Amon Amarth

Berserker

Written by: RUB on 17/06/2019 13:44:39

It was way past due that I got back into the reviewing game, now that my thesis has been handed in. And what better way to mark my return than with the latest album by the Viking metallers of Amon Amarth, whom I’ll be seeing at this year’s edition of the Copenhell festival in a few days’ time? Upon first inspection, it would seem like the flame of melodic death metal still burns bright with these Swedes — as they have showcased on album after album thus far — and judging by the first couple of songs premiered before the release of this latest outing “Berserker”, the band still know how to write a solid and accessible party starter. But is the group’s music still just about guzzling mead, telling stories about impressive Viking battles and in general focusing on tales from Norse mythology — or does the record actually bring something new to the table?

Amon Amarth have always had a penchant for writing infectious and above all melodic songs, and “Berserker” is no exception. Starting with “Fafner’s Gold”, this very fast-paced and melodic piece makes sure the album kicks off in a manner fitting the band’s legacy and sets the barrier high for the following tracks. Just like the songs we all love from Amon Amarth’s discography, I’m certain that this one will spark plenty of pits during their upcoming performances at Copenhell and beyond. With an insanely catchy chorus coupled with perhaps the best riff on the entire album on offer, we’re already dealing with a definitive highlight, and even though the nature of the song is perhaps best described as a reinvention of the wheel, it still showcases what Amon Amarth do best.

Next up, “Crack the Sky” sees the twin guitars contributing a constant depth to the music, which is a feature that fits the crisp production very well. This track is slower-paced and follows a steady headbang-friendly rhythm, but sadly, there’s little else to it than your standard fare Amon Amarth style anno 2019. The song is perfectly fine to listen to, but it is nothing out of the ordinary and actually betrays some pretty safe writing that does not wake or challenge the Viking inside me. The same goes for the third cut “Mjolner, Hammer of Thor”, which draws inspiration from Judas Priest in the way the track is structured, not to mention the way it sounds. Again, it is a decent Amon Amarth piece but it does leave you feeling like the band is operating on autopilot, even if the music video accompaniment turns out to be pretty hilarious.

Fast forward through the album and there are still only a few tracks worth mentioning. Both “Raven’s Flight” and “Ironside” have some of that unique Amon Amarth feeling to them: great build-ups, some fine breakdowns here and there, and a clear pattern for the songs to follow. They are better than most of the material on offer here, yet neither of them manages to get me off my seat. Indeed, the main problem with “Berserker” is that it is too mellow and safe for this group’s usual standard, and that in attempting to conform to the same recipe in basically every song, Amon Amarth are unable to bring their A-game in terms of composing those true standout moments. I am all for not fixing what ain’t broken, but in the case of “Berserker” there is just too much desaturation going on to justify nearly an hour of running length. A number of the tracks probably should never have made the final cut, but even so, one definitely still feels the customary Amon Amarth vibe that has enabled the band to grow into one of the torchbearers of the melodic death metal genre.

Seasoned fans will likely find that “Berserker”cannot hold a candle to the Swedish troop’s former glory days, but that does not mean that I’m not looking very much forward to their performance at Copenhell, considering that their Viking-themed melodic party death metal is certain to spark a celebratory atmosphere with mead and headbanging and moshing galore. So grab your drinking horn and axe, and let’s charge into battle once more!

5

Download: Fafner’s Gold, Crack the Sky, Raven’s Flight, Ironside, Skoll and Hati
For the fans of: Ensiferum, Ex Deo, Kataklysm, Unleashed
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.05.2019
Metal Blade Records

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