Amon Amarth prove there’s plenty in the metallic well with ‘Deceiver of the Gods’

AMON AMARTH by JOHN McMURTRIEI like to be surprised when listening to music or getting my hands on a new record, as that’s one of the things that keeps my interest level high. But now and again it’s nice to have safe haven bands where you know what you’re going to get and that ease and comfort helps you slip into a comfort zone.

But just because a band’s output can be predictable doesn’t mean the group is lazy. Today’s subject matter, Swedish Viking enthusiasts Amon Amarth, certainly have their formula down, that being melodic, smooth death metal that digs up tales of Norse mythology. Their records are always excellent sounding, well-produced slabs of goodness that are gooey and tasty but also provide enough hammer blows to satisfy your extreme urges. I unabashedly love the band and always have, and even as my metallic tastes grow darker and more underground, bands like Amon Amarth will always have a soft spot in my heart because I also like to have fun.

amon amarth coverThe band’s ninth record “Deceiver of the Gods” is about to land, and if you’re into the band and their canon, you’re going to be right at home when tackling this beast. The songs sound huge, Johan Hegg is in fine voice as always, and there’s enough epic glory contained within the record to keep your blood surging for months. But a deeper look at the record also finds some nuances that do surprise, from the darker guitar work, a couple of longer songs that set drama and intrigue that remind of their earliest work, and even one hell of a great special guest appearance that should have doom metal fans foaming at the mouth with glee. But we’ll come back to that one. Yeah, this sounds like an Amon Amarth album, but it’s certainly got some unpredictability weaved in here and there, and that makes for one of the band’s more captivating albums.

Much of Amon Amarth’s lyrical content this time focuses on Loki (or Loke), the dark, mischievous Norse mythological character whose trickery with the higher powers above is referenced in the album title. But that’s not all they’re on about this time around, as they focus on all kinds of fantastical, mythological elements that combine to make for a really fun record, and a rousing adventure to boot. Along with the burly Hegg are guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg, bassist Ted Lundstrom, and drummer Fredrik Andersson, the same group that’s been making hellacious noise since 1998, and they don’t sound like they’re anywhere near running out of energy or compassion for what they do so well. Also, Andy Sneap is the man behind the production, and he gets the gigantic, boisterous sound this group does so well, and this is a fantastic-sounding record.

The band kicks off with the thunderous title track, built with glorious guitar work, bashing drumming, and Hegg’s meaty shout, showing early on that you’re not going to disappointed by the band, though you may be surprised from time to time. “As Loke Falls” has a mournful guitar line that introduces the cut, later some fiery finger tapping, and then the song explodes into a raucous storyteller that seems to reveal some Iron Maiden influence. “Shape Shifter” imagines its character morphing into “the eagle in the sky” and howling wolves at night, and it’s a pretty classic-style Amon Amarth cut. “Under Siege” has some punishing, tricky guitar work, and it feels like the band is trying to take some chances here, with more atmospheric play and some rollicking bass work. It’s not totally foreign or anything, but it feels like they’re trying to branch out a bit.

“Blood Eagle” is one of the more savage cuts on here and has a sound that’s more reminiscent of the band’s earlier days. It opens with a gory assault of some poor bastard being ripped apart, before guitars stampede you and the revenge tale lowers its dark curtains. “We Shall Destroy” goes back to thrashy, deathly familiar ground, and it’s a pretty spirited bit. “Hel” is the most impressive, surprising, and thrilling track on here, one of their most unique songs in some time and one that features a mammoth special appearance in the form of Messiah Marcolin, the legendary former singer of Candlemass. His dramatic vocals add a dark, shadowy presence to this song and should creep you the fuck out. His high-pitched wails work perfectly with Hegg’s beastly growls, and this song puts an eerie stamp on this damnation tale. “Coming of the Tide” goes back to explosive melody and aims to get your adrenaline going again before epic closer “Warriors of the North,” an eight-minute war song that is awash in wintry battle and reaching “Valhalla’s mighty gates.” It’s everything this band does well smashed into an extra-sized helping, and it’s a great way to cap off this quaking album.

If you’re a longtime Amon Amarth fan, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest. The band’s staying true to you, and even when they throw in something different, it’s more to enhance their sound and ignite fresh explosions. There’s nothing wrong with these guys treading familiar waters because they do it so damn well and they never come up with anything boring. They’re a barrel of fun, and this record should be a barnburner well into the summer, when our flesh is getting tanned and we’re sampling the finest ales the world has to offer. Cheers!

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