Released: 2013, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
It’s pretty cool when a band that’s been around as long as Sweden’s mighty Amon Amarth show they’ve still got a spirit for adventure and are obviously not satisfied to just plod along on cruise control. The quintet’s ninth studio album is arguably their heaviest and feistiest in a decade, while at the same time boasting some of their craftiest songwriting and performances.
That’s not to say Amon Amarth are straying that far from the melodic death metal drenched in Viking lore that has become their signature. But they certainly are intent on keeping things interesting. After the comparatively more melodic/less imposing With Oden On Our Side/Twilight of the Thunder God/Surtur Rising triumvirate, the band launch back into attack mode on Deceiver, charging headlong into battle with the title track and rarely breaking stride.
“We Shall Destroy” is no idle threat. The band backs it up in both words and action here, seeming part Viking horde, part thundering herd as they ride Fredrik Andersson’s galloping tempos while Johan Hegg’s ursine growl urges them on. It’s the kind of album that leaves you feeling trampled when it’s done – especially after the lock-step hooks of the crunching “Hel,” which is topped off by the guest yowls of ex-Candlemass singer Messiah Marcolin.
Hats off to producer Andy Sneap for embracing, if not encouraging, Amon Amarth’s aggressiveness here instead of trying to harness it. Jens Bogren did a fine job capturing the subtleties and dynamics the band were trying to incorporate on the last several albums. But with them starting off songs like “Blood Eagle” to the sound of someone being split open by a battle axe, subtlety pretty much is out the window on Deceivers, and Sneap’s muscular production lays bare all of the band’s gristle, grime and brute force.
Yet he, too, is mindful of Amon Amarth’s dynamic aspirations, giving the guitar harmonies Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen weave together on “As Loke Falls” and elsewhere plenty of room to soar above the din. The moments of Thin Lizzy/Iron Maiden-style interplay between them, notably on “Coming of the Tide” or hulking closing track “Warriors of the North,” lend just a hint of whimsy to the album, which might have seemed a bit heavy-handed without something to cut through the brutality.
It's a smart, simple touch on an album full of them by wily veterans who show no signs of resting on their laurels.