Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Amon Amarth : "Jomsviking"

If you make so called "viking metal" and consistently leave me feeling luke warm about what you do then there is a problem. This Swedish band who now finds themselves on their tenth album is not the only offender when it comes to this. It's not unlike how I felt when I went to the Norway exhibit at Epcot, they would leave you to believe there is nothing more to the culture than sweaters, trolls and Frozen. Granted of all the Scandinavian cultures the Swedes often come across as if they are overcompensating for birthing Abba and are the most welcoming of western culture. This album doesn't remedy that problem, but they continue to fine tune what they do.

What Amon Amarth does is use the twin guitar attacks makes up for the vocals by carrying the weight of the melodies . Amon Amarth also makes me feel like what they do has already been done by Unleashed, just with bigger production and a tad more Iron Maiden in the guitar harmonies. They also have a sense of hooks that appeals to kids who grew up on Lamb of God. "First Kill" is well written and executed it just doesn't give him the empowering feeling that really good metal normally bestows upon me when it touches my ears. They come off very arena rockish on "Wanderer" The vocals are the only thing that keep them firmly planted in death metal rather than power metal. As the song begins to live up to its title and wander it also loses my attention until the melodic breakdown that gets ruined by the spoken word section.

"On a Sea of Blood" picks up the pace, meeting  at the cross roads of thrash and death metal.When the vocals dip into the lower growl to join the more chugged groove the results are rather impressive. "One Against All" has some powerful riffing, but loses it at the chorus even with the gang vocals.Lyrically it's all Dungeons and Dragons foolishness. The vocals are well produced and I like it when he goes into the deeper growls. "Raise Your Horns" is equally parts 80's cheese and catchy modern metal. The accents adding by the layers of backing vocals are the songs' strongest quality.  When the speed up into the chorus it turns into the more typical viking metal drinking song. I can hear it going over big at festivals like Wacken.

"the Way of the Viking" feels like filler to me.  It's well played and they are hitting the right punches, but it's like LARPing vs a real battle. No manner of shredding solos can convince me otherwise. There is more of a thrashing attack to "Dawns First Light". The guitars sound bigger than they are heavy. The fact that there is more aggression to their sound than darkness is one of the x-factors that sets these guys in the middle of the road."One Thousand Burning Arrows" benefits from a more melodic backdrop and offers a little more emotional depth. These guys are no doubt riff machines many of them sound similar, but the chug always falls in just the right place. "A Dream That Can Not Be" is a little darker, touching on some meatier intervals with the lower growls helping to lower the mood before the female vocals come in. It's not Maria Brink, but the vocals have a similar quality.

In someways this album is an improvement for the band, but it's really splitting bear hairs as they are not really doing anything differently than they have before, unless we are talking their earlier work, as they now sit firmly in the middle of the road for where mainstream metal is at today.I'll give this one a 7.5.

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