4/16/2016 - Review by: Greg Watson
An incredible marriage of melody and heaviness
"Faster. Stronger. Fight until your dying breath! Fiercer. Harder. This is a matter of life and death!” The chorus intro from "The Way of the Vikings” sums up Amon Amarth's "Jomsviking” perfectly. Following on the heels of their incredibly successful "Deceiver of the Gods” from 2013, "Jomsviking” packs one hell of a punch and in my opinion is the band's strongest album to date. Following the story of the mysterious Jomsvikings, "Jomsviking” is a concept album, the band's first attempt at one in their history. The concept comes off perfectly and delivers a fascinating and incredibly well-thought out story.
"Jomsviking” delivers some of the most stirring lyrics and some of the most dynamic and crushing music Amon Amarth have produced over their ten albums. Vocalist Johan Hegg sounds like he's unleashing his fiercest battle cry every time he growls, snarls and screams. I literally had chills running down my arms several times throughout the album, especially on tracks "The Way of the Vikings”, "One Against All” and "One Thousand Burning Arrows”. His voice just gets stronger and fiercer every time I hear him. For those of you that have been living under a rock, the video for the first single, "First Kill” is an incredible video and a hell of an album opener. Coming in with their swords raised high for the killing blow, "First Kill” sets the tone for the album and kicks off the story with some melodic and very aggressive guitar playing. The melody created by the guitars on this track are meant to stir that feeling of pride and battlelust deep down inside your soul. "Wanderer” comes in next and has a very traditional metal feel to it while also incorporating a bit of "Victorious March” as well. "On a Sea of Blood” has a very Maiden-esque quality to it and just pulls you in like a big ol' Grizzly bear giving you a hug. "One Against All” is a great track with plenty of grit and aggression to really get that blood flowing through you. "Raise Your Horns” is basically one of the greatest drinking songs ever! The chorus and the lyrics dare you to not drink and sing along while listening to this one. It also makes you feel like you are in the mead hall with the Jomsvikings after emerging victorious from a bloody battle.
"The Way of Vikings” is probably one of the standout tracks from the album for me. It starts out unassuming and then an axe comes whistling down and splits your skull wide open as it kicks in. Hegg's voice attains a bestial primitiveness to it that just sends chills down my spine every time the chorus hits. Musically it has that incredible marriage of melody and heaviness that Amon have become so well known for. "At Dawns First Light” is just a face-smashing, bone-crushing destructive force that also has this incredibly cool spoken word part before the ferocity intensifies. "One Thousand Burning Arrows” slows things down a little bit and features some of the best guitar work on the album. Full of melody and incredible guitar tone, the track is just a break for your bruised and battered body to attempt and recuperate a little before you reach the bloody end. Bonus track "Vengeance Is Mine” is just an absolute banger of a track, despite it's odd placement right before the final two songs of the album. "Back on Northern Shores” is one of the best ending tracks on an album I've heard in a long time. It might be the best ever, I'm still pondering on that one. This track wraps up the concept in an incredibly epic way. Clocking in at seven minutes, this track starts off a bit slow and slowly increases in tempo, reaching its crescendo at the midway point before slowly tapering off yet again. The lyrics of this song just finish the story so perfectly and leave you astounded and devastated at the conclusion.
The prior track, "A Dream That Cannot Be”, is going to get a little special treatment from me. I have read several reviews of the album already, just to see what the consensus is on the album and almost every one I have read bemoans or trashes this song for one reason: the use of clean female vocals. I'd like to give a giant middle finger to the people who said that. The contrast of Johan's guttural growling and the incredibly powerful and amazing voice of the one and only Doro Pesch make this track the most dynamic, most intriguing and most powerful one on the album. Doro's voice is just absolutely astounding. Paired with Johan's emotive growls and plaintive pained screams, their voices render the listener helpless and spellbound. For people to rail on this track because of the clean vocals just shows a complete ignorance and stubbornness. It's not your typical Amon Amarth song but this isn't your typical Amon Amarth album. Doro's vocal performance is an integral part to the story being told and adds a whole new level of impressiveness to the album itself. To me, this track is the standout of the album. The music is just as heavy as the rest of the album, the lyrics are incredible, and the vocals work so well together it's scary.
The production on the album is handled by the masterful Andy Sneap and that's all you need to know. Hands down, "Jomsviking” is my favorite Amon Amarth album of all-time and it has hacked, bashed and stabbed its way to the top of my list for releases this year so far. So go out metal heads, one and all and immerse yourself in the tale of the "Jomsviking”.
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