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Hail Thor! - 98%

deatmetaljunkie, October 15th, 2008

Get ready to pillage and burn the towns of your enemies because Amon Amarth are back with a new set of glorious battle hymns entitled “Twilight of the Thundergod”. This album marks the 7th full-length release by the band in 10 years, and brings to mind a few things; Amon Amarth are consistent in the sense that their brand of powerful, viking-themed melodic death metal does not drastically change from album to album and also that they have been able to maintain the same, steady lineup for almost a decade. While their style hasn’t really changed since “Once Sent from the Golden Hall”, Amon Amarth have tweaked their music to create maximum impact, and “Twilight of the Thundergod” is their strongest effort overall so far.

Amon Amarth start things off with the title track, which is a fast and hard hitting track that brings to mind the song “Cry of the Blackbirds” from “With Oden on Our Side”. The churning guitars create an epic, melodic, and powerful atmosphere while drummer Fredrik Andersson drives the rhythm along with his relentless double bass attack. Johan Hegg unleashes his monstrous roar, and he has never sounded better. His growls have become a little lower on this album, but maintain the intensity and clarity that Johan is known for. This song is perfect way to open the album.

Amon Amarth then follow the opening track with two mid-paced songs, “Free Will Sacrifice” and “Guardians of Asgaard”. Both songs lose none of their bite or epic atmosphere, and feature memorable growl-along choruses. “Where Is Your God?” sees the band return to the speedy, tremolo-picked, double bass fury of the title track, albeit with a darker tone. The track rages along much like “Asator” from their previous album. The next few songs are similar to the first four in that they follow the same aggressive but melodic formula perfected by Amon Amarth. The songs vary in tempo but are always intense and blood-pumping tunes.

The biggest and best surprise in the album comes in the song “Live For the Kill”. The song begins with all of the components that make up the speedy Amon Amarth song, including pounding double bass, searing rhythm guitar, and memorable lead guitar melodies. The song comes off as another killer anthem, but after the guitar solo towards the end of the track something happens; the entire band stops playing and a new instrument is introduced for the first time in Amon Amarth’s history. What could it be? If you guessed strings in the form of Finland’s Apocalyptica you are absolutely correct. Apocalyptica come in mimicking a lead guitar line from earlier in the song, and when it is Amon Amarth’s turn to rejoin the action, the resulting remainder of the song becomes the most pleasing moment in an album that has no weak points or filler material.

The album comes to a close with the last track “Embrace the Endless Ocean”. At nearly 7 minutes and containing a variety of tempos, this is the perfect way to close an epic musical journey that invokes images of vikings, Norse tales, longboats, and Ragnarok (as illustrated in the mind-blowing artwork).

Onto the band’s performance. “Twilight of the Thundergod” sees every member of Amon Amarth in top shape. As mentioned earlier, Johan Hegg has never sounded better. He growls with more conviction and passion than most vocalists could only dream of. He expanded his growling range to incorporate more lows on this album, and his efforts really pay off. The title track and “Free Will Sacrifice” highlight the power and clarity of his low growls, both featuring some of his lowest growling on any album. His midrange and high vocals are still as venomous as ever.

Fredrik Andersson once again delivers the goods and holds back nothing as he tears through the album’s ten tracks like Jörmungandr (the sea serpent in the artwork) tears through ships. His double bass work is impressive and proves to be an important element of Amon Amarth’s driving rhythm. Fredrik also complements his powerful style with tasteful cymbal work and tom fills. Ted Lundström anchors the rest of the rhythm section with his style augmenting the drum attack.

The guitar work of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen is nothing short of excellent. These Swedes know how to create the perfect balance of melody and aggression. The lead lines and solos are more melodic and epic this time around, but do not venture into sappy Gothenburg territory. The guitar solos are well thought out, adding additional emotion to the songs. Their power chords and low tremolo-picked rhythm parts provide plenty of low-end muscle to back the melodic guitar harmonies.

The production is excellent as well. The album as a whole has a more powerful and fuller sound than “With Oden on Our Side” (not that there was anything wrong with that production). The first thing about the production that I noticed was that Fredrik’s bass drums have a thicker and more natural sound this time around. The rest of the drum kit is nicely mixed as well. The guitars sound as big and powerful as ever, sporting a slightly more distorted and warmer tone. The low end of the guitar sound is appropriately pounding while the lead guitar sound is clear and bright. The production and mixing attains a great balance between every instrument, making sure that everything is clearly heard and no one instrument gets more attention and volume than the next.

“Twilight of the Thundergod” sees Amon Amarth in top shape. They have made many great albums over the years, but they have never sounded better and more convincing. All of the songs shine in some way and there are no boring parts or fillers in this album. This album displays the consistent quality and unique style that we’ve come to expect from Amon Amarth, coupled with better production and topped off with stellar artwork. If you’re already a fan you know what this album is going to sound like, and if you’re into melodic and aggressive metal I encourage you to check it out. Be sure to get the special edition with the bonus live album.