Friday, September 30, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1590: Amon Amarth

This is my second straight review of an album released in 2013. They are very different…

Disc 1590 is…. Deceiver of the Gods

Artist: Amon Amarth

Year of Release: 2013

What’s up with the Cover?  I believe this is Thor in his goat-drawn chariot (last seen in our “What’s up with the cover?” for Tyr’s album, “Lay of Thrym” back at Disc 1570). Here he is giving what-for to a horned figure we must presume to be Loki, aka “deceiver of the gods”. If you’re betting on the outcome, the smart money is on Thor.

How I Came To Know It: I have been digging with wild abandon through Amon Amarth’s discography, as they are one of my favourite discoveries of late. I initially decided “Deceiver of the Gods” didn’t warrant purchase, but I gave it a second listen as my appreciation and understanding of the band deepened. This time around, it easily made the grade.

How It Stacks Up: I now have eight Amon Amarth albums, and they are all “bitchin’” as we say in the world of metal. At least we used to say that. I have bought all eight of these albums over the past year, so it is hard to know exactly where they fall, but since I passed “Deceiver of the Gods” over the first time I’m going to mark it a bit more harshly and say it is…seventh. Don’t worry; it is still good.

Ratings: 3 stars

In previous reviews I have expounded on how much love Viking metal likes to throw Thor’s way. The old Thunder God gets more than his fair share of songs, but I get it. He’s pretty cool. On “Deceiver of the Gods” Amon Amarth parts ways (temporarily) with all the Thor talk and focuses on the gods’ oft-times nemesis, and occasional ally, Loki.

The record does branch out eventually, but the first four are all about the Loki love, starting with the record’s title track. Stylistically, this song has a bit more melodic elements than you’d expect, but by 2013 Amon Amarth were lightening up ever so slightly. Fear not: you’re still going to get Johan Hegg’s guttural vocals and the furious double-base mastery of Fredrik Andersson, but the guitar riffs are a bit higher in the mix.

I’m not saying you’ll be able to dance to this stuff, but it does lift itself out of the black metal sludge ever so slightly. Think, waist-deep in sludge, which in this case feels just right. No sludge at all and you might as well listen to the radio.

The second Loki-tune, “As Loke Falls” is a lot thicker and heavier, but Amon Amarth still find room for guitar noodles that would make Iron Maiden proud. These tunes have that same Maiden gallop you know and love, it’s just that they’re riding heavy warhorses covered in steel barding. It thumps a bit more, but still gets you there.

The Loki lovefest rounds out with “Father of the Wolf” (the giant Fenris Wolf is a child of Loki, who had quite a few problematic children, the other two being the death goddess Hel and the Midgaard Serpent) and then “Shape Shifter” (Loki often changed form while engaging in one of his various grifts for or against the gods).

From here, Amon Amarth get into more run of the mill Viking topics, including the ritual torture that is a “Blood Eagle” (this involves pulling the lungs out of a still living human, and the lyrics are, unsurprisingly, not for the faint of heart). Also there are various battles, wars and sieges and other examples of Viking derring-do. If you like this sort of stuff (and I do) then this record will really float your longship. If you don’t, then you might want to avoid Amon Amarth’s entire discography. Your loss, though, because these guys are awesome.

Overall, I tend to lean towards the songs on the melodic side, but I like that Amon Amarth remain heavy as hell regardless of how awesome a guitar riff they deploy. This stuff will always thump, growls like the Fenris Wolf himself, and will generally get your blood pumping. The double-bass in “Blood Eagle” is particularly glorious, and a brilliant accompaniment to the gallop of the song.

Lyrically, the band can get stilted and literal in places, but it is a minor quibble and at least they sing even the hokiest lines with a gusto that sells you on them.

Near the end of the record, Amon Amarth return to the Loki theme, with a song about Hel herself. This tune has a guitar riff so chunky it should be illegal to play it above the knees. Get down near the floor, let your hair hang over the strings and let the metal flow like lava onto the ears of year listeners.

Hel” also features guest vocals from Candlemass frontman Messiah Marcolin. This adds a bit more of an anthem singing style and I briefly mused about whether all of Amon Amarth would be better with that style instead of the black metal growl of Hegg. After careful consideration I decided that while I love what Marcolin brings to “Hel” overall, Amon Amarth are perfect just as they are.

I’m glad I returned to this record, and while I rank it kind of low compared to their other albums, that’s just a sign of how much I like everything these guys do, this record included.

Best tracks: Deceiver of the Gods, Father of the Wolf, Blood Eagle, Hel

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