There was a time when AMON AMARTH was accepted by the average fan as little more than "that cool Viking metal band" living in the shadows of Sweden's more popular acts. That began to change with the release of 2002's "Versus the World", and the momentum picked up considerably with the 2004 follow-up "Fate of Norns". Having opened a few ears the world over and solidifying its fan base, AMON AMARTH strikes with a stake through the heart on "With Oden on Our Side", a heavier album than refines the band's patented melodic death metal style. Though no major departure from the past two releases, there are noteworthy tweaks and a continued dedication to songwriting quality.This extra boost of aggression alluded to above is apparent from the opening notes of the up-tempo "Valhall Awaits Me", one of several tracks that boasts a basic and memorable chorus. But it is on "Cry of the Black Birds" and especially "Asator" that the quintet lets it rip in speedy death/thrash fashion. The classic AMON AMARTH sound (i.e., the grandness of the chords, the warriors-on-the-march visuals created by the music) is most pronounced on "Gods of War Arise" and the title track. The way in which Johan Hegg, who stretches his already impressive voice just a little further on this one, makes you believe that battles are being waged nearby is always impressive, and these songs are no different. Similar words could be uttered about the battlefield-march vibe created by "Prediction of Warfare" and the melancholy "Under the Northern Star". As always, the harmonies and overall playing of guitarists Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen are filled with class and distinction. Though the AMON AMARTH method of harmonizing has been a hallmark of the band for some time now, a few minor twists and the utilization of alluring two-part playing (i.e. "Runes to my Memory") may lift the guitar work on "With Oden on our Side" above that of past efforts. There is more in the way of soloing as well; though still basically melodic leads, the boys open things up a bit more than what was heard in years past. Long-time fans of AMON AMARTH's work will not be disappointed with "With Oden on Our Side" and, given time, may even place it above "Versus the World" and "Fate of Norns". I've not yet made up my mind, but can say with complete confidence that all three albums are worth the purchase price. "With Oden on our Side" just happens to have more bite to it, always a welcome quality in my book.
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