Sound: Raise your flagons and pillage a village, Amon Amarth have returned. The 3 years since Twilight of the Thunder God seem to have just run past and this new slab of melodic death metal wants to grind its predecessor into dust. For those new to Amon Amarth, this is the most basic but explosive side of melodeath with a heavy dose of viking-ness and its good to see that they haven't changed their sound. At all. Which is what remains great about Amon Amarth: Always reliable.
The first track 'War of the Gods' immediately kicks you in the face with its easy to follow riffing, thrashy drums and impressionable huge melody lines. In a way its much like the opener to TOTTG but with a worse guitar solo (Roop wasn't on load this time, I suspect).
However, passing over track 2 'Tocks Taunt' (mostly because it loses the momentum of track 1), track 3 is much much more like it. This one track is what defines the base principles of 'melodic' and 'death' metal: Crushing speed mixed with cathartic harmonies and unrestrained aggression.
One thing that a listener notices is the branching out from Amon Amarths 'usual' melodic sensibility: The melodies are noticeably darker, more obscure (if that makes sense, its the only word I can think of that fits) and complex, sometimes having multiple key transitions per song as well as having more higher fret melodies. Another thing is MORE SOLO'S. There were only 3 notable solo's on TOTTG and one of them wasn't even from the band themselves. This time though, there are like, 2 a song and they are so much better. Listen to that, sounds so fanboy-ish.. but whatever, moar solo's.
Although it settles down a little halfway through, 'Surtur Rising' is also noticeably faster than TOTTG, which were mostly mid-tempo tracks. Surtur Rising literally does knock the stuffing out of everything else they've done. // 9
Lyrics: Johann Hegg is such a loveable wookie, and his distinctive death growl hasn't lost its power or 'raspy vikingness'. Although sometimes difficult to understand (naturally), few vocalist really put this much effort into their vocals or delivery. His impact musically is never overshadowed by the guitar leads, although its incredibly enriched with reverb such as on 'The Last Stand of Frej' to give it that ballad-like, 'epic' feel.
Amon Amarth are always misplaced into that odd category of 'Viking metal' although by definition that's not really the case. Its their lyrics and themes that give them this misrepresentation and its always fascinating to see how many albums Amon Amarth can put out before they run out of lyrical ideas and start doing songs about shopping bags or broken spoons covered in jam. From 'War of the Gods':
War, the very first war of our world,
When the treacherous witch was killed
Three times burned and three times born,
By searing flames was Gullveig torn.
Death, Odin held his spear up with great force
Deep into the great god of fear.
battle horns gave off their sound
And Asgard was razed to the ground. // 8
Overall Impression: This was expectedly good, but also unexpectedly great (if you follow my idea). There is basically more of everything that s good about Amon Amarth: anthemic song-writing, addictive melodies, aggression and viking-ness (cant forget the viking-ness). That said though, Surtur Rising has raised their bar, so it'll be harder to top next time.
Another side note, do check out their 'Aerials' cover (yes, SOAD).
Songs to look out for: 'War of the Gods', 'Destroyer of the Universe', 'Slaves of Fear', 'Live without regrets', 'The Last stand of Frej', 'For victory or death', 'A beast am I', 'Doom Over Dead man', 'Aerials' cover, 'Balls to the wall' cover. // 9