AMON AMARTH
"Berserker"

(Metal Blade)

01. Fafner's Gold
02. Crack the Sky
03. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor
04. Shield Wall
05. Valkyria
06. Raven's Flight
07. Ironside
08. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge
09. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails
10. Skoll and Hati
11. Wings of Eagles
12. Into the Dark

RATING: 8/10

If we are all being honest with ourselves, if you clicked on the link that opens this review page, you likely already know exactly what AMON AMARTH sounds like. While other younger bands take a few albums to find their groove, and other veteran bands feel a need to experiment unnecessarily, these Swedish stalwarts figured out what they were good at almost immediately. The group's formula of catchy melodic death metal anthems that pay tribute to Viking tales and Norse mythology has proven to be a reliable, fan-pleasing concoction. There may be minor tweaks here and there from album to album, but over twenty years and eleven albums, AMON AMARTH is one of the ultimate comfort-food bands in the metal genre.

If you have been on-board with what AMON AMARTH does prior to today, album opener "Fafner's Gold" is a reassuring opening salvo. An epic aura is generated during the first few seconds of the track, transitioning into riffs from the band's playbook of traditional Swedish melo-death that is tempered by catchy groove, while Johan Hegg's burly trademark barks lend life to another tale of battle. And once again, the album that follows contains slight variances from track-to-track. Longtime fans that have embraced the shout-along battle cries of live favorites such as "Guardians of Asgaard", from 2008's "Twilight of the Thunder God", will be sure to do the same when "Raven's Flight" and "Wings of Eagles" enter the set list. The former is bolstered by the most aggressive mosh breakdown on the album, while the latter is highlighted by the record's most purely triumphant chorus.

Fans that have been drawn to AMON AMARTH by the band's penchant for catchy melodic metal grooves will again find those overflowing. Catchy groove riffs underscore the equally catchy chorus of "Shield Wall", while "Valkyria" begins with a Scandinavian spin on a PANTERA riff before launching into another call to battle.

The one notable variance in the group's overall sound on "Berserker" is found in Johan Hegg's vocal delivery. His abrasive bark remains mostly constant throughout, however there are a few prominent instances of him taking a break and making a play for potential voiceover work. "Crack the Sky" and "Ironside" most notably are tempered by brief passages where Hegg communicates his Viking message via narrative spoken word. The transitions into and out of these fleeting moments are well-executed, and Hegg still commands a vocal presence that signifies a bright future in film trailer and video-game voice-over work should the opportunities present themselves.

Those concerned about the group relocating to sunny Southern California for the recording of "Berserker" can rest easy. Save for a reference to "yearning for those warm summer days" so they can head into battle at sea again on "When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails", AMON AMARTH's new album is another display of Scandinavian Viking metal supremacy. The group somehow manages to keep finding water in the Viking well, with no signs of dying of thirst anytime soon.

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