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Amon Amarth - Jomsviking (Album Review)

Thursday, 24 March 2016 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Amon Amarth are more metal than you, and their 10th full-length, ‘Jomsviking’, proves it. There are beards. There’s brutality. But there are also a lot of surprises from a band who are often unfairly pegged as a meat and potatoes death metal act.

Sure, you have stuff like First Kill, which rests on that titanic template laid down by 2008’s ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’, but the majority of these tracks are mid-tempo marauders, focusing on melody and storytelling. ‘Jomsviking’ is a concept album, and not some half-arsed, cryptically veiled, non-linear answer to the meaning of life. It has an actual story, which was scribbled to life by vocalist Johan Hegg.

We’re not going to ruin the narrative for you, but to call it cinematic is like calling the new Star Wars ‘all right’. This is a meticulously planned business and, as a result, the album’s musical fluctuation is tethered to the plot.

At Dawn’s First Light features cheesy battle narration a la War Of The Gods, also paying homage to Iron Maiden with its tasty twin-lead riffs and galloping solo. Raise Your Horns sounds like Ensiferum winning the lottery as they swallow gravel, painting a picture of, well, Vikings getting pissed.

Hegg deserves a pat on the back and a hefty chug of mead too, as his diction is outstanding. Whether he’s gargling multi-layered filth on Vengeance Is My Name’s pre-chorus or trading lines with Doro Pesch during A Dream That Cannot Be, the story is paramount and he tells it like it’s Jackanory: Jomsviking. This is Hegg’s record and he revels in it.

Brutality and clarity are not mutually exclusive, as Hegg proves here. One Thousand Burning Arrows depicts a Viking funeral and omits a doomy, mid-paced stomp akin to Across The Rainbow Bridge from 2002’s ‘Versus The World’, while Back On Northern Shores is an epic slog with ambition that punches at the likes of Enslaved.

Tobias Gustafsson does an excellent job replacing the trigger-happy drumming of Fredrik Andersson, too. Andersson was often cited as the stand-out cog in the band’s wheels, so his exclusion not hindering their progress is testament to the ironclad craft of ‘Jomsviking’.

Fans who are taken aback by the classic metal influences can, quite simply, fuck right off. These elements have been part of Amon Amarth’s DNA for years. Now that the band have slowed down – slightly – to concentrate more on delivery, the old-fashioned traits are brought to the fore amid splashes of experimentation. It’s still a right load of heavy, it’s still a death metal album and it’s the strongest attack the band have mounted since ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’. Raise your horns and bang your head, otherwise Amon Amarth will chop it off.

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