Each Friday, we’ll take a look at an album of extremely heavy or hard-hitting material – new or not – and talk about it. Because Thank God it’s Facemelter Friday.
Amon Amarth is back! If you’ve ever tuned in to Metalocalypse and thought to yourself “I wish that these people weren’t cartoons”, you could do a lot worse than using Amon Amarth as a rough approximation/substitute for Toki Wartooth and the gang. There’s a lot to love about this band. Excellent musicianship, Iron Maiden style guitar-harmonies, pummelling rhythm’s, some guy growling about viking battles – and it’s all wrapped up in a package that manages to be at once supremely catchy and heavy as a dump-truck full of smaller dump-trucks.
If you search for “Amon Amarth GIF” and feel tickled by what you find, you’re probably the right crowd to find something to like here. I mean, come on:
The new album, Jomsviking is their tenth and is the first fully conceptual album they’ve ever released. The lyrics are fairly straightforward and tell the tale of a norseman’s banishment, battle-lust and triumphant return in a world of vikings, swords, longships and blood. The opening track, “First Kill” literally begins with the line “The first man I killed…”. It’s about as subtle as a punch in the nose, but it succeeds in being irresistible fist-pumping fun.
The thing that I might find most impressive about this group is the fact that they’ve got me convinced that this the actual music that vikings listened to, when that’s a hilarious historical impossibility. Surely vikings did not have access to Gibson Explorer guitars. Nevertheless, there’s something strangely credible in assigning this style of melodic death metal to the vikings. The songs have a gallop and thrust to them that instantly makes me think “TO VALHALLA“!
“First Kill” is great and sets the table for the rest of the album. The songs are consistent, marching forth in a fairly uniform “Iron Maiden but way heavier” manner. The shredding and galloping is broken up by some spoken word narration, intoned in a deep and accented growl – both intimidating and campily hilarious. “Raise Your Horns” brings in some chanting that brings Gregorian monks to mind – if ever there were Gregorian monks marching forward banging shields. “A Dream That Cannot Be” features a female guest vocalist for some Ronnie James Dio style melody. For the most part, though, the record keeps to the relentless axe-grinding that the band excels at.
If Jomsviking has a real weakness, it is its same-ness. Amon Amarth really just seem to be doing variation on the same trick. Thing is, if I could do any trick as well as they do this trick, all I would ever do with my time is run around showing people my great trick. “Vengeance Is My Name” is perhaps the cream of the crop here – along with “First Kill” – but the album works best as an hour’s sightseeing tour through a thrashing, trotting, crunching viking battleground. I’m going to injure myself trying to listen to this at the gym.
I’m the least viking. Like, ever.