According to the Vikings, the world will end in an apocalyptic battle known as RagnarÃÂ¶k, in which the dead will rise to attack the living and even the gods themselves will be torn asunder. If - or when - Loki and the forces of chaos descend on the world in a maelstrom of blood and thunder, I'd like to think that the ensuing massacre would unfold to the tune of Amon Amarth. The Swedish five-piece, whose name is taken from the suitably geeky source of Tolkien's Middle Earth, have achieved international notoriety for their brand of Viking death metal, the kind of music only the Scandinavians can get away with playing without a hint of irony. It's been over thirteen years since the band released their first demo album Thor Arise and now eight long-plays later Metal Blade Records gives us With Oden on Our Side.
Amon Amarth's ninth album has been widely praised as their finest work to date, largely due to the facts that a) the band worked with a producer for the first time and that b) the songwriting process was much more focused and intense than ever before. The end product is nothing less than nine tracks of blood-soaked and thoroughly epic Metal (capitalization intentional). It's easy for music of this genre to become too cheesy - Manowar, Rhapsody - but Amon Amarth manage to pull it off, thanks in part to Johan Hegg, whose snarl sounds as if it came from the mouth of Thor himself.
Opener "Valhall Awaits Me" is a rousing battle cry that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the record. Each track, even the grim "Hermod's Ride to Hell - Lokes Treachery Part 1", is irresistibly energizing, stirring up the urge to pillage and plunder. Axe-men Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg play heavy, hard and fast, threading simple yet consistently effective licks through thunderous chords. The band has clearly found their formula for success and stick to it, without ever sounding old or tired.
7.5 / 10
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Amon Amarth will be touring North America with Sabaton and Skeletonwitch this fall. Check out the dates after the jump.
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