Originally written by Chris Redar
Time to dust off your leather wristbands and fill those steins high with the mightiest of mead: Amon Amarth is back with another ten tales of bloodshed and war!
That’s probably how the press release starts for this one-sail warship. What it should have said was something like this:
Did you like Twilight of the Gods? How about Surtur Rising? Well, here they are again, now with a different muscle-bound guy holding a shield on the cover! (C’mon, we have kids to feed. Have a heart, will ya?)
There’s nothing in the metal handbook that says every outing needs to contain a certain percentage of innovation, nor does it need to strive for the unholy grail of perfection (yes, there is a metal handbook. Don’t have a copy? It was issued when you got your Headbanger’s Local 666 card. Wait, you don’t have that either? Step into my office, please…), and Amon Amarth attempt neither on Deceiver of the Gods. And for the most part, you get what you pay for: high-flying riffs, a rhythm section that at least shows up for practice, and a rather confident (though not particularly adventurous) vocal outing from Johan Hegg. What you don’t get is any sense of urgency or joy. This reeks of product that needs to be on a merch table for a band to stay on tour and pay what is surely a pricey mortgage on a Swedish castle that probably has a drawbridge and a moat.
Let’s start with the positives. The title track kicks things off with a bang, as an opening track should. Huge melodic riff? Check. Simple, effective D-beat? Check. All that’s missing is a full cold one in your right hand and a battle axe in your left. “Father of the Wolf” (one of four “Something of the Something” titles presented here; the song-titling department could stand to take a creative writing class) similarly brings the thunder (pun intended) with a scaled-back guitar attack that completely invokes the savage nature of the lyrics.
The two standouts are also the two longest tracks–most hover around the four-minute mark–“Under Siege” and album closer “Warriors of the North.” The former in particular absolutely nails the theme of warriors standing their ground thanks to the rhythmic pounding of Fredrik Andersson.
The rest of the album must be taking a sobriety test, because it walks the straightest yellow line in the history of straight yellow lines. “As Loke Falls” is easily the most sense-deadening exercise in repetitive excess presented here. With its bland pseudo-solo riffwork and one (exactly one) beat pounding away endlessly, anything around will become a distraction to avoid finishing the song.
It’s also the second track.
That NEVER bodes well for the rest of an album, which is a major flaw here- sequencing. The back half of the album has several snoozers in a row, making it a chore to get to the finish line. By the time you’ve subjected yourself to the incredibly out-of-place clean singing courtesy of Messiah Marcolin placed oh so subtly underneath the growl in “Hel,” you’ll feel like you’ve been listening to this for ages.
Another huge issue is the over-the-top production. The melo-death sound as a whole begs for this kind of clarity, but it’s so… BIG. And it’s perfectly even, as well, and the two traits combine to render the songs mostly flat and lifeless. It’s like a freshly waxed car- it’s so nice and shiny that you want to put it in the garage, never to be driven or exposed to bird shit again. What’s the point in having the car, then? Amon Amarth would do well to get some dirt on the tires and let this fucker scream down the highway, because the songs that rock, well… rock.
Half of this album will surely find its way into Amon Amarth’s live performance (don’t get me started on fucking Carcass opening for them in Europe…the fuck?), which is where these Swedes excel: fist pumping, beer swilling, hair twirling togetherness with like-minded warriors. The other half? Well, the band would do well to get into some competition with Ambien for sleep-inducing supremacy.