Released: 2008, Metal Blade
Reviewer: The Crimson King
“If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it!”
The Swedish Viking Death crew of Amon Amarth have pretty much been following this age old adage since the release of their debut EP SORROW THROUGH THE NINE WORLDS. For over a decade now their sound, and formula, have remained pure and unchanged, perhaps more so than any other metal act that I can think of. Their meld of mid tempo death metal, melodic guitar leads, and lyrical themes referencing Norse mythology is certantly not unique to this brand of metal. The main difference lays in the fact that when listening to the band you can tell that they truly live and breathe the lifestyle upon which their songs are based. This is not a group of men writing songs about the lives of Vikings…This is a group of Vikings writing songs about life.
The newest chapter in their chronicle comes in the form of TWILIGHT OF THE THUNDER GOD. TWILIGHT comes on the heels of the band’s 2006 release WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE; an album that was uniformly praised throughout the metal community at the time, and was, in my opinion, the album of the year for 2006. And once again the band delivers in a major way. TWILIGHT OF THE THUNDER GOD provides 10 new tracks of horn raising, mead drinking, axe wielding, village pillaging metal that are sure to appease the bloodlust of the band’s stalwart fans. The album treads familiar ground, both sonically and thematically, by providing the standard heavy dose of melodic leads, fist pumping choruses, and lyrical themes found on any of the band’s other releases. The noticeable difference comes in the form of the production values of the release. The album clearly has a more polished sound to the instruments, which provides a distinct clarity between each instrument in the track. This allows for a cleaner low end, better bass and drum distinction, more vocal depth, and a true boost to the trademark melodic leads. While this does in a small way sacrifice some of the “rawness” of earlier albums, the overall finished product is much fuller sounding. And that sound truly helps to showcase some of the best writing and song crafting the band has done in its career.
The album opens with the first single, and title track, “Twilight of the Thunder God”. The song harkens back to the crushing style of great album openers like “Bleed for Ancient Gods “from THE AVENGER and “Bastards of a Lying Breed” from THE CRUSHER while still providing an immediately catchy chorus similar to a song like “Death in Fire.” The dual guitars are ever present throughout the track, and it is topped off by a somewhat uncharacteristic, albeit short, shred fest of a guitar solo that harkens back to 80’s Hammett. The song is just an absolute slab of metal, and ranks up there with some of the best tracks the band has ever done. The groove based “Free Will Sacrifice” follows, and presents the listener with the first true sing along melodic guitar lead of the album and is similar in style to “Runes to My Memory” from WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE. “Guardians of Asgard” comes next in the rotation, and may very well be the best track on the entire release. The verses are sung over a melodic five to six note repeating guitar pattern similar in style to band’s classic track “The Pursuit of Vikings” from THE FATE OF NORNS album, while the chorus is anthemicly growled over a slower doom style riff that has a faint but distinct feel of “War Machine” by Kiss. The melodic leads continue in a big way on “Varyagas of Miklagaard,” a song that just as easily makes you want to take up the oars on the nearest Drakkar as it does make you want to bang your head.
The album continues throughout to provide track after track of crushing riffs, thunderous vocals, and great leads. The band does change it up a bit on tracks like “Where Is Your God?” which places itself much more firmly in the vein of true death metal with the ferocious speed at which it’s played (similar to “Asator” from the previous album), and “Live for the Kill” (a song where the guitars sound like they may actually be tuned up out of the band’s standard “B” tuning heard on most tracks).where all the instruments fade into a 30 second solo cello section in the middle of the track before returning to the skull splitting tempo at which the song began. The band does not miss on a single track on this album. The only complaint I can muster with the release is that they did not record part two of “Lokes Treachery” which began with “Hermod’s Ride To Hel” on the last album, (a track that sits as one of my personal favorites by the band) and was eagerly anticipated by many of their fans. Metal Blade is providing multiple packages of the album that range from a standard CD only edition, a three disk set that will include a bonus live DVD and CD audio of that live show, a picture disk vinyl pressing of the release, and a $140 box set that includes all of the above listed as well as a special edition comic printed on parchment paper and individual bobble-head statues of each member in the band (the latter being only available through Metal Blade’s web site and limited to 2,000 pressings)
In summation, Amon Amarth have produced another standout album that can take a rightful place amongst the best in their catalogue. The band, as always, has stayed true to their formula, and true to the type of metal they write. It never ceases to amaze me how they are able to never deviate from the path they have tread, and yet continue to keep each release sounding fresh and new, rather than rehashed. If you are a fan of the band, I can in no way imagine that you will find the release anything but spectacular. For those of you looking to explore the band for the first time this album is a fantastic starting point. So grab your drinking horns, fill them with your favorite mead, and raise them high in a salute to another legendary release by what very well may be the best band on the planet in this, or any other age.