AMON AMARTH — Jomsviking (review)

AMON AMARTH — Jomsviking album cover Album · 2016 · Melodic Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
If there’s any single band that warrants the term Viking metal to exist as a bona fide subgenre in the greater metal universe than surely AMON AMARTH deserves to exist in that world with their parade of Norse mythology themed albums incorporating enough history, symbology and lyrical content to make Odin one happy camper. Well, guess what! Once again the band dish out some seriously deliciously melodic slices of heavy metal with all the usual themes and familiar sounds that crank it out loud and proud. JOMSVIKING is the 10th studio album from the band and sees the first band member change from their long stable lineup since 1999 with their constant millennial drummer Fredrik Andersson exiting stage left. The band opted not to hire an official replacement and instead decided to incorporate Tobias Gustafsson as a session drummer instead. The good news is that he fits in quite well and has a more than competent drumming style to keep the band cranking out their famous blend of classic 80s metal hooks and melodies with their deathened thrash bombast.

JOMSVIKING sees the band parting from their business-as-usual approach (well somewhat) of cranking out one predictable album after another and throws a few curve balls to the mix. Don’t worry. They didn’t suddenly become an electronica band or anything of the sort. This album incorporates all those divinely splendid songwriting skills with addictive hooks, excellently performed instrumental deliveries, guttural growls and that perfect production that keeps it somewhat raw sounding while mixing in a nice smooth crisp clear mix. The first difference is that this is the band’s first concept album. JOMSVIKINGS constitute a fictional tribe in some distant past and the story is about a young dude who falls big time for a girl who’s being married off. After he kills a man he has to escape and live in exile but is obsessed with winning her back. As time goes on he becomes a bitter man and the saga devolves into his realizing that his life had been destroyed and he only lives to find revenge.

JOMSVIKING is also the second of the “blue” phase of the band’s career (following eight albums of orange/red/black album covers. This corresponds to a new direction and the addition of the newest producer Andy Sneap. While “Deceiver Of The Gods” pretty much continued down the same path as “Surtur Rising,” the album did feel somewhat different in how the songs were unfolding. The songwriting has shifted even more dramatically on JOMSVIKING. While usually classified as melodic death metal, AMON AMARTH cranks out a more classic 80s riffs and at times with their dual guitar assaults can remind one of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest only with the death vocals and thrashy veneer that creates an addictive sound. There are also groove metal riffs, acoustic intros and even additions of Swedish folk music entering the sound as on “Raise Your Horns” and short softer spoken word passages as on “At Dawn’s First Light.” Also for a second album in a row there is a guest vocalist. This time around it’s Doro Pesch on “A Dream That Cannot Be.”

Twenty years after their first release the “Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds” EP finds the band continually honing their sound and tightening their songwriting skills. The band shows no sign of letting up any time soon with an endless wellspring of crunchy metal melodies just gushing from their source. JOMSVIKING is yet another excellent release that as expected does little to reinvent the metal universe but when a band comes up with a sound that so effortlessly blends the best aspects of melodic metal with extreme brutality then it’s no doubt that they should stick to what they know best. While the band has utilized more softer passages with acoustic guitar intros and non-metal accoutrements, any hardcore fans of AMON AMARTH will not be disappointed with yet another strong well written slice of Nordic mythology being bombastically accompanied by those jagged guitars, pummeling drum runs and of course the passionate growling gusto of Johan Hegg. Although i don’t really find any of AMON AMARTH’s releases to reach masterpiece level, i am impressed with their consistency and the later albums including this one to be a sliver more interesting than past endeavors. Another excellent release even if it may feel like it’s mostly been done a few times in the past.
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