REVIEW: Amon Amarth – ‘Jomsviking’

amon amarth

Artist: Amon Amarth
Album: Jomsviking
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Death metal

While there are a number of bands out there that blend metal and their Nordic heritage, you would be hard-pressed to name one who has done so as consistently well as Amon Amarth. By eschewing the traditional folk music influences and committing to the viking theme, lyrically and visually, maximum heaviness is always achieved.

This brings us to the band’s latest album, Jomsviking. As their first concept record and first without a permanent drummer in place, after the departure of Fredrik Andersson, a lot remained to be seen and heard from this tenth full-length release.

As is the case with many bands that have been in the game this long and achieved as high of a profile, the production is very clean. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract from the heaviness in any way; it merely accentuates their best qualities while also having some of the catchiest moments of the band’s career. Like with their previous (and slightly underrated) effort, Deceiver of the Gods, Amon Amarth worked with Andy Sneap in the producer’s chair. That familiarity surely helped make them comfortable, and in turn, more inclined to branch out.

Leading off with “First Kill” is a fantastic primer for the listener, giving longtime fans something they can sink their teeth into while also being a hint of what’s to come. “On A Sea of Blood” brings some mighty riffage to the party, as you would expect. All throughout the collection, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg weave their leads together, producing some unexpected, harmonized effects. Since the lyrics are his domain, singer Johan Hegg really takes it upon himself to bring it like never before. Paying attention to the ambitious narrative will result in another level of appreciation for the album.

What doesn’t necessarily work so well are some of the spoken word interludes. A track like “At Dawn’s First Light” incorporates the characters’ speeches seamlessly and is a smart way to help get the song started. “Vengeance Is Mine” also uses a quick clip to introduce things and does it well. Elsewhere, though, it slightly disrupts the album’s flow and seems a little overwrought. It’s hard to know what to make of “A Dream That Cannot Be” with the guest vocals of Doro Pesch. The verses are so brutally heavy that you’ll need to shave after the song ends, regardless of gender. Doro’s vocals are certainly a different ingredient for the band and make sense in the context of the album, but it’s not as though they will be doing the song live very often, in any form, no matter how well it is received.

There is a lot of speed here, but more tracks than expected fall into the mid-tempo range. Speaking of the catchiness mentioned earlier, “Raise Your Horns” is an example of the band simplifying things a little too much for the sake of digestibility and perhaps some degree of commercial viability and crowd participation.

It is to the band’s credit that they attempted something new with this concept and taking their long-running commitment to the Viking theme to a whole new level. If they would have just churned out another batch of quality, violent metal songs, no one would have blamed them. In fact, they would likely be praised nearly as much as they should be with this. Their resistance to inertia is commendable and Jomsviking should be considered a success.

Now go pillage something!

SCORE: 7/10

J.J. Ellis

J.J. Ellis hosts Decent Exposure Radio every Friday night on WXLV where he spins tunes (if it rocks, it's fair game) and shares interviews that he conducts.Whenever he isn't doing that, J.J. is a sketch comedy writer and occasional improviser.Lastly, he is the Allentown DVD Examiner where he watches and reviews things that come out to home video.
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