Almost two years ago, I stood before you… er… I sat behind a computer screen and told the tale of my ten favorite tracks by viking metal legends Amon Amarth. We were known as Horns Up back in those days. My, oh things have changed. While it has been a little more than two months since Jomsviking dropped (March 25th, to be precise), I find myself very much appreciating the path Amon Amarth has gone in with their first concept album. Keeping that in consideration, it’s just about time to make some minor adjustments to my previously composed list. There are some duplicates, to be sure, but there are some new faces. And also one less face. Because 9 vs.10. Anyway… let’s get our drinking horns out and begin!
“Once Sealed In Blood” (from Fate of Norns, 2004)
And of course I’m starting with a duplicate. But it’s necessary. When I think of the work of Amon Amarth from over a decade ago, I think of relentless tremolo picking, galloping cadences, and choruses that just fire you up. This has all of that, and is a near perfect representation of the sound Amon Amarth had made their own to this point.
“Victorious March” (from Once Sent From The Golden Hall, 1998)
I could come up with a new Amon Amarth list every year and this would make it’s way onto all of them. Obviously the production is not nearly as impressive as present day Amon Amarth, but when you look at the structure of the song — the dynamic percussion and harsh vocal cries from Mr. Hegg especially — this track expresses as much passion as anything the Swedish death metal group has ever put forward.
“Warriors Of The North” (from Deceiver Of The Gods, 2013)
Deceiver was, without a doubt in my mind, a step up from 2011’s Surtur Rising. Sure, there were songs that just didn’t do much, or were perhaps too consistent or whatever, but that’s something you could accuse any Amon Amarth album of falling victim to. But the high points of this album were really high. And it’s the closing track that stands out most. It’s ambitious at over eight minutes long, but the melodic tapping of the introduction, clean solos, and multilayered nature structurally make this one tough to skip over.
“The Way Of Vikings” (from Jomsviking, 2016)
I said earlier that I appreciated the story telling nature of this concept album. The message behind this particular track — a tale of two friends engaged in combat — is one of the more interesting in this story. Musically, it’s even better. The deliberation of the introduction and steady rhythms make this song feel like you’re preparing for battle. Yes, I know, that’s what these guys do best, but this one certainly stands out.
“Death In Fire” (from Versus The World, 2003)
Ahhh yes, the song that got me into Amon Amarth so many years ago. The insane tremolo picking and percussion of “Death In Fire” will never get old with me. It’s just massive. Oh, and the tapping guitar solo/interlude? Brilliant. It all has a relatively dark feel to it as well, which provides an interesting overall effect. This was the opening track to Versus The World and I don’t think they could have kicked things off any better.
“Runes To My Memory” (from With Oden On Our Side, 2006)
You know what else Amon Amarth has always done well? Write a freaking chorus. Obviously the density of the low end tremolo picking of this track stands out, but there’s just something about the way Johann Hegg draws out his lyrics over the leads in the prechorus and chorus that just works so well. Of course it is classic Amon Amarth in terms of… everything?. But as I’ve said many times of the years, they do what they do very well, even if overly consistent sometimes. This is another example.
“A Dream That Cannot Be” (from Jomsviking, 2016)
I don’t actually know how the metal world responded to this particular track from the most recent album. Featuring guest vocals from Doro Pesch, “A Dream That Cannot Be” is one of the more progressive in Amon Amath’s discography. The tale of revenge that had built in Jomsviking evolved in a dark and depressing way with this track, and it’s fascinating. Was it one of the better songs from this album? Perhaps not — there were as many of four I consider slotting in here. But it stands out for obvious reasons.
“Where Silent Gods Stand Guard” (from Versus The World, 2003)
I am aware the content of Amon Amarth’s music isn’t the most… relatable. At least to many of us. But somehow they have a way of projecting their stories and messages in a way that resonates. Being one that looks very closely at the lyrical content of a band, it’s not always easy for something to have that effect on me. Yet they manage to pull it off here. Maybe it’s the semi-spoken lyrics at various stages or the encapsulating nature of the way the song slowly builds. Who knows. But it’s composed impressively all the same.
“Cry Of The Black Birds” (from With Oden On Our Side, 2006)
Perhaps not as high tempo as much of the rest of this album, at least early on, but the depressive nature of this song is why I’ve enjoyed it over the years. Yes, it is filled with the same ridiculous rhythms and tremolo picking that has long defined Amon Amarth’s sound at times, but the way the song regularly retreats to the same calmer pattern that it opened with gives it a certain, unique darkness that is completely entrancing.
Ya know? When the situation calls for it, you really can’t go wrong with Amon Amarth. I will always enjoy what they do and in the right setting there is nothing else I would rather listen to. Anybody else notice that I didn’t include “The Pursuit Of Vikings”? Those things happen when you’ve seen it like about 500 times. It loses it’s effect. Oh well.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”