Known by metal fans alike as probably being the most reliable melodic death metal band currently in existence alongside acts such as Dark Tranquillity and Kalmah, Amon Amarth have hacked, slashed and burned their way through their 20-odd year tenure talking about vikings, viking raids and, err, more viking related stuff. Even on their weaker albums, generally regarded as 1999's "The Avenger" and 2001's "The Avenger" there was still some good material and tales of everything Norse to keep the listener entertained. And of course, since then the trajectory for Amon Amarth has only ever been up. Better production, ventures into slower, more melancholic and more cohesive material have been trademarks of the band since 2002 when they released the excellent "Versus the World" so its time to see if "Deceiver of the Gods" (probably their best album title to date, by the way) continues this trend.
Well, if first appearances were anything to go by then no. The bands previous two releases had absolutely incredible artwork, featuring the mythical giant Surtr pillaging some poor bastards village and Thor, the god of thunder battling Jormungandr the sea serpent (three guesses as to which cover related to which album). This cover is much more simplistic and while it is still very pretty, detailing the battle of the gods and Loki at Ragnarok, it just lacks the epic nature present on the previous two records. And does the simpler cover translate to the music? Well yes and no.
|Deceiver of the Gods: Pretty, just not as good as previous efforts|
The faster numbers feel much more stripped down and more akin to the faster moments of "Versus the World", only somewhat less cohesive than "Surtur Rising" but the slower songs feel much more fleshed out and developed. The band did mention how they wanted a change from Jens Bogren (Katatonia, Opeth, Symphony X) , one of extreme metals most acclaimed producers so they decided to go with Andy Sneap of Arch Enemy and Megadeth fame; so it is a little odd how a producer better known for his pacier records has pulled this feat off. Either way, there is little to complain about with a lot of the slower songs containing the biggest grooves the band has ever written, especially on album highlight "Under Siege" which has an absolutely world beating riff and one of the albums best instrumental passages halfway through. "We Shall Destroy" follows in the same suit, sounding like this albums version of "Guardians of Asgaard" with Johan Hegg utilising a slightly higher pitched vocal performance than we are used to.
The real treats of the album are however located in the final three songs, namely "Hel" and "Warriors of the North". "Hel" features a very notable guest performance from the ex-Candlemass singer Messiah Marcolin, with his vocals really complimenting the near-middle eastern atmosphere the band shroud the song in. And it really does work, layering Johan Hegg with clean vocals. "Warriors of the North" is the of the longest songs that the band has recorded and has suitable warrior rallying lyrics with a very traditional Amon Amarth sound, despite what the opening Dark Tranquillity-esque riff will have you believe. Its an excellent throwback song to what the band sounded like on "Versus the World" and "Fate of Norns" in particular with some of the records best riffs after the two-minute mark. Of the faster songs, "Father of the Wolf" is the definite highlight with an awesome chorus that basically lists off all the awesome creatures of Norse mythology.
|Amon Amarth: Do NOT steal their mead. Johan Hegg will literally tear your head off|
For once, the songs with the greater pace on an Amon Amarth record are the only real problems because they are simply not that memorable. While the title track serves up a healthy dose of thrashing Norse metal, "As Loke Falls" and "Blood Eagle", despite the latter opening with what sounds like an axe splitting bone are just more Amon Amarth songs for the ages. The first half of the record is also much less memorable than the second half, but whether this is a testament to the strength of "Under Siege" onwards remains to be truly seen.
"Deceiver of the Gods" is far from Amon Amarth's best album. But is also far from their worst. Songs such as "Hel" and "Warriors of the North" are some of the strongest songs the band has ever recorded and in "Under Siege" they have written one of their heaviest ever songs which is an achievement in itself, plus it helps the song is a definite album highlight. Its somewhat sad that the faster songs, traditionally some of the best in the bands extensive catalogue are also the weakest here but when you have tales of castles under siege and frost-bitten warriors slaying beast and man alike, its hard not to succumb to the Amon Amarth charm. Here's to another great album, chaps