Come On, Amarth
Amon Amarth have done more than any other to give rise to this lamentable trend of metal fans deciding that they are in fact Viking warriors, a strange affliction whereby any fat beardy with long hair and the iq of a child can consider himself to be some sort of warrior legend descended from a long line of Norse noblemen, rather than the sad loser that greets him in the mirror each day due only to his taste in music. In this respect it is fair to say that perhaps only Manowar have done more to make metal fans look utterly pathetic and even more like the socially inept virgins they inevitably are.
Like Manowar, Amon Amarth have forged their career on a strict formula and come hell or high water, they’re going to stick to it. In fact, such is the incredible rigidity of this formula that Amon Amarth’s releases since The Crusher make AC/DC sound like a more experimental, jazzy and avant-garde version of Ephel Duath in comparison. After the incredibly bold move of putting a guest guitar solo on their last album, what mind-blowing stylistic surprises are in store on Surtur Rising; A piano? A clean vocal? A spoken word intro? Holy shit, this could be intense…
Well, there are none really… The album is a collection of some fast Amon Amarth songs and also some mid tempo Amon Amarth songs that fans like Viking Joe (20, fast food operative) can windmill headbang to. Songs that sound like that one off Versus The World and, you know, that one with the tremolo picking. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. After all, no-one criticises Motorhead for sounding the same, Amon Amarth just have a defined and instantly recognisable sound of their own (and perhaps Bathory and Unleashed’s) that would have Viking Steve (28, IT consultant) choking on the mead (WKD blue) he glugs from his little horn on a string if they deviated from it even a shade.
Surtur Rising opens with War Of The Gods, which could best be described as a generic mid-paced Amon Amarth song, confirming fears that it’s business as usual, and Tock’s Taunt, a follow up to Hermod’s Ride To Hell that is nowhere near as good, and, like finding out that your increasingly emotionally withdrawn 8 year old son’s swimming teacher is a man called Gareth Glitter 6 weeks into his block of private one-on-one lessons, this sets the alarm bells ringing. Destroyer of the Universe features a poor-resolution photocopy of the Twilight Of The Thunder God chorus but little else, again leaving a new track sounding altogether flatter than its older siblings.
Slaves of Fear trots along with a nice epic feel to it, while The Last Stand Of Frej lays on the atmospherics like few other bands can. For Victory Or Death is just about the best song on here, providing us with the sort of relentlessly driving anthem that makes Amon Amarth the only true choice of music to exercise to. In fact, it is a scientific certainty that if gyms switched off their shite trance music and played wall-to-wall Amon Amarth there would be no need for steroids any more.
Potential body building applications aside, they have been perfecting this sound for a good decade now, and it could be argued that, despite a few weak tracks, Twilight Of The Thunder God was the most polished and honed expression of their craft to date and was certainly a commercial high-watermark that won them a lot of new fans like young Viking Kayshawn (14, student and avid Metal Hammer reader). Worryingly, Surtur Rising no longer sees their sound developing sound nor does it refine what has already been done, instead appearing to be a regressive step or a placeholder release at best. For those who have followed them for a while, the feeling that they’ve run out of ideas haunts almost every song like the ghost of M. Night Shyamalan’s career.
There is hope for redemption, however. The way the slowed down, sparsely picked outro of A Beast Am I merges into the string-tinged, doomy and aptly named Doom Over Dead Man provides the most original moment on here, and in closing the album gives me hope that it is a taste of a new found diversity to come.
Surtur Rising is by no means a bad album and i’m sure I’ll pop it on my iPod and listen to it a few times, but I guarantee you that three months from now I will not be able to name a single song from it. And unless your name is preceded by ‘Viking’, neither will you.