Hailing from Sweden, Amon Amarth are viewed as one of the purveyors of great melodic death metal. Ever since their beginnings in 1992, the band managed to develop a distinctive sound that’s hard-hitting, yet extremely nuanced. The band’s formula has shifted through the years, acquiring different influences, but staying true to the core concept and aesthetics of melodic death metal.
Recently, the band announced their 11th studio album, “Berserker,” which will be released officially on May 3rd, 2019. For this release, the band teamed up with producer Jay Ruston, who has also worked with artists as diverse as Anthrax and Steel Panther. As a producer, Ruston is quite well-known for being able to help bands focus their sound with a clear and detailed production, without necessarily putting too much gloss on the music. This is exactly what he set out to achieve working on Amon Amarth’s “Berserker.”
Another important thing to consider is that this album was actually recorded in Los Angeles – definitely a different vibe from the band’s previous recording experiences in Sweden and in England. The group also released a really interesting video, available on Youtube, detailing the making of their new album. For those who are curious about their studio experience, you should check those out.
The album features 12 new tracks, and although the band stated that this isn’t a concept album, the songs feature various underlying themes, including personal struggles as well as facing adversities through life. Having said that, the songs on the album still have ties to the Viking era, with great references to some of the final battles dating back to the end of the struggles between England and the invading Vikings.
The band previewed the album with a single named “Raven’s Flight,” one of the most poignant album tracks. The song begins with a huge, extensive introduction that has a big sound and a catchy guitar riff. The drums are fast-paced and quite busy, while still allowing the guitars to lead the way. The vocals kick in with a guttural, low and aggressive tone, which fits well with the palm-muted guitar tones.
The band knows how to create great dynamics between the song’s verses and choruses, with the clever use of lead guitars and open chords, bringing more air to the mix. This song is a perfect example of what you can expect from this album. The tones of this release are still classic Amon Amarth, but there are some catchy moments, which may echo the American school of production, that’s definitely more bombastic and cinematic, without sounding too over-the-top.
One of the most impressive songs on the album is probably “Crack The Sky.” The track kicks in with a simple, yet effective guitar riff and the marching drum rhythm fits well with the deep low end of this song. The vibe of this track is almost like a stampede of Vikings charging at their enemy, and you almost feel the earth-shattering underneath the weight of the battle.
On songs like “Valkyria,” Amon Amarth set out to explore some of their more complex and sophisticated elements. The opening riffs are busier, and the cool guitar leads underneath the main chords in the verses seem to almost have a conversation with the vocals, complementing the lead singing to perfection. This song is a great example of how Amon Amarth channels really tasteful melodies with even the hardest, most intense metal backgrounds.
“Wings of Eagles” is absolute mayhem. This song begins with a killer drum solo and dives into one of the fastest tempos on the album. The structure of the guitars is really amazing, and I love how the riff locks in with every drum beat to create powerful rhythms. The chorus has a melody that almost borders with tremolo picking while maintaining a much fuller sound. The instrumental break before the second verse is particularly awesome. Here, the band could have easily chosen to fill the gap with a guitar solo, but instead, they really allowed the weight of the guitar riffs to kick in and add a lot more power to the arrangement. These bold choices are what makes the album special. Instead of falling into the same “easy” cliches of the genre, Amon Amarth really set out to structure their songs to get the maximum impact out of the arrangements instead.
All in all, this release stays true to Amon Amarth’s pedigree and it certainly represents an amazing addition to their already rich discography. Reaching the milestone of an 11th studio album in such great shape as a band is absolutely amazing, and it is not surprising that fans are already responding very well to the band’s new singles and pre-listening events!