Release: 25th of March, 2016
Label: Metal Blade
By Wouter B.
Since having been sent from the Golden Halls in 1998, Amon Amarth has released nine impressive studio albums. The tenth will be released on the 25th of March 2016. For this anniversary, a concept album has been hammered together, called Jomsviking. I’m wondering if Odin is still on their side?
Amon Amarth, (in)famous for their Viking inspired melodic death metal, don’t require a lot of introduction. Since their magnificent album Versus the World and subsequent releases, they have become headliners almost every summer when touring. The grand sing-along Death in Fire still manages to both stir my Northern longings and break my neck in parallel. So when Jomsviking happened to fly around at ME headquarters, I made sure it landed on my desk.
The concept album opener, First Kill, tells a story of a boy, killing his Jarls’ right hand for taking his love away. In his flight and exile he becomes part of the legendary Jomsvikings. These were an elite troupe of Viking warriors, reputedly fighting for whoever was willing to pay their substantial rates. The life and the way of life of the boy is put to music on the ensuing songs; using what might be expected from Amon Amarth: Johann Heggs’ brutally heavy voice combined with Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderbergs flawless guitar mix of heavy riffing and trademark solos. The album has many sides, varying from blasting aggressive songs (Sea of Blood and Vengenance Is My Name) and to grand themed songs such as One Thousand Burning Arrows and Back on Northen Shores. Even a real tragic song, a duet with Doro Pesh, A Dream That Cannot Be, oh romance…
The music is, as we are by now used to from Amon Amarth, very well done. Maybe this one is musically one of their best efforts committed to recording. The melodies are infective, yet the bass guitar and beats are sufficiently aggressive. The songs have a tendency to grow permanent tentacles into your brain. The production is fine (here and there slightly surpassing the point of overproduction) and better than I’m used to from them. Still somewhat flattened due to the compression, but that seems to be the sad standard nowadays.
Yet I cannot help but feel somewhat underwhelmed with the concept. Never change a winning team. Vast vocals and Vikings. Scandinavia and great guitars. Battle and battering drums. Vengeneance. Blood. Oh, did I mention Vikings?
On the other hand, you have to hand it to Amon Amarth: they produce very consistent high quality music, manage to entertain greatly live, inspire many of us to read the Edda(s) and visit Scandinavia’s many Viking remnants (and maybe once in a while feeling the bigger Viking and drinking one horn too many). For the fans of their earlier work (yours truly included) not looking for change (yours truly not included), this is another great addition and celebration of 10 albums of having Odin on their side.
1. First Kill
3. On A Sea Of Blood
4. One Against All
5. Raise Your Horns
6. The Way Of Vikings
7. At Dawn‘s First Light
8. One Thousand Burning Arrows
9. Vengeance Is My Name (bonus track – for digibook, digital, LP, and viking ship editions)
10. A Dream That Cannot Be (Featuring Doro Pesch)
11. Back On Northern Shores