originally written by Chris McDonald
Amon Amarth has always maintained a solid balance between pedal-to-the-metal fury and more open, epic songwriting in their quest for melodic death domination. But they’ve also noticeably favored one more than the other at various stages of their career; the first two records showed the band at their most visceral while Versus the World and its follow-up Fate of Norns saw an increased focus on atmosphere and simplicity over the band’s usual ripping, double-bass heavy assault. Fans of this side of the band may grow impatient with this album’s slightly more low-key feel, but if you happen to favor Amon Amarth’s darker, more brooding songs, Versus the World will own you.
I’m hoping most people reading this review have already experienced the crushing opener of “Death In Fire,” widely regarded as one of Amon Amarth’s best songs to date. But while its galloping main riff and infectious chorus are certainly worthy of praise, the real draw of Versus the World is the somber, downtrodden atmosphere of the slower tracks. “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard” and “Thousand Years of Oppression” in particular are stirring, almost cinematic mid-paced songs that bring a surprising amount of emotion in with the stomping riffwork and barbaric shouts. Amon Amarth were actually on the cusp of breaking up when this album was originally released (its success spurned them to continue forward), and one can definitely feel a somewhat forlorn, but dignified current running throughout the nine tracks, particularly on the humungous closer “…And Soon the World Will Cease To Be.”
A couple of songs here don’t really hold up as well individually as they did back in 2002 (“Bloodshed” and “Across the Rainbow Bridge” come to mind), but taking in Versus the World in its entirety is still an immensely satisfying listening excursion. While With Oden On Our Side and The Avenger are Amon Amarth’s most intense and complete albums, Versus the World remains this band’s most emotionally moving work, and an essential purchase.