October 11, 2013 Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods (Album review)
Go to any metal show these days and try to tally up the Amon Amarth shirts and patches you spot in the crowd. You will probably lose count. Such is the popularity of the Viking-themed metal troupe from Tumba, Sweden whose grip on their very own brand of melodic death metal remains iron strong. In this their twenty-first year of existence, the band who takes their name from a fictional volcano in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, has just unleashed their ninth studio album Deceiver of the Gods upon our heads. Does it live up to past efforts, or is the long ship beginning to run out of wind?
As the title track opens the proceedings, it is clear that Amon Amarth is on top of their game here. Johan Hegg, the imposing vocalist with the thick and throaty roar firmly in command, whose voice may be enough to signal Ragnarok itself. What stands out early on though is the twin guitar attack of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. This is nowhere more apparent than on the epic second track “As Loke Falls”, guaranteed to have fans air-guitaring around their rooms like maniacs for years to come. Unlike similar ‘pagan/viking’ bands that incorporate traditional instruments to help authenticate their sound, Amon Amarth holds it down the traditional way. Like Bathory and Unleashed, the musical forefathers from whom they have taken influence, the Swedish five-piece manage to evoke the northern spirit of their pagan roots. Using only the aforesaid guitars, the meaty rhythm section of Ted Lundström on bass, Fredrik Andersson on drums, and of course Johan’s relentless vocal attack.
Speaking of the vocals, you will find a few surprises here. The track ‘Hel,’ a more atmospheric affair depicting the Norse underworld, features the vocal accompaniment of one Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass fame. Guaranteed to piss off the purists, the power metal offset to Johan not only fits seamlessly, it adds a dimension to the brooding song that only makes it stronger.
There is no filler on this album. The guitar playing alone is enough to catapult it into elite territory. At times reminiscent of Slayer, at times of Iron Maiden, the professionalism and attention to detail on order here should guarantee this award-winning band even more accolades in the future. In addition, the sing-a-longs to “Father of the Wolf” … “serpent’s skin, born of sin…dark within….FATHER OF THE WOLF!” is going to tear the roof off many venues this winter. That epic chorus combined with the song’s sizzling guitar leads (the solo and harmonic leads at the 3:00 minute mark are just wonderful).
If there is one possible negative on Deceiver of the Gods it lies in ending track “Warriors of the North.” Clocking in at 8:13, it is the longest track on the album and lacks the immediacy of its fellow songs. It could have used some tempo changes, instead plodding along at the same slower pace. Overall, it is about as imaginative as its title. Other than this one gripe, Deceiver of the Gods is a proud addition to an already proud discography. Cryptic Rock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.
Written by Nick Franco