Amon Amarth’s steady rise is an underground dream that’s defied the working reality of almost all their peers of the era.
Whereas most also-ran bands of the 90’s onwards have plugged away only remain in an obscurity that isn’t even that dignified, Amon Amarth have done the opposite.
Through solid touring and regular albums, they’ve actually become more successful than anyone could have credibly thought possible.
Simplicity has been their success. Their songwriting is the definition of bread and butter underground metal – giving fans what they want without having to think too hard.
This reached its undoubted high water mark on their last album, ‘Surtur Rising’. Listening to it, enjoying the tracks, you just couldn’t begrudge them their late career bounty. It was full of snappy riffs and those beery, guttural vocals.
The simplicity, and their slightly formulaic approach however is starting to sound a little like creative tiredness, to me anyway. I’m sure it’s great live, but on record, it lacks that vital punch that the last one had.
Lyrically, Amon Amarth have always told their tales in pretty much the same vocal pattern, and those are reprised across at least the first three tracks here ad nauseum, bracing as those tracks are on the surface. It’s just a bit samey.
Alright, so ‘As Loke Falls’ is nice and melodic, with good guitar tapping action and nice harmonies, even showing off a slight Maiden homage with that tinkling bell cymbal.
‘Father Of The Wolf’ though is just a bit dull – again with that predictable vocal pattern. ‘Shape Shifter’ is a bit better, deviating from the norm in pace and groove, but in truth I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this kind of thing from Six Feet Under.
The one massively rewarding track on this album is ‘Hel’ – a real anthem, and no doubt about it. And what makes it so? Well, only Messiah Marcolin providing epic guest vocals. His performace is electrifying on it, which coupled with its doomy stomp make it an absolute standout. Add a pinch of well executed Eastern melody and the whole thing’s a whopper.
The rest of it though seems quite take it or leave it. It’s nowhere near as consistent as ‘Surtur Rising’ and just sounds a bit perfunctory.
It goes without saying that it’ll still rock a sweaty venue sideways, and there’s no doubt about its enjoyment factor there. It’s hard not to get the sense that they’re painting by numbers at this stage, even if it all seems cool and pumping. ‘Coming Of The Tide’ for example is utterly disposable, and I bet the band know it.
Should you pick it up? I dunno – I reckon there’s a lot else out there at the moment that’s more musically deserving.
2.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 23/06/13