Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising

Amon Amarth

Surtur Rising

01. War of the Gods
02. Tock’s Taunt-Loke’s Treachery Part II
03. Destroyer of the Universe
04. Slaves of Fear
05. Live Without Fear
06. The Last Stand of Frej
07. For Victory of Death
08. Wrath of the Norsemen
09. A Beast Am I
10. Doom Over Dead Man

[Metal Blade]
[3/29/2011]

Most of you out there probably already know what you think about Amon Amarth, and the Viking metal horde’s eighth album, Surtur Rising, will most likely do little to change that.  For me, Amon Amarth are a band you absolutely have to be in the mood for to fully appreciate, and if you’re not in the proper beard-stroking, circle-headbanging, village-pillaging, mead-swilling, epic-as-fuck-death-before-dishonor-warrior frame of mind, they are just a very good melodic death metal band.  BUT, when you are really in the mood for Amon Amarth, they are the best. band. EVER.

Seriously…

So anyway, before I continue-let’s clear a few things up and get some negative criticism out of the way…in most respects, Surtur Rising is not as good as their previous record, 2008’s Twilight of the Thunder God. But for me, that’s like saying …And Justice For All is not as good as Master of Puppets. How could it be?  By matter of personal opinion, you could make arguments both ways, and though …Justice is a phenomenal record, it’s just really hard to follow up your masterpiece, ya know? And to me, Thunder God was Amon Amarth’s absolute finest hour, the band’s crowning acheivement. So although Surtur arguably has superior production, tighter performances, better lead guitar work, and shows some very nice signs of evolution in the Amon Amarth sound, I can’t help but feel some dissappointment when listening to it.

Much of this can of course be blamed on my undying boner for Thunder God. That and the fact that the songs, although undeniably badass, are simply not as good or as memorable as those on Thunder God. The band falls back too often on similar sounding chord progressions, stock pedal tone riffs, and tremolo picked passages. It all works just fine, but it gets a little repetitive-you will swear you have heard more than a few parts of the album before. And the other thing that is often missing is less tangible, the sheer epic-ness (with a capital E, P, I, and C) of their past work. The songs that give you chills every time because they are so beautiful and inspiring without employing any gimmicks or a single ounce of pretension. Songs that light a fire under your ass and make you want to go into battle, literally.

However, Amon Amarth have always been a band where I get so stuck on their current release that I am always somewhat reluctant to get into anything new they put out.  But the new records always end up growing on me slowly and steadily like a fungus until their next album comes out, and then the process starts over again. Of course, this is hilariously ironic in this case since Amon Amarth have never been a band to sellout, or drastically alter their sound, or do anything at all to alienate or disappoint their core fan base. They put out album after killer album of top notch Viking metal, it’s not like (to use the Metallica reference again) they are throwing Load’s, ReLoad’s, and St. Anger’s at us.

So I’ll stop complaining. I can already feel this album growing on me like a motherfucker, and as I mentioned above, their are plenty of redeeming qualities to be found on Surtur Rising. Johan Hegg’s roaring vocals are right on the money as always, and the rhythm section of  Ted Lundström and Fredrik Andersson are as solid and dependable as ever. Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg have noticeably stepped up their guitar game as well. There are more solos this time out (“War of the Gods”, “Slaves of Fear”), a nice variety of clean guitar passages (“Live Without Fear”, and the awesome left-turn outro of “A Beast Am I”) and sparing use of effects throughout to add flavor to their trademark sound.

The song structures are often more unpredictable and textured than in the past as well. There are orchestral strings on closing track “Doom Over Dead Man” , an almost stoner metal riff that opens “The Last Stand of Frej”, and a cool spoken-word part on “War of the Gods”. The experimentation is refreshing and commendable, but Amon Amarth is not really a band I look to for experimentation and boundary pushing-I’ll go to Between The Buried And Me, Devin Townsend, or Dillinger Escape Plan for that, among many others.

All in all this is a very solid Amon Amarth release, and I’m sure many of these songs will fit right in to the band’s unstoppable and incredibly fun live show. Don’t let the negative aspects of this review discourage you from checking it out, because this album still kicks all kinds of ass-even if it isn’t grabbing me the same way their older material does.

Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising gets…

3/5

– JB

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