Amon Amarth // Surtur Rising
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —Are you ready to Ragnarock?? [Ha! I ruined your pun by adding an umlaut! - AMG]
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: amonamarth.com/ myspace.com/amonamarth
Release Dates: EU: 2011.03.28 | US: 03.29.2011
AHHHH! The war drums are sounding the return of the dragon ships at last! One of the most anticipated releases of the new year is finally here. Since my Amon Amarth geekdom is second only to my slavish Amorphis fanboyism, to say I’m excited to get my hands and ears on Surtur Rising simply doesn’t cover it. Lately it’s seemed these war-like Swedes could do no wrong and their past two albums have been monstrous platters of crushing melodic death metal of the highest caliber. If you were expecting something different here, you’re obviously an idiot because it clearly ain’t broke so why fuck with it? Thankfully, Surtur Rising picks up where Twilight of the Thunder God left off and delivers another size fourteen viking boot to your Asgard with their trademark precise, powerful style. This is heavy as hell, metal as fuck and the perfect soundtrack to pillage, maraud and rampage to. Amon Amarth has done it once again and given their track record, no one should be surprised by how good this is.
Opening track “War of the Gods” immediately tells you all is right in the nine worlds as Johan Hegg and crew bring back the tried and true Amon Amarth sound. This is a classic track, with Hegg’s huge death bellows and the legendary riffing style of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan SÃ¶derberg. Once again they provide huge, heavy battle riffs mixed with quick trem picking and mournful, emotive solos and show they really know their craft inside and out. An amazing lead off and I can only imagine how great this will sound live. “Tock’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II” is the sequel to “Hemrods Ride to Hell” off With Oden On Our Side and proves a very compelling counterpoint to that classic. Mid-paced but bursting with energy and anger, it’s also very hooky and memorable in that odd Amon Amarthy way. You’ll find yourself growling it in public and people will quickly move away from you. Later we get “Destroyer of the Universe” and The Last Stand of Frej,” both tell the tale of the epic battle between evil fire god Surtur and Norse hero Frej from different perspectives. While “Destroyer of the Universe” is a raging, thrashed out killer, “The Last Stand of Frej” is a slight departure for AA with a ponderous, mournful doom metal style as Frej laments his upcoming death. Both are outstanding tracks. Elsewhere there’s a balls to the wall thrasher (“A Beast Am I”), anthemic rallying songs (“Live With No Regrets,” “For Victory or Death”) and the biggest surprise, the slightly orchestral and downtrodden “Doom Over Dead Man.” All work and all are addictive additions to the AA catalogue. No filler, no duds, just pagan war metal the way we like it.
A lot of what was working so well on previous albums is wisely continued here. That isn’t to say their sound has stagnated. They do try some new things like the orchestral segment in “Doom Over Dead Man.” The doomish style of “The Last Stand of Frej” is also a little different than their usual fare. This is a heavier album than Twilight and features some of the fastest, most aggressive songs Amon Amarth has done in a long time. Also, Hegg’s vocals are more raw, deep and guttural than they’ve been in awhile, at times making it harder to follow the lyrics without a sheet (during “Wrath of the Norsemen” his vox wander into grindcore territory at times). This combination of heavier songs and more deathy vocals makes this ever so slightly less accessible and immediate than Twilight but fear not. As always, the element that makes these guys so great is the guitar work and Surtur Rising is another fantastic fret feast. Every song has its huge riff or memorable lead line. This is how melodic death metal is doneÂ and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Another album, another triumph for these dependable viking warlords. This is on par with Twilight of the Thunder God and only a notch below With Oden On Our Side. Are these guys starting to recycle their ideas and sound somewhat? Yes, but so far it’s still working very well and I’m totally OK with it. This is the album I wanted from Amon Amarth and I’d be totally happy with a few more in exactly the same style. Now, build a viking bonfire, celebrate Midvinterblot and rage until your neck feels Thor (yep AMG, I like puns).