It seems to be somewhat overlooked just how impressive Swedish death metallers Amon Amarth have grown in terms of status and position, especially for an extreme act. Somewhat under the radar for many for the early days of their career, out of nowhere 2008’s Twilight Of The Thunder God(Metal Blade) took the world by storm (pun intended) with some catchy, but still thunderous (ahem) death metal offerings. Further albums since have also seen high praise and more of the same sonically, culminating in a signing to a major label in Sony for European releases (still Metal Blade for North America). This is a death metal band we are talking about, this is huge news.
As a result of major label signing you could be forgiven for thinking the band may water down, but instead Jomsviking(Metal Blade/Sony) is in some ways, the band’s boldest album to date. Unsurprisingly Jomsviking goes down the Viking route again, but for the first time in the band’s career, this has a full conceptual narrative; that of a young man joining the elite Jomsviking after being separated from the love of his life, a befittingly tragic tale which invokes the ferocity of both its historical context, and of Amon Amarth’s music.
Musically the band have never been ones to deviate massively from their formula other than some examples of fine tuning or refining, and much is the same here. A mantra which did no harm for the likes of Motorhead and AC/DC and has certainly not done so for Amon Amarth. Thus, Jomsviking doesn’t throw any new surprises our way, other than some of the band’s finest and most instant songs to date. The white hot fury of ‘First Kill’ proves a suitably morbid and striking opener, whilst ‘Raise Your Horns’ is surely the most archetypal anthem the band has written thus far. Vocalist Johann Hegg may not have the most diverse of vocals but he pulls off individuality of differing characters with ease, whilst the addition of the legendary Doro Pesch on ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’ adds an extra dimension that could bolster the band further if explored further.
Amon Amarth are never going to make a Jazz fusion record or hugely surprise us; but what they do offer however is continuous refinement and subtle evolution, and Jomsviking is further evidence that Amon Amarth are still a huge and creative entity. The boldness of an in depth and intricate storyline intertwined with some of their strongest and catchiest songs to date, and you have perhaps the best album of their career.
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