Artist: Amon Amarth (www.amonamarth.com)
Album: The Fate of Norns
Release date: September 7, 2004
Label: Metal Blade
Recommended tracks: An Ancient Sign Of Coming Storm, The Pursuit Of Vikings, Once Sealed In Blood
Vikings! Beer! Ravens! Dragons! Beer! Swords! Beer! Let's see, what else? oh yeah, Beer! Even if you're already drunk, swinging your tankard to and fro, and singing traditional battle hymns, you should know by now that the Swedes Amon Amarth are back with another album The Fate of Norns, the follow-up to last year's Versus the World.
Despite being Swedish, Amon Amarth don't really sound anything at all like their countrymen Opeth, Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity, or In Flames, with that of course being a pathetically short list of bands that hail from the frozen tundra of Sweden. Yet, Amon Amarth are one of the few bands to embrace the folklore of their heritage. For those not familiar with Amon Amarth, every song involves dead people who fought mythical beasts and got really drunk, not necessarily in that order. In many ways, any Amon Amarth album could very easily be used as the soundtrack for Beowulf, except everyone is drunker, and Grendel is named something that is close to about 20 letters long. Otherwise, it fits.
For Amon Amarth fans, The Fate of Norns is, in many respects, the logical extension of Versus the World. In the eyes of many, Versus the World represented the evolution of Amon Amarth from being a straightforward and pummeling band, to one that was much more suited at their previous bouts with melody. Versus the World also saw the band streamline their sound and slow down the pace from dragon-slaying on crystal meth to dragon-slaying on adderall. The speed was there, but under more control. In contrast, a slight bit of the speed has returned on The Fate of Norns (maybe they ground up some meth in their adderall? who knows), while the bands maintains the control they exhibited on Versus the World.
Ok, let's assume for one second that you're not a drunken swordsmen, and shame on you for that, what can you expect from The Fate of Norns? As I said before, a comparison of Amon Amarth to other Swedish bands is difficult. Amon Amarth tune down, typically to around the B range, but rarely do straightforeward chugs on the lower strings. Instead, they opt to use tremolo picking an octave up or so. The two guitarists also never play the same thing, instead opting to play harmonies and parts that are slightly different. The vocals are better described simply as "throat" courtesy of Johann Hegg. Johann alternates between the traditional deep death metal growl and the raspy death metal wail (not to be confused with hardcore/screamo wails). To get a better picture of what Johann sounds like, imagine a drunk guy, a little over 6' tall, a beard that hasn't been trimmed in about five years, and a considerable personality crisis, i.e., he thinks he's a viking. That's what Johan sounds like. The drumming has been described by many people as just pummeling. Amon Amarth's original drummer was, believe it or not, Martin Lopez, currently of Opeth. On paper, that doesn't sound like a good mix, but the one album on which Lopez played, Once Sent From The Golden Hall, is the favorite of many Amon Amarth fans, despite a more jazz influenced style of drumming. The current skinsman, Fredrik Andersson is no slouch though. As I mentioned before, however, his style is much more just a straightforward pummeling. Although, there are a few instances where Fredrik strays from a straightforward beat, and opts for something that Martin Lopez might have played. In general though, expects lots of double bass to the chest, wear a kevlar.
For fans of Amon Amarth's older works, The Fate of Norns is somewhat of a return to form. While Versus the World is a heavy album, some would argue that it lacks an intensity found on earlier installments of beered-up vikings on The Avenger and The Crusher. That intensity has returned, for nearly all of the songs on The Fate of Norns. There are one or two songs that would fit more comfortably on last year's Versus the World, but the remainder of the album is a more of a high gravity beer ride.
- Fn Dan
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Artist: Amon Amarth (www.amonamarth.com)