the band would regroup and sharpen their collective blade for a bloodletting at least on par with the burly Surtur Rising; but that album is starting to feel like a fluke, adrift in a sea of mediocrity that reaches all of the way back to the barely-passable Twilight of the Thunder God, which started the trend of Amon Amarth playing it safe whenever they could cut corners, and the songwriting suffered immeasurably as a result. Hell, at least Fate of Norns attempted something different, and committed to the aesthetic wholly, even if it ended up failing. Jomsviking mans the oars with one unexpected card in its deck, that being the slightly more fleshed out narrative, but does this even amount to anything worth a damn?

Of course not. A smattering of spoken word lead-ins does little to cement the music as anything deeper or more profound on a conceptual level, even if it does tackle some atypical themes. In the end, its just a different shade of dried blood plastered on these Swedes' blades, and the band has perhaps never sounded more redundant. Boy, is that a hard revelation to even come to terms with, but with the production values cleaned up and washed out to the point of inanity, Amon Amarth's mighty mid-paced churning riffing style is neutered in ways never previously conceived. The band really needs to get back to the rawer guitar tone used on albums like The Crusher, which evocatively cemented the tremolo sections and gave the music that swirling, pulsing gait that works well alongside Hegg's maniacal rambling. The loss of Andersson behind the kit also shortchanges the band, with Gustafsson failing to evoke the same war-drum, cement-cracking predilection. The production values do him no favors, as the kit is pathetically softened along with most of the remainder, but the performance lacks gusto and drive.

Somewhere, buried deep within Jomsviking, one can hear hints of the band's primary assault, which while present and accounted for on paper, absolutely does not translate well on the record. I did enjoy the triumphant orchestrations employed on "The Way of Vikings," but the lyrics are as rote as ever, and the rest does little to evoke the anthemic aesthetic purported. The guitarists attempt to cultivate a more traditionally-inspired sound regarding the leads, following more standard melodic lines instead of the epic/monolithic slant granted by the scant leads on earlier records. In this regard, the band seems to lose a bit of their identity. Some of these note progressions are beyond played out, and do so little interesting I struggle to recall even the better examples. Displaying this fault is "One Thousand Burning Arrows," which gives the leads a chance to cook up a more mournful slant like the band does on at least one song per album, but I find myself skipping to the next song before the tune even reaches the halfway point.

Nearly lost among the swelling crowd of pretentious vehicles for stock guitar lines is "One Against All," which opens and maintains momentum in a manner redolent of some of the band's best from a decade or so ago. This is easily the best song here, and the only true takeaway from Jomsviking. The tremolos swirl at full force despite the plastic production, but it definitely excels in a manner nothing on the previous album did. This is their best song since "For Victory or Death," in my opinion. The remainder is lamentably boring, with Amon Amarth simply not capable of pulling off a truly memorable tune from front to back. "Raise Your Horns" has some fun moments, and the closer "Back on Northern Shores" feels suitable as a finale for the narrative, but the rest is so transparent it's easy to miss. Don't get me wrong, Jomsviking is functional for newcomers to the genre, so at most basic level, Amon Amarth still have some relevance there, but don't let anybody fool you into thinking this is a return to form. The best accolade I can grant the album is the presence of "One Against All," but I won't sugarcoat my indifference concerning the remainder. This is their worst since Fate of Norns.

Is Amon Amarth Turning Into Folk Metal? - 70%

qJukeZach, April 5th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records

It has been about three years since Amon Amarth’s last album, Deceiver Of The Gods, which for me was just another perfectly acceptable addition to their discography. When I heard the first single for Jomsviking, aptly named “First Kill”, and watched the accompanying music video I thought “Oh, another Amon Amarth album.” Everything changed when I heard the opening lines of “At Dawn’s First Light”. I was confronted with a corny stripped down version of what I knew as Amon Amarth, I even made the remark to a friend “Is Amon Amarth turning into folk metal?” Needless to say my expectations for another Surtur Rising were dashed, but I went into the album with an open mind.

Fortunately listening to “One Thousand Burning Arrows” and “Back on Northern Shores” I realized that Jomsviking’s fault seems to only be in its lyrics and not the instrumentation. I don’t know if this new direction in lyrics will be a constant for Amon Amarth or if Johan Hegg is suffering from some serious writer’s block or even some new band members have been given the lyrical reins that should not have but if they were trying to shock their audience that takes the band too seriously dubbing them as viking metal, they succeeded.

Looking past the spoken word passages, poor word choices that seemingly come straight out of the head of someone who plays too much World of Warcraft, and lack luster gang vocals then you can get to the real strength of the album and Amon Amarth as a whole, their song crafting ability. Even though its main theme is reminiscent of the outro for “A Beast Am I”, “One Thousand Burning Arrows” is a beautiful serenade to a deceased Viking King that really put my faith back into an album that was all over the shop as far as quality goes.

“A Dream That Cannot Be” fits well into the band’s collection of collaborations this time employing the veteran metal singer Doro Pesch. The song is a very female centric empowering song talking about a man who thinks he knows best for his woman but she is already confident and free in her own right that will most likely open the door to more females in metal which in my opinion is never a bad thing.

Having Amon Amarth’s complete studio album discography and listening to it frequently I have noticed a trend on their more recent albums of putting their melodic masterpieces towards the end of the track listing and in this one aspect Jomsviking did not disappoint. “Back on Northern Shores” is not very far off from being Amon Amarth’s attempt at a prog song with an up tempo guitar opening that carries throughout most of the song giving a true sense of scale for the battle that Johan is describing through his heartfelt growls.

If this album was devoid of a track like “Back on Northern Shores” then I would have had to rate it a five at best but thankfully the anxiety I had after viewing “At Dawn’s First Light” was ill-founded. Jomsviking is a solid seven out of ten for me, if the band does continue making albums I just hope this low point in lyrical writing passes.

Originally written for qjukebox.com

Finally Managed To Get 'Viking' In An Album Title - 81%

Larry6990, April 5th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records (Digibook, Deluxe edition)

I promised myself I'd hold off reviewing any albums from Swedens finest vikings until they created something truly unique. My hopes of this occurrence were slim to begin with, but when it was announced that Amon Amarth's newest full-length, "Jomsviking", was to be a concept album - well this was my chance! So what was to be expected from this new venture? Grandiose introductions? Narrative interludes? An orchestra? Choir?! Nnnope! Of course not. This is good old melodic death metal done the way only Amon Amarth know how. Sure, it's pretty much the same album they've been releasing since 2002, but are you complaining? No, of course not.

Harmonious twin leads? Check. Brutal riffs? Check. Solid, precise drumming? Check. Johan Hegg's inimitable growls? Check-a-roony! Sure, the familiar sound of Amon Amarth is unchanging and reliable as a stone pillar. But there's one more thing we can add to this checklist: a storyline! The narrative may not be carried convincingly through the music itself - but a quick glance through the lyric booklet provides an effective visual aid to the layers of admirable melo-death that lie before you. It is a romance (!!!) about a man whose lover is kidnapped. On his quest to retrieve her, he encounters the Jomsvikings - an elite viking force whose lifestyle enthralls him. When he eventually locates his lost love - it turns out she has moved on, doesn't need him anymore, and even threatens to kill him! So naturally, he returns to what he does best: being a fucking viking.

This tragic turn of events, in what is quite a detailed story (for a death metal band!), could have paved the way for an enormous variation of styles throughout each track. But Amon Amarth chose to stick to what they do best...just like the man in the story! So maybe they DID think about this after all! The most dynamic parts of the album are the absolute highlights. The melancholic "Wanderer" is effective in its display of loneliness. The back-and-forth vocals in "A Dream That Cannot Be" accurately recreate the pivotal point of the plot - though Doro Pesch's guest vocals leave a lot to be desired. Most impressive of all is the sorrowful "One Thousand Burning Arrows". As a musical interpretation of a royal viking funeral, it is truly emotive and powerful. Don't be afraid to shed a tear or two to this tune. It's this album's equivalent of 2007's "Embrace of the Endless Ocean".

The obvious crowd-pleaser, which I can see becoming a live staple for decades to come, is the anthemic "Raise Your Horns" - the title says it all really. Though the chorus solidifies in your brain like cement, it's the killer main riff which is the star of this track. "On a Sea of Blood" is also responsible for one of the most vicious riffs in the band's arsenal. The section that drops at 1:51 is made even more monstrous by Johan, joining in at the 2-minute mark, with some colossal low-end roars.

The production quality is top-notch as expected. Those homespun guitar duels shine brightly; Tobias Gustafsson's performance behind the kit is admirable indeed, especially his blast-beats in the closing track (a trait strangely omitted from Amon Amarth's catalogue); Johan Hegg's voice ploughs through the wall of sound effortlessly; but unfortunately, the bass gets completely lost - even when the texture becomes sparse. The cover art is incredible - it certainly pulled me in anyhow! I highly recommend the digibook, as each track comes with a beautifully-drawn visual aid to help immerse you in the story.

"Jomsviking" doesn't re-write the book of melodic death metal, in any shape or form. But when have you ever expected Amon Amarth to be anything other than...Amon Amarth? Solid, reliable, familiar melo-death, just the way we want/need it. If you feel yourself becoming one with the narrative - then that's just a bonus for you, compliments of Johan & co.

"Raise your horns, raise them up to the sky!
We will drink to glory tonight!
Raise your horns, for brave fallen friends!
We will meet where the beer never ends!"

A tale of vengeance, tragedy and predictability - 73%

PassiveMetalhead, March 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Metal Blade Records

Horned helmets off to Amon Amarth, no one quite does heavy metal like them. What other band can produce [now] 10 albums themed around the Viking era and make them all sound so consistently appealing? Whatever your answer, this trait is a double edged sword. While most of their back catalogue is an impressive collection of adrenaline fuelled metal, they lack identity and diversity- essentially you could pick and mix tracks from every album to form a new one and the outcome would be that it still sounds like every other release.

“Jomsviking” is the first release by Amon Amarth that is truly identifiably and the reason behind that fact is because it is a concept album. The basic story of it tells the tale of a man’s life in an elite mercenary group called the Jomsvikings which he joins after he murders a man that tries to steal his lover from him. After many perils in the Jomsviking brotherhood, the hero seeks out his woman once again only to find that she doesn’t want him anymore and even threatens to kill him. Heartbroken, he returns to the only thing he has worth fighting for: The Jomsvikings.

“Amon Amarth made an album featuring romance you say?!”

Fear not… “Jomsviking” is packed full of the brutish characteristics that everyone always craves for from this band. ‘First Kill’ kicks things off with a menacing narrative of the hero’s attack and instantly showcases, new drummer, Tobias Gustafsson’s precision behind the kit. Darker tracks such as ‘The Way Of Vikings’ and ‘One Against All’ are both typically ferocious chapters that wield spiralling hooks and savage riffs which sail along seas of traditional tremolo-picking assaults. ‘At Dawn’s First Light’ displays a good balance of ruthlessness and melody however Andy Sneap’s- usually brilliant- production seems to sway towards the melodious side of Amon Amarth here which undesirably extracts the muscle behind the power that “Jomsviking” constantly seems to yearn for.

Johan Hegg displays his excellent lyricism throughout in the story that increases the sense of drama in each song. He portrays vivid imagery through a first person viewpoint that really makes us feel involved in his character’s adventure. Musically, ‘One Thousand Burning Arrows’ is a slow ballad-like song that appears a bit serious for Amon Amarth’s signature sound but lyrically, it richly depicts a traditional procedure of a Viking funeral for the Jomsvikings’ fallen leader. ‘Raise Your Horns’ incorporates a more sludgier sound that we’re used to but with anthemic chants and infectious choruses you can’t resist the pride that this song illustrates after their victorious battle. ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’ is the penultimate chapter when the hero discovers that his lover chooses her own freedom and even threatens to kill him. Doro Pesch (Warlock) even makes a guest appearance to sing the lover’s perspective which gives the song a genuine sense of character.

If you’ve listened to Amon Amarth’s past work, you’ve essentially have already heard what this album sounds like. But in contrast, their renowned take on Viking obsessed death metal with a wild array of riffs sharp enough to whet a blade, “Jomsviking” was never really destined to disappoint anyone- and it definitely does not.

Originally written for http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/70257/Amon-Amarth-Jomsviking/ by myself.

Solid, but not too much more - 77%

BlackMetal213, March 25th, 2016

Amon Amarth is a band that needs no introduction. They are a legendary band and have garnered quite the fan base since the release of their first album “Once Sent from the Golden Hall” back in 1998. They are one of my favorite bands and put on a great live show as well. I saw them at Mayhem Festival in 2013 when they were touring for their previous album “Deceiver of the Gods”. Now, that album is not one of my favorites of theirs but was still a solid listen. My introduction to this band was through “Twilight of the Thunder God” and about two years after I got into them, they released “Surtur Rising”, which is one of their best in my opinion. How does “Jomsviking” stack up to the band’s previous eight albums? I’ve been reading a lot of negative reviews on the Internet, but are these reviews justified? Let us investigate.

The first thing I notice is how familiar this album sounds. It follows a similar sound to what they’ve pretty much been doing their entire career with a few differences. It differs a slight bit from the last few albums, with a bit more of an emphasis on atmosphere. However, the thick, heroic guitar tone is still there and the riffs are as crunchy as ever. The guitars are still extremely melodic and catchy. “First Kill” and the fairly simple “One Against All” have some very catchy riffs that retain the album’s heaviness, while songs like “At Dawn’s First Light”, “Back on Northern Shores”, and the truly epic “The Way of Vikings” showcase a keen emphasis on atmosphere and there are points on this album that actually sound fairly melancholic, but not depressing. Overall, the guitar work is much more impressive than the last album but still doesn’t quite match any of the albums before it, minus perhaps “Fate of Norns”, which I really don’t like that much. I don’t think we will ever hear another album like “The Avenger” or “Versus the World” but seeing as these guys are in their forties now, the sound is bound to fall a little bit behind. Songs like “Raise Your Horns” do keep the Northern spirit alive within the band, although maybe it could be a bit better.

One factor that sets this album apart from any other release these guys have put out, is the fact that it’s a concept album. It follows the story of the Jomsvikings, a tragic story dealing with love and revenge. Johan Hegg stated “It’s a tragedy, I guess! But I like sad endings, because they’re the ones that affect you the most”. And this makes sense. It’s really cool to listen along to the lyrics and visualize the story unfolding in front of you. Johan’s vocals still sound as good as they’ve always sounded, and it is really cool that his voice hasn’t suffered throughout Amon Amarth’s career. There are even clean vocals on the track “A Dream that Cannot Be” provided by Doro Pesch of the German band Doro. I’m not a fan of Doro or her singing these cleans are actually a very unique addition to this album, and it would be cool if Amon Amarth would continue to work with clean vocals, although, maybe they could utilize someone better…? But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Compared to any of the albums before “Deceiver of the Gods”, this really isn’t all that special, aside from “Fate of Norns” as I stated earlier. Even so, it’s still a solid album that does no harm and would be worth a spin or two if you’re a fan of this band. It doesn’t deserve all the negativity I’ve seen on the Internet thus far and features a really cool storyline.

Back to their best - 88%

PorcupineOfDoom, March 25th, 2016

Amon Amarth are a very distinct band. Each of their releases is different from the others, but there's always a sense of familiarity. You can always tell when a song is one of theirs, no matter which of their albums it's from. In recent times they've been met with some criticism for precisely that, and many find themselves growing tired of the style that they've kept fairly unchanged for almost their entire career. I understand why this is, but I find the band nothing short of incredibly consistent and everything they release seems to be at least worth a few spins.

It has to be noted that there's more focus on atmosphere than intensity across Jomsviking, something that has perhaps been lacking from the majority of their recent works. The thundering riffs courtesy of the rhythm guitar have always been something that I liked about Amon Amarth, and they're still a prominent feature of the band's work. Galloping across a large portion of the album the band's intensity is still there when they want it to be, but in typical Amon Amarth fashion the melodies remain right at the forefront throughout. And it's those melodies that really make this album the beautiful beast that it is. As you'd expect nothing's overly complex, but there's an extra degree of harmonising between the guitarists and it brings me right back to With Oden on Our Side, the last Amon Amarth album that really hammered home the melodic side of things rather than trying to simply floor the reader through ferocity. And that's just how things should be.

Johan Hegg's vocals for me have always been impressive, and it's no different here. As usual what he says is actually intelligible without the lyrics in front of the reader, and his approach is reasonably varied throughout as far as harsh vocals go. His gutturals are powerful and work well when the guitars turn to their typical thundering passages, and his higher barks retain the same force. I can't fault his performance here, but it should be noted that Doro Pesch's guest appearance on 'A Dream That Cannot Be' does add something that appears to be missing from elsewhere, possibly a sign that Amon Amarth could benefit from using cleans more often. Given the simplistic nature of their music it's perhaps unsurprising, and as harsh vocals are always slightly one-dimensional compared to cleans Johan's input doesn't always have the impact that it ought to, despite how accomplished he is.

It has to be said that Jomsviking is exactly what I hoped Amon Amarth would put out, and it holds up well in their vast discography of great albums. Doesn't quite top With Oden on Our Side, but certainly is their best album since that was released ten years ago. Well worth a listen, and it might restore some people's faith in Amon Amarth after a few "lacklustre" albums.