Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amon Amarth - With Oden On Our Sides

Thunder rolls across the plains...

Amon Amarth... what a band. When I went off on my tangent about how much Sweden sucks in my Persuader review, I managed to completely forget about one of the greatest prospects from that ass of a country, Amon Amarth. To me, they have the Alpha and Omega, but none of the rest of the alphabet. What I mean by that is that their beginning and end are astounding, but the middle never goes much higher than "a bit above mediocre". Once Sent from the Golden Hall is their Alpha, and With Oden on our Sides is the Omega at this point in their careers. I really hope this isn't the last good album though, but so far this stands as the only amazing one since their debut.

Lets get one thing straight, this album is LOUD! Holy dick, I almost blew out my car speakers after buying this one. This adds nothing but positivity though, so don't think I'm knocking the production or anything. Most of the songs are slightly above mid pace (although there are songs like Asator that completely obliterate), and all are rife with melody. So I guess this could be classified as melodic death metal by definition, but it should never be grouped with the likes of At the Gates or In Flames, it is far more aggressive than anything they've ever pulled off. Johan Hegg is one of the better death growlers in the business right now. His wet, vicious, and throaty roar compliments the tales of bloody viking violence very well. You can actually see the poor chump getting his head split open in Valhall Awaits One while the vocalist stands there, wind from the storm on the battlefield blowing his hair and beard back, standing triumphantly with one arm slightly behind him, clenched fist, and the other arm holding the axe that is now fully embedded in his foe's skull while he lets out the mighty roar of "VAAALHAALL AWAITS MEE.... WHEN I DIIIIIEEEE". So in case you can't tell, the vocals are the highlight of this album. That's not to say there aren't great solos or melodies or that the drums aren't solid, they just don't stand out over Hegg's best performance to date.

The album opens with the aforementioned Valhall Awaits One, and it is one hell of an opener. It doesn't play around with a pretty intro, it just starts and kills you from the beginning. Lyrically, this is essentially just a five minute long, graphic description of somebody getting an axe driven through his forehead, but that is pretty much the manliest of all subjects one can possibly write a song about. It features a nice melodic solo, with plenty of memorable and equally melodic... well, melodies throughout. This also reminds you one of the reasons many people got into Amon Amarth in the first place, the riffs. These guys are masterful riff writers, and even when they were in their musical slump, the riffs were always heavy and memorable.

Runes to my Memory, Gods of War Arise, Hermod's Ride to Hel Lokes Treachery part. I, and Under the Northern Star are all mid paced, but they are just as furious as the sheer speed in the title track or Cry of the Black Birds or the even more extreme speed of Asator. Asator ranks as my favorite song, not only on the album, but in Amon Amarth's entire discography. That's right, in front of fan favorites such as Death in Fire, Victorious March, or Releasing Surtur's Fire, Asator is the one song that just rips face from beginning to end with no apologies. It is ironically also the shortest song they have ever written, so maybe that means their songs tend to drag on usually?

In a way, yes. I hate to say it, but Gods of War Arise and Prediction of Warfare really go on for far too long. That is one of the only complaints on the album though. For the most part, the songs are catchy, the riffs are amazing, the melodies are memorable, the song structures vary and remain interesting. I've always been amazed by the sound they manage to get out of their guitars. The riffs are all really, REALLY thundering and crunchy. They pretty much cover and aspect of "heavy" that Black Sabbath might have forgotten to define. Most of them gallop, but they are almost always just..... great. It's hard to explain. Watch the video for Cry of the Black Birds if you don't understand what I'm saying.

So in the end, Amon Amarth delivers one of their best. The last two songs bring the record down a bit, as does Gods of War Arise, but the sheer masculinity and godliness of Asator and Cry of the Blackbirds will more than make up for any shortcomings that you can find elsewhere. A definite recommendation for all death metal fans and anybody who loves viking metal (this isn't your typical folky viking band though, these guys are pure, balls to the wall, heavy fucking metal through and through).

RATING - 90%

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