Release Date: 03/05/19
Record Label: Music For Nations
For Fans Of: Sabaton, Iron Maiden, Grand Magus
It has been a slow and steady rise for Amon Amarth, but since the release of Twilight of the Thunder Gods in 2008 the band have become one of the most revered and respected in the whole of heavy metal. The Norwegians’ blend of melodeath and power metal has earned them headliner status at a number of festivals throughout Europe, including Bloodstock in the UK on the back most recent release Jomsviking. With this success, it feels like Amon Amarth have surely reached the pinnacle of what can be achieved by a straight up heavy metal band in the 21st century? In true viking spirit, that isn’t going to stop them fighting tooth and claw to climb even higher up the mountain with the release of eleventh studio album The Berserker.
It has always been the heads down, foot stomping groove and soaring melodies that have shaped Amon Amarth into the force they are today and that is certainly the case once more here with songs such as ‘Crack the Sky’ and ‘Wings of Eagles’, which show the band at their most anthemic; however this time they have added a slightly grander, more polished feel to their sound. This is definitely a case of refinement over reinvention as ‘Fafner’s Gold’ opens the record with a majestic acoustic passage which matches their solidified status as festival headliners, and ‘Into the Dark’s big orchestral score adds that extra level of sheen totally befitting the anthemic nature of the band. There are times where these embellishments feel a little shoe-horned in however as ‘Valkrie’ ends with an almost ballad-like piano section which doesn’t match the mood of the rest of the track and seems to come out of nowhere, before the song ends. When they are done right, these little touches go a long way to solidifying Amon Amarth’s status in 2019
Another slight change on The Beserker is the much greater focus on melody. Amon Amarth have a lot to thank Iron Maiden for on this record as the twin-guitar melodies and galloping basslines on ‘Mjolner, Hammer of Thor’ and ‘When Once Again We Set Our Sails’ that could easily have been written by the legendary metal titans. Johan Hegg has always had those big bellowing hooks on classics such as ‘Twilight of the Thunder Gods’ and ‘Guardians of Asgard’ but whereas those songs felt more like a war-cry here they feel like the refrain to an ancient folk-song. The one exception to this is ‘Shield Wall’ which is guaranteed to turn fields across Europe into battlegrounds when the band hit the festival circuit as the mid-paced stomper transports you into the Norse world with a marching rhythm and call to arms.
There will be many who view this as just another Amon Amarth record, and although the core sound and themes certainly haven’t changed, the band have still subtly changed their approach to suit the stages they now occupy. It might not be a game-changer but this album is another example of why they have got to the top of those stages; they simply do it better than anyone else. Grab a drinking horn of mead and leave your prohibitions at the door and you will have a bloody marvellous time with The Beserker.
Recommended Tracks: Crack The Sky, Shield Wall, When Once Again We Set Sail