In the 2000s, metal went through a strange phase. Scandinavian high octane melodeath bands found a shared passion for melody, hooks, and flashy guitar work with power metal bands as well new lyrical inspiration from folklore. Overnight, it seems metal spawned a whole scene with a new pool of clichés (well, sort of new) to exploit. Folk metal was nothing new at the time but there was a huge rebranding of it and every label was jumping on board. New bands popped up every year, some great and some boring as hell. One of these bands, Ensiferum, unfortunately introduced heavy metal’s most notorious edging expert, Jari Mäenpää, into the world. Jari left in 2004 to focus on Wintersun, but Ensiferum has continued its steady output of quality music since his departure. Their new album, Two Paths, continues their streak.
I discovered Myrkgrav in the years of my youth when review scores on The Metal Archives were as comprehensive and inarguable as Michelin stars. So Trollskau, skrømt og kølabrenning’s 99% score (albeit on three reviews) revved my anticipation for epic folk metal in the vein of Finntroll. What I received, however, paraded no beer-pounding jolliness or magnificent bombast, but was instead a softer and more stony-faced dialect of folk metal I haven’t heard before or since.
Amon Amarth has been one of the most consistently excellent melodic death metal bands to come through the pipes in the last two decades. Over the years, they’ve honed and refined their sound from the raw death metal ferocity of Once Sent from the Golden Hall into a cleaner, more accessible melodic death metal sound. Their graduation away from raw brutality happened largely in landmark leaps at a few points in their career. Because of this, I’ve taken the liberty of dividing Amon Amarth’s career into three distinct sonic stages in order to more closely examine the Amon Amarth of yesterday and today.