There are very few bands in this day and age – an age of short attention spans and seemingly disposable media – that can afford the luxury of not feeling the need or inclination of reinventing themselves with every new album release. Many bigger bands have tried this, such as the likes of METALLICA for instance and not quite gotten it right, so it would seem its something of a double edged sword: tread the same path time and time again and face loosing fans, or reinvent the wheel and risk the very same thing happening.
But then there’s AMON AMARTH. One of the very few bands that have chosen the first path and actually come out the other-side stronger and more determined, whilst picking up more and more fans along the way. It seems the band can do very little wrong and have a formula that the modern metal fan seeks and embraces with open arms. Its not hard to see why really is it? The band have got the Norwegian Viking aesthetics down to a tee, and when you add the rally-rousing battle anthems to the mix, its difficult to not get swept up in the melee!
And so for the most part, i could possibly end the review at this point, as anyone that’s had even the remotest of encounters with AMON AMARTH will know exactly what they’re in for with this, their 10th full length album, “Jomsviking”. But then, that would be doing the band something of a disservice, as if you look back to “Once Sent From The Golden Hall” to this new release, they have now ultra-refined their brand of melodic death metal and it’s as sharp and as deadly as the illustrated War Axe on the album’s cover art.
The super-chuggy guitar tone is all present and correct that gives the band their accessible death metal anchor, and its clear the they’ve also extended their love of the twin guitar harmonies to almost IRON MAIDEN heights, as are the marching rhythms and rousing battle beats you”’ have come to expect. What AMON AMARTH have also managed to refine is the use of dynamics in the songwriting – you can just tell these hymns have been honed to perfection in the practice arena before they are to be set upon an unsuspecting live audience as not only are the melodies and musical hooks catchy and memorable, but so are the vocal parts and choruses. You wont stand a chance next time it comes to seeing these guys live. To quote some lyrics – “There’s nowhere to hide, nowhere to run” – as you’re going to be swept up with the rest of the crowd singing back EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. And you’re going to love it!
There is plenty of pace in the album, as stories of rampaging Vikings seemingly works best with an upbeat tempo, so tracks like “First Kill”, “At Dawns First Light” and “Vengeance is Mine” will make you feel like you’re part of the raiding party, but there are also slower more thoughtful moments that’ll help you catch breath and take stock (“One Thousand Burning Arrows”). Another of these could be classed as a duet ballad! Don’t panic die-hard fans, these Vikings aren’t quite ready to retire to Valhalla just yet, but as something of a departure for the band “A Dream That Cannot Be” sees them join forces with none other than DORO PESCH who brings a wonderful vocal performance to tell an almost Romeo and Juliette tale of forbidden love… except in this tale, the female lead puts up something more of a fight and isn’t so receptive of the advances! It works really well, and just goes to show that AMON AMARTH might not be the one trick warrior we thought them to be and adds a touch more dimension to the album.
“Jomsviking” could face the very criticism i mentioned in the opening of the review – its not a massive departure from what the band have produced before. Some will take the line of “If its not broken…”, while others will of course scoff at another AMOM AMARTH album. You will of course have your own thoughts and opinions, but for me, this has been a very welcome and enjoyable album despite it lacking any challenging moments. Just remember, this has been crafted for an excellent live experience perhaps more than an exceptional stereo one and you wont go far wrong.