Word from Asgard is that Surtur is among the most ancient of Norse deities. He is the leader of the fire giants who plays a major role in Ragnarok — the Armageddon-like series of events that sees the demise of Odin, Thor, Loki and many others — before eventually bringing forth the flames that will engulf the planet. In other words, dude is a total bad-ass. No, not even the great warlock Charlie Sheen could hold up against the might of Surtur's flaming sword. So as the ancient one ascends from below to reduce us all to char and ashes, we might as well sit back and enjoy a kick-ass metal album while the temperature rises. Oh wait, here's one…
The eighth studio release from Swedish Viking lords AMON AMARTH is quite possibly the most battle-ready and aggressive collection of tunes to ever carry the Viking metal label. The beauty part is that the band hasn't shifted their game plan an iota, they've just fought harder and fiercer than anyone else out there. In true AMON AMARTH fashion, the disc gets off to a fiery start with the absolutely crushing "War Of The Gods". Powerful and thrashing riffs, triumphant melodies and thundering war drums combine for one hell of an opening salvo. Let the arrows fly! "Destroyer Of The Universe" is another rager that shall one day echo through the halls of Vallhalla. Led by frontman Johann Hegg's wolf-like growl, this is the sort of tune that drags the listener in by the ears before crushing his skull. Equally infectious is "Slaves Of Fear", thanks to some masterclass riffing from guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg and the song's evolved structure. More than any other point in the album, "Slaves Of Fear" really shows just how far AMON AMARTH has progressed as songwriters.
As you've probably figured out, "Surtur Rising" is ripe with offerings of crushing, yet catchy Viking metal. This is just one of those albums that give little reason to stop pumping your fist in triumph. Legions will march to the tune of "The Last Stand Of Frej". Cities will topple while the measured pummel of "Wrath Of The Norsemen" screams down from the mountain. "For Victory Or Death" shall be the battle cry and when the dust settles (or when final seconds of closer "Doom Over Dead Man" fade out of existence) AMON AMARTH will stand tall amongst the broken bones and rubble.
Innovators and now masters of Norse folklore-inspired melodeath, AMON AMARTH have paved the streets of Gothenburg with the thinly-sliced flesh of their imitators this time out. "Surtur Rising" is like being bludgeoned by your favorite warhammer. Definitely a contender for this year's best.