For eight albums now, Amon Amarth have regaled us with tales of Vikings fighting and dying gloriously in battle, and of conflicts faced by Thor, and his father Oden in their protection of Asgard. Steeped in Norse mythology, each one reads like an exciting book, with the songs serving as the chapters. Deceiver of the Gods, the band’s ninth effort, continues in much the same vein, and is every bit as gripping as those that came before it.
The title track opens things up in grandiose fashion, with a dueling lead intro, before the song is off and running, looking to bring its broadsword down on someone’s head. Johan Hegg’s final growl of “Deceiver of the Gods!!” will still be ringing in the ears when the Iron Maiden-esque guitars of “As Loke Falls” rain down upon thee, smashing everything in their path. Amon Amarth hasn’t unleashed a one-two punch like this to start an album in years. Huzzah!
“Father of the Wolf” chronicles the birth of the wolf Fenris, Oden’s nemesis, while “Shape Shifter” tells the tale of Loke’s ability to take on different animal shapes, as well as shift from good to evil. “Under Siege” and “We Shall Destroy” are again battle-themed songs, and while the tempo may be a tad slower, they are no less brutal, vocally, lyrically, or musically. Anyone who thought the last few releases had less of a bite is sure to be happy with the first half of this record.
The sound of an axe hitting flesh at the start of “Blood Eagle” only serves to accent the pummeling drums and guttural growls. This is one of the best offerings on the record, and will be on repeat a lot in this Examiner’s household. “Hel” features a guest vocal appearance by Messiah Marcolin, formerly of Candlemass. It is a bit of a stylistic change for the band, and Messiah’s highs complement Johan’s extreme lows very well. Another album highlight, for sure.
“Coming of the Tide” is a hard-hitting number about revenge, pure and simple. A legion of warriors rushes to the aid of the doomed ones from the aforementioned “Under Siege”, only to find they are too late, and all are dead. They then rededicate themselves to the pursuit of those responsible. Lyrically, it has some of the most vivid imagery found on the disc.
The pièce de résistance, however, is “Warriors Of the North”, a sweeping eight-minute epic telling of a king’s betrayal, banished warriors, and one last shot at restoring their honor by fighting for the very same king, dying the warrior’s death, and ultimately reaching Valhalla. This song plays out like a well-shot movie, and will make the listener want to take up arms and fight side by side with these men.
Once again, Amon Amarth have delivered an album that is sure to be in many a top 10 list at year’s end. The songs are well-crafted, and designed to be played again and again.
Deceiver of the Gods hits the U.S. on June 25.
– Originally published in Dallas Metal Music Examiner, June 18, 2013