With Oden On Our Side
A fistful of mead and a thirst for battle
Amon Amarth has always been a band that I have watched closely, only to see if the group can eventually turn the corner and become something great and monumental. I remember hearing their first EP back in '96 and noting that someday the band could put it all together. Unlike other notable Swedish acts like Hypocrisy, Edge Of Sanity, Unleashed, and Dismember, Amon Amarth have never really put out that ONE fantastic record. The band has personally been a challenge for me because I can hear the talent and fully grasp their signature Viking style of songwriting and craft....but they just never could put it together in one truly memorable package. Sure albums like "The Avenger" and "The Crusher" had some good songs, but overall it just seemed like a one dimensional venture. In 2004 the band put out what I like to consider a "bridge effort" with "Fate Of Norns", the album that seemed to be a track record from one point to another. With high hopes I unwrapped new effort "With Oden On Our Side". YES....it has all come together now!
Amon Amarth experienced their biggest success to date with "Fate Of Norns". Now the band have capitalized on that high mark with their best album to date. This one has it all, from wind swept melodic passages to those chugging, mammoth beasts of ground and pound. Huge bombastic grooves rage through "Valhall Awaits Me" and "Gods Of War Arise", while other cuts like "Under The Northern Star" are more epic in nature with plenty of harmony fills and melodic overtones. The band's ice cold songwriting is based on Viking mythology, with these carefully constructed stories creating visions of frosty battlefields with axes and swords drenched in villager blood. See lyrics like "I drop the shield and grab my axe, A weapon in each fist". By album's end I wanted to grab a Robert Jordan novel and thrust my mind into some sword and sorcery fantasty.
Along with the fantastic song choices is the group's best production job thus far, this one newly controlled by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Soilwork) and recorded at Fascination Studios. The drums are all over the place from quick patterns and fast double bass to manic groove blasts that accomodates guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. Vocalist Johan Hegg once again uses his deep register as well as the higher pitched black metal wail to fully outline chorus/verse passages. Bogren's duty fully enables all of this to take place on one solid soundscape that is both atmospheric while building blocks of metallic headbanging action.
Bottom Line - With a fistful of mead and a thirst for battle, these Swedish death bringers have finally mastered their domain. This is my pick for death metal album of the year! Up the horns and up the volume!