AMON AMARTH return with their tenth album, "Jomsviking", as longtime drummer Fredrik Andersson departs to begin a new project, THIS ENDING. This latest venture through Norse mythology and barbaric fantasy is likely to become an instant fan favorite. A Jomsviking is considered to be a harbinger of destruction, and in this one's honor, this album is chock-a-block loaded with lyrical blood flinging on top of the headbanging mania AMON AMARTH fans have come to expect. There's also a shrewd maneuver on the band's part to smuggle in a party vibe or two, which makes this newest slab a lot of fun.
"First Kill" opens and is a speed demon. Triumphantly heralded in by a heroic marching intro, Johan Hegg snarls blood-spattered life into his berserker's gory narration, which is yanked straight out of Norse lore and pulp novels. "I had to wipe his smile away," Hegg ralphs as "First Kill" flails with a tuneful chorus giving voice to a slayer renouncing his homeland, father and any form of patronage. This leads into the mid-tempo puncher "Wanderer", which gives new drummer Tobias Gustafsson opportunity to show off a tough set of chops. Here they are dropped as sturdily as his thrash kicks and double hammers on "First Kill", "On a Sea of Blood" and the sweat-flung "One Against All". While fans may miss Fredrik Andersson, fear not: Gustafsson does a solid job on this album.
"The Way of Vikings" is stuffed with rolling thunder and a catchy shout-along chorus, while "Raise Your Horns" is a ridiculously clever anthem. How clever? Well, "Horns" has the double connotation of throwing the devil horns in the air toward AMON AMARTH as it does lifting ale-filled replica horn flasks on high. Already masters of cross-marketing, AMON AMARTH could easily follow up their porter home brew, "Ragnark", with a potential "Jomsviking" beer to load those flagons for live renditions of "Raise Your Horns".
"At Dawn's First Light" is a superb, battle-mad pounder with IRON MAIDEN-nicked power metal riffs, wielded and swung as the lyrical maces and broadswords cleaving within the song. Followed by the slower yet melodic "One Thousand Burning Arrows", AMON AMARTH fuses a funereal reverie amidst the clanging chaos and the death of the song's overthrown monarch. "Vengeance is My Name" clouts and clubs thereafter to keep the album thrusting.
A huge highlight of "Jomsviking" comes with the appearance of Doro Pesch on "A Dream That Cannot Be". While Doro's supporting vocals seem turned down a bit, her rugged pealing is a snappy counterpart to Johan Hegg, giving the song a feisty loft. High-fantasy freaks might want to whirl this one while reading the two recent Conan and Red Sonja miniseries.
As "Jomsviking" ends with the seven-minute epic "Back on Northern Shores", the album, like many of AMON AMARTH's previous albums (i.e. "Twilight of the Thunder Go", "Deceiver of the Gods" and "Surtur Rising"), feels like a full-fleshed tale where you know the tavern's the first destination for spirits and bragging rights, not necessarily reunion with kin. To this point, AMON AMARTH just doesn't know how to suck. "Jomsviking" may be slicker than their earlier, more brutal days of "Once Sent From the Golden Hall" and "The Crusher", but it carries forth those albums' legacies of carnage with more harmony — and an ale-raising toast jam, to boot. Skal!