The Easter bunny has been, but this year he’s delivered an Amon Amarth album instead of eggs, and instead of a bearded chap nailed to some wood, we’ve got a giant bearded Viking wielding a bloody axe. It’s a good Easter. Jomsviking is the latest offering from Amon Amarth, and their first foray into concept albums has gone very well.
Based in the world of the “semi-legendary order of Viking mercenaries or brigands of the 10th century and 11th century” (Wikipedia strikes again), the album is a tale about love, death and revenge. It also marks a slight change from the typical Amon Amarth sound.
At Dawn’s First Light
Now it’s not a huge difference, it’s more a case of adding things to the formula than ripping elements away. Yet the album is far more melodic than we’re used to. It’s highly evident in Johan Hegg’s vocals, Wanderer finds Hegg performing a small dramatic monologue while At Dawn’s First Light has a clean threat about buggering off when the sun comes up.
Even the lyrics in the heavier songs are clearer than they often are, but a lot of this is probably due to the story telling direction of the album. There’s also the guest vocals in track 10 that came as a pleasant surprise as I didn’t know this guest had performed. I’ll avoid saying anything else on that matter as being surprised by music is a rare thing these days when details are flooded online.
When it comes to the music, there is also that melodic change. Mikkonen and Söderberg seem to have been given more room to explore while the songs themselves take a slightly slower pace. At Dawn’s First Light is a personal highlight due to the NWOBHM influence, the whoa-ohh section of Raise Your Horn’s over the folky guitar line is also a highlight and will no doubt be a brilliant moment live. If they’re not selling horns at the merch booth this year, they’re doing it wrong.
There’s also One Thousand Burning Arrows which I didn’t appreciate fully until a second listen through where they visit a sort of Enslaved prog sound.
This isn’t a “fun” album. I’m not saying the previous releases from Amon Amarth are lighthearted romps, but there’s a far darker tone present throughout. Songs often seem a bit slower than we’re used to, but there’s plenty of pace to keep the speed fans happy. There is no shortage of big headbangable moments though; Back On Northern Shores, Wanderer, On A Sea of Blood. It’s hard to imagine any Amon Amarth fan being disappointed after listening to Jomsviking.
Concept albums are often a risk, and a death metal concept album is always going to be risk due to the danger of the lyrics getting lost in the growl. However, Amon Amarth had a wealth of stories to research from and had nine studio albums under their belt, together they’ve made album ten into a success.
If an Amon Amarth album isn’t worth the full five beards, I don’t know that is
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