AMON AMARTH

"Twilight of the Thunder God" (Metal Blade; 2008)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Amon Amarth is a Viking themed melodic heavy metal band from Sweden. The album cover for "Twilight of the Thunder God" depicts Thor, Norse God of Thunder,  battling Jormungandr, a sea serpent in Norse mythology. These guys take this stuff seriously. From the first speed metal riff you know that this band means business and those who think this stuff is silly better not mention it in any unknown circles, you never know who might be listening.

To make sure they are taken seriously, the liner notes are plastered with pictures of them and their Viking attire. I had to read the lyrics because I can't understand what they are growling. Each song is about struggle and it all relates to a Viking attribute. The drums pound along and move very fast. The guitar in all its glory is gritty but the solos are fairly clean sounding. The bass thumps along with the rest of the song.

There were some notable guest appearances on this disc: Children Of Bodom guitarist Roope Latvala lends a guitar solo on the first and title track "Twilight Of The Thunder God." Entombed vocalist Lars Goran Petrov screams on "Guardians Of Asgaard" and Apocalyptica are featured on the track titled, "Live For The Kill."

This disc also comes with a bonus DVD that is from their appearance at the Summer Breeze tour in 2007. The DVD starts with a stage that is set with a Viking ship and once the guys start playing Vikings jump out of the ship and start battling. The house looked packed and their fans chant with a wicked intensity.

Amon Amarth: Johan Hegg vocals; Olavi Mikkonen guitars; Johan Soderberg guitars; Ted Lundstrom bass guitar; Fredrik Andersson drums.

For more information, check out http://www.amonamarth.com or http://www.myspace.com/amonamarth.

"Versus The World" (Metal Blade; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Despite the fact that one could generally say the Amon Amarth's two previous efforts were generally cut from the same cloth and basically that all the tracks were interchangeable, over time I found myself listening to "The Avenger" much more than I was listening to "The Crusher." As such, I began to fear that Amon Amarth were on a downward trend as I became of the opinion that the earlier release was better (no matter how slight) than the latter release.

Yet, with "Versus The World," Amon Amarth seem to have struck proverbial gold. "Versus The World" reigns in the classic Amon Amarth aggression for a slightly slower pace for a truly catchy, melodic Swedish death metal experience. Whereas "The Avenger" and "The Crusher" seemed difficult for me to get into, "Versus The World" was instantly likeable and I found myself hitting the repeat button as soon as it had reached the end.

Amon Amarth have taken a more epic-like approach to songwriting on "Versus The World" without getting bogged down in longer songs (or it seems that way). This allows each song's inherent drama to unfold like a well-told story without becoming too repetitive or drawn out. Likewise, every melody lingers in the brain for as long as possible in the most striking manner given Amon Amarth's more restrained approach.

"Versus The World" also seems to have dropped the band's slight black metal influence for good measure. "Versus The World" takes on a more percussive approach to the song's rhythms and this leads to more recognizable songs even after only a couple of spins.

Amon Amarth changed recording venues from the 'closed' Abyss Studios to the equally famous and impressive Berno Studio and I think this change of scenery assisted the band in implementing a new approach and different sheen to the final product.

"Versus The World" is a great album. I'm not going to say I had low expectations of it, but "Versus The World" caught me a bit by surprise and impressed the hell out of me. Even if you don't care a whole lot for Amon Amarth's previous efforts you might find it worth your while to check out "Versus The World" especially if you have an inkling of appreciation for the Swedish scene.

"Versus The World" was produced by Amon Amarth and engineered by Berno.

Amon Amarth is Johan Hegg on vocals, Olli Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg on guitars, Ted Lundstrom on bass, and Fredrik Andersson on drums.

For more information visit http://www.amonamarth.com

"The Crusher" (Metal Blade; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Amon Amarth's newest effort, "The Crusher," isn't much different than their previous effort "The Avenger." I don't know why I didn't notice it before, but Amon Amarth are moving closer to sounding like Hypocrisy with each new album (especially during their mid-paced breaks).

Amon Amarth's scalding Viking metal attack still tell heroic tales of war and battle lust as conquering hordes trample the enemy across bloody battlefields, spit venomous anti-Christian sentiments, and obviously pro-Nordic god and culture rants. The rhythms on "The Crusher" have been tightened up quite a bit and are much more diverse this time around. The brutality is still intact, yet there is a renewed focus on adding a little more melody and thought to the songs.

"Bastards Of A Lying Breed" is a flame-thrower of a track with killer rhythmic pacing at the end of the song. "As Long As The Raven Flies" adds an epic feel to the Amon Amarth catalog. "Annihilation Of Hammerfest" is the song that most sounds like a grittier In Flames. Soderberg and Mikkonen don't solo often, but when they do you'll notice it. 

"The Crusher" is a definite improvement over "The Avenger" and actually I am actually looking forward to the next release. In fact, I was quite disappointed when their North American touring plans in Summer 2001 were scrapped - that day will come soon enough.

"The Crusher" was produced by Amon Amarth. Lars Szoke and Peter Tagtgren (both of Hypocrisy) assisted on the engineering and mixing respectively. Superb job all around. 

Amon Amarth is Johan Hegg on vocals, Ted Lundstrom on bass, Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen on guitars, and Fredrik Andersson on drums. 

For more information visit http://www.amonamarth.com

"The Avenger" (Metal Blade; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter



Amon Amarth's cauldron of Viking metal mayhem is essentially melodic brutal death metal with a twist of black metal thrown in for good measure. Amon Amarth hails from Sweden and it is nearly impossible for black metal not to have any influence on a band from Sweden at this point in time.

Amon Amarth summon aggressive spirits without fulsome ornamentation; these Swedes are like a heavy artillery tank that crushes all in its path. The commotion caused by Amon Amarth is deliriously focused on brutality rather than melodicism. "The Avenger" finds Amon Amarth keeping the music very heavy without being too melodic.

The retribution fueled "Avenger," clearly the best of the seven tracks.  The nearly mainstream riffage of "The Last With Pagan Blood" tempers the brutality just enough to qualify as melodic brutal death metal. The maniacal "Metalwrath" is an ode to the unity and strength of the Norse warriors. "Legend Of A Banished Man" adds black metal elements to the brutal death formula with surprising results. "North Sea Storm," "Bleed For Ancient Gods," and "God, His Son And Holy Whore" are solid as well.

Like a lesion on the skin, the cancerous source of Amon Amarth's metallic mayhem is Viking mythology takes prominence in the band's lyrics. The name Amon Amarth is taken from J.R.R. Tolkein's "Lord Of The Rings" which adds to the fantasy-like narration in the lyrics. The vocals are hefty and guttural, but not so harsh that the words are completely indistinguishable.

Amon Amarth fits in the musical spectrum somewhere between the more melodic In Flames and the more harsh Carnal Forge. One needs a lot of endurance to work with the band as it works its way through varying styles of metal to achieve its intense sound. Overall, the disc is stylistically ambitious, but Amon Amarth wouldn't have it any other way.

"The Avenger" was produced by Amon Amarth and recorded at the acclaimed Abyss studios owned by Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren who engineered and mixed the disc. Songs were primarily written by Olavi Mikkonen with some assistance from former drummer Martin Lopez (who left Amon Amarth to focus on the band Opeth).

Amon Amarth is Olavi Mikkonen on guitar, Ted Lundstrom on bass, Johan Hegg on vocals, Johan Soderberg on guitar, and Frederik Andersson on drums.

For more information visit Amon Amarth's website at http://www.amonamarth.com and feel the steel.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

 


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