AMON AMARTH: SURTUR RISING (Metal Blade)
29th March 2011
Halfway through opening track 'War Of The Gods' – just about the time the excellent solo kicks in, you know you're onto something good with 'Surtur Rising', Amon Amarth's seventh full lengther.
There's an anthemic quality – almost Manowaresque in places - about everything the band does, even at its most brutal, which has enabled it to break out of the death Metal ghetto and run, finally, with the big boys.
Take third track 'Destroyer Of The Universe', for instance. Vocalist Johan Hegg puts in the most throat-stripping vocal performance imaginable, a wounded howl from the very depths of the stygian nether lands mixed with a guttural roar only those suffering from the most chronic haemorrhoids can summon forth, yet entirely in tune with what's going on around him musically, the whole creating an eerily unsettling maelstrom of ripping melodic death Metal that is an utter, utter joy to behold.
Or the marvellous crescendo of harmony guitar that ends the magnificently adamantine 'Live Without Regrets'; Only the very best Metal axemen can construct passages that you'll hear the milkman (if such a thing still exists) whistling as he goes about his daily grind, and in Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg Amon Amarth have not one but two such six string genii.
On 'Surtur Rising' everything they touch turns to gold, whether it be the dextrously death defying digital deathstrike of 'War Of The Gods' or something more restrained but no less devastating – 'The Stately Last Stand Of Frej' for instance - there isn't a moment on this album when the hairs all over your body won't be standing to attention, offering a cup of follicular mead to Valhalla in praise of this monstrously good album.
But it doesn't stop there. I'm getting tired writing this stuff (as in fatigued rather than bored, obviously), so the Gods alone know how the band manages to churn it out at this level of quality for so long. Just when you think they can't possibly keep hitting the target, here comes the anthemic (actually anthemic just isn't a big enough word to describe how massive this song is) 'For Victory Or Death', another battle hymn for the Metal hordes who will be snapping this album up in their millions worldwide if there's any justice.
There are an awful lot of bands ploughing a similar furrow to Amon Amarth at the moment, but not a single one of them manages to combine all the elements that make us love Metal with such a grim faced, relentlessly crushing efficiency, or manage to pen entire albums worth of great songs in one sitting.