It seems like many in the melodic death camp are getting the Viking bug these days and Gormathon is another example. Like many, they borrow extensively from the well established Amon Amarth formula, but use ‘80s heavy metal elements. These include soaring, high-pitched vocal ranges and classic guitar noodling that borders on power metal. These influences are not surprising when you discover that the three founding members of Gormathon are also members of Overload; a straight-up heavy metal band that utilizes classic riffage and a Halford-esque vocal approach. Unfortunately, Overload rubbed off a bit too much on Gormathon’s debut album, Lens of Guardian, making it sound like a heavier Overload album without much individualism. Conversely, Gormathon’s second offering takes all the right pieces from both bands and melds them into the broadsword that is Following the Beast. Though the formula feels familiar, Following the Beast offers up a refreshing and fun-as-hell brand of deathy Viking metal.
“Remedy” kick-starts Beast with a fist-pounding Amon Amarth riff that swings into a chugging, mid-paced interlude. Here, Tony Sunnhag displays some deep, savage death growls, but it’s the chorus where he really shines. If Gormathon does anything right, its writing hooky choruses. During “Remedy,” Sunnhag shows off with a mighty emotional piece of Týr-meets-Judas Priest vox that sticks in your head and won’t let go (no matter how much mead you drink). This is followed with a classic heavy metal interlude and a soaring solo before the song finishes in big power weenie fashion. Unfortunately, the intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, interlude, solo to a chorus/solo finish of “Remedy” is the structure for every song on the album.
This isn’t to say that all the songs are carbon copies, but they do begin to blur together because of this set structuring. This is most apparent on the back half of the album. However, there are moments of excellence in the one-two punch of “Break the Chains” and “Celestial Warrior,” which are both fucking killer and dish out thrashy riffs that make you battle hungry and catchy, sing-along choruses of signature Sabaton gruffness. Also, the finishes are epic and the bass outro on “Break the Chains” is a beautiful touch. Another highlight is Gormathon’s super sappy ballad, “Remember.” It’s loaded with mid-paced chugs, emotional soloing, and a heart-wrenching chorus. It’s futile to resist singing along.
Sadly though, I find my attention wavering after “Celestial Warrior” (midway through the album). Most tracks are solid, but variation really isn’t there. However, Gormathon does mix it up a little. “Hellbender” delivers a standout Annihilator staccato vocal line, “World of Sin” feels jacked from a Týr album, and “Absence of Trust” is a straight-up Dark Tranquillity/Gothenburg style ditty with a catchy keyboard passage. But this isn’t quite enough to keep the tracks from feeling predictable.
Other issues include song order. The opening track would have been better suited somewhere in the middle, with a faster paced track out front. And the final number is worse; the oddly upbeat and emotion-soaked “Warlords of Doom.” Gormathon provides two bonus tracks, and while I’m rarely a fan of bonus tracks, “Into Oblivion” brings back the momentum partially stolen killed by “Warlords of Doom” and “Silent Walk” it is a much better closer (even though it would be better suited to their Overload project).
Nitpicking aside, this album is a solid representation of what a classic ‘80s heavy metal Amon Amarth sounds like. It’s an enjoyable album with great sing-along choruses, awesome guitar work, a decent mix, and an overall fun feel (and Sunnhag’s vox are just awesome). Gormathon has managed to individualize themselves from their other band and create a more unique sound and image this time. Not perfect, but a pretty decent outing that will keep the horns and beards full.