Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising

Posted on March 20, 2011

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Metal Blade

3/29/11

 

Amon Amarth are one of the few metal bands for whom a review is essentially unnecessary. I could assign this thing a two or a ten and the point would be moot either way. The legions of bearded, mead-swilling fans clamoring for more Viking death metal will gladly drop the shekels to nab Surtur Rising when it parks the bow of its longship on these shores, and the detractors who criticize the Swedish quintet for recording the same album ad infititum will roll their eyes and shrug it off as yet another entry into one of those most consistent (read: predictable) canons in heavy music.

Both factions have their points, except that consistency thing is a little off on this particular journey. Unlike 2008’s solid but unspectacular Twilight of the Thunder God, Amon Amarth’s seventh paean to all things Norse sees the guys delving the farthest into their sound since Fate of Norns, and is a more respectable endeavor for it.

Sure, you’ve got your mid-paced stomper in “Live Without Regrets,” and “Destroyer of the Universe”’s big, sweeping chorus is reminiscent of classic cuts like “Death in Fire” and “Valhall Awaits Me,” but every Amon Amarth record is going to have those. These men from the North know their fiercely loyal militia, and they’re not going to about face now. However, like any battle-tested horde, they will confront and shock just when their enemies think they’ve got the drop. The long-windingly titled “Töke’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II” is six minutes of sophisticated tempo changes, the rhythm section acting as the churning sea while axemen Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen summon open-chord tempests that tower over the voyage like the warrior god on the album’s cover. It’s all gravy for the pillaging feast until we’re treated to some of the most atmospheric lead work of the band’s career during the song’s pseudo-acoustic midsection, and then it’s back to those fucking triumphant, ascending riffs. The self-referential “Wrath of the Norsemen” melds Obituary swagger with subtle guitar textures, shape shifting underneath a current of roiling double bass. “Doom Over Dead Man” serves as a stunning closer, employing the strings the band has been toying with for years to tasteful and epic effect by accenting a nearly operatic introduction for Johan Hegg’s gruff dramatizations. Solos soar through the night sky like fire arrows, clashing against hammered bronze in trajectories both linear and unpredictable. There’s a sense of dynamics present here that has evolved from mere experimentation to outright evolution. Perhaps it’s their understanding that veteran berserkers will storm the shores with them no matter the risk, but everyone’s favorite Vikings have unleashed the most nuanced and rewarding album in their arsenal.

 

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