Amon Amarth. It should be no secret that the fanboys of Angry Metal Guy dot com love this band. With With Oden on Our Side ranking in at #12 on my Top 15(ish) of the 2000s list, and Steel Druhm popping an uncharacteristically exuberant and punny woody over 2011’s Surtur Rising, it should come as no surprise to you that Amon Amarth‘s new record was definitely on the Angry Metal Radar™. In my opinion, though, Amon Amarth has been weak since 2006’s extraordinarily mighty WOoOS (pronounced like it’s spelled), which broke them for the world market. Follow up Twilight of the Thunder God was tepid and too clean, and Surtur Rising felt like an over correction and hasn’t aged well, either. So color me skeptical: Amon Amarth hasn’t done anything for me for two records and 5 years—would that change now?
Well, since you’re literate and the score is up top, that wasn’t much of a tease, but to unnecessarily answer my rhetorical question now: yes, that changed now. As it should, Deceiver of the Gods drops like Mjölnir on a giant’s skull. Bursting out the gate with the title track “Deceiver of the Gods,” there’s a recognizable Amon Amarth sound and feel, but slight differences stand out. Noticeably, the guitar work has been taken up a notch. On the opening track and on track 2 “As Loke Falls,” the work is uniquely guitar oriented for the generally minimalistic Amon Amarth. While the band certainly let the groove do the talking on awesome tracks like “Under Siege,” “Father of the Wolf,” “Coming of the Tide,” and the epic closing track “Warriors of the North,” the flourishes are more melodic, and the feel is perfect.
Throw in the band’s pummeling, trem-picky brutality on “Shape Shifter,” the gruesome “Blood Eagle,” and ripper “Deceiver of the Gods” (+ mead) and you’ve got yourself a party. The record is LP length (47 minutes) and fun from front to back, with the only real misstep being the mid-paced “We Shall Destroy,” which doesn’t quite live up to the standard of the rest of the record. But that short mistake was made up for by the amazing “Hel,” which features Messiah Marcolin (ex-Candlemass). While slow, it fits Messiah perfectly and is one of the first five star songs of of 2013.
It should be noted that Amon Amarth switched it up this time around by working with Andy Sneap. The production is clean, bassier and thicker than Surtur Rising and has good depth. While it’s overloud (what isn’t?), it’s still got a good feel and doesn’t feel toothless and unheavy. It doesn’t hurt that Sneap gets some of the best guitar tone in the business. But there’s also something distinctively NWoBHM about a lot of the guitar work on here. I don’t know if this is Sneap’s doing, or if the band just switched it up in the writing process, but these records stink of ’80s British metal (see: “Coming of the Tide,” the lead in “Deceiver of the Gods,” the double lead in “As Loke Falls,” the chorus on “Father of the Wolf,” etc., etc., etc.). It’s beautiful to hear, and while it doesn’t feel new for their sound exactly, it certainly is more distinct on Deceiver of the Gods than it’s ever been.
Amon Amarth isn’t going to shock or surprise anyone 15 years after their immaculate debut Once Sent from the Golden Hall. But, like many other of the best bands in the business they have been consistent, they’ve had a hell of a lot more time up than down, and they do what they do extraordinarily well. Deceiver of the Gods isn’t here to surprise—it’s here to kick your ass—and if that’s the goal: mission accomplished.