Amon Amarth joins the fight with The Great Heathen Army, their twelfth album.
Since 1992 (or 1988 under the name of Scum) in Sweden, which means thirty years, the band led by Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen (guitar) and Ted Lundström (bass, ex-Eternal Oath), followed by Johan Söderberg (guitar) and Jocke Wallgren (drums, ex-October Tide, ex-Valkyrja) develops the Nordic universe on a background of Melodic Death. Ready for the battle?
The band starts with Get in the Ring, a massive track with Old School harmonics which immediately reminds us of their first releases. The vocal parts are as efficient as ever, sometimes giving way to martial tones to pace this wave of catchy rage which drives us to The Great Heathen Army, the eponymous track, which will instantly increase the tempo with efficient jerky patterns. The energetic heaviness welcomes some more airy tones which perfectly blend with this impressive sound before giving way to Heidrun and its assumed Nordic Folk roots. The heady and catchy riffs are as aggressive as accessible with these continuous palm-mutes, then Oden Owns You All comes back on a heavy and threatening atmosphere. The band once again dips into Old School roots as well as raw Death Metal to offer a crushing sound, especially before the very melodic final, followed by a devastating acceleration then Find a Way or Make One, a track which is again very accessible while offering heavier parts. The heady melodies follow one another with simple vocal parts, making this track one of the band’s next live anthems, while Dawn of Norsemen will offer epic sounds which sometimes reach Power Metal. The constant drums coupled with the riffs’ mastery and raw vocals perfectly fit the cliché that we could have of the band, but the soft break will come to surprise us before igniting again the rhythmic, which will offer a more powerful sound before leaving us with Saxons and Vikings, a track on which the band will welcome three members of the British Heavy Metal band Saxon: Biff Byford (vocals), Doug Scarratt (guitar) and Paul Quinn (guitar). The meeting between massive but catchy Melodic Death and epic Heavy Metal influences perfectly suits the surprising and effective vocal duo, then Skagul Rides with Me lets the band go back to their favorite style. The majestic choirs strengthen the intensity of those epic choruses, which will end with the disturbing The Serpent’s Trail and its dark sounds, which come to close the album by giving the vocalist a greater freedom, in particular with these spoken parts which punctuate the track before giving free rein to screams and impressive riffs again.
One can never blame Amon Amarth for staying true to their roots. But for the past few years, the band has been innovating by dipping into various influences, and The Great Heathen Army is undoubtedly the highlight. The band continues to rev themselves up, and seems now unstoppable.