Metal Blade [release date 25.03.16]
You wouldn’t think prog rock legends Pink Floyd would have a lot in common with Swedish death metal gods Amon Amarth, however, there you’d be wrong – both bands have broken the boundaries with their compelling and pensive concept albums which have smashed the charts around the globe.
Jomsviking, Amon Amarth’s tenth studio album, is the band’s first attempt in their 24 year-long career at creating a concept album explained by vocalist Johan Hegg as a tale by which ‘’The Jomsvikings and their world is the background for the story of a young man that is in love with a girl but unfortunately she’s being married off. He accidentally kills a man when this happens and he has to flee — but he swears to have revenge and win her back. He can’t let go of the past. He feels that he’s been wronged and his life has been destroyed. The way the story evolves is not a happy story’’.
Produced and mixed by Andy Sneaps, one of the most diligent and affluent music producers in the metal industry, known for working with bands such as Accept, Saxon, Opeth, Exodus, Megadeth, Kreator and Testemant; Amon Amarth have created somewhat of new age masterpiece. The strong traditional metal influence is clearly accentuated through each track and more prominent than on any other album beforehand (explained by Hegg to be down to them having ‘’a different drummer doing the drums [Tobias Gustafsson], which gives more air to the production in general’’) yet the band have managed to still distinguish itself from any other sound currently out there. The Mythology and History combined with the brutality, barbarity and ferocity of their concept, lyrics, on stage presence and album art are what make the band even more unique and prominent.
The album is certainly not short for head banging anthems and as the storyline proceeds, each track becomes increasingly more invigorating. ‘’First Kill’’ creates the imagery for the concept while involving mind blowing drum sections, memorable guitar riffs and Johan’s captivating vocals by which he delivers an eerie yet glorious spoken word intro that could make anyone feel like a Viking.
My favourite track on the album and questionably of all their albums must be the mighty ‘’raise Your Horns’, which to me is like Metallica’s ‘’Enter Sandman’’ or Slayer’s ‘’Raining Blood’’. Its melodical presence and sing along chorus makes it a desirable favourite for their live shows allowing the
audience to present their horns, raise them to the sky and ‘’drink to glory tonight’’. Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen’s twin guitars are defiantly made use of on Jomsviking, bringing outstanding leads along with overwhelmingly impressive solos on the tracks ‘’Wanderer’’, “One against All” and “The Way of Vikings.”
Front-woman of heavy metal band Warlock – Doro, features in ‘’A Dream That Cannot Be’’ which may be controversial in the eyes of life long Amon Amarth fans. Despite the duo working perfectly simultaneously (from a vocal perspective), its placement within the album fails to impress as it seems out of place within the construct and the juxtaposition between harmony and growls is ineffective. As a single track however, the interesting contrast arguably works and playing the part of the girl in the story makes sense.
The album comes to a close with its impressive ‘’Back On Northern Shores’’ which ends the intense story and concludes the concept. Amon Amarth have certainly topped themselves with ‘Jomsviking’ and the album enriches my hunger for more conceptual albums from them; even if at times they seem to have wondered too far in to their influences and developed into something further than ‘just a Swedish melodic death metal band’ – yet, I guess ‘’The fury in their raging eyes’’ really ‘’will burn forever more’’. ****
Review by Mitchell Benjamin
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