AMON AMARTH are without question one of those bands that gets me riled up at the mere mention of the name, ready to grab a broadsword or battleaxe and bring it down on someone’s head faster than you can say “Valhalla”. Since 2008 when an old friend introduced me to Twilight of the Thunder God (STILL my favorite album!) I have been a YUUUUGE fan. Which brings us to the here and now and brand new album Jomsviking (March 25 via Metal Blade Records). Frontman Johan Hegg describes it like this: “It’s a pretty simple story where a young man is in love with a girl but unfortunately she’s being married off. He accidentally kills a man when this happens and he has to flee.”
There’s more, SO much more, but I’m not doing the legwork for you fuckers. Suffice to say this story would make for one helluva movie someday. Musically this one is right up there with Twilight. As soon as “First Kill” starts you’ll get it, believe me. Opening in true AMON AMARTH fashion, this one would make just as powerful a statement to start their live show as well, not unlike “Father of the Wolf” from 2013’s Deceiver of the Gods. Immediately following this is “Wanderer” a mid-tempo grinder that evokes images of snow-covered mountains littered with blood and bodies. Speaking of which, “On a Sea of Blood” and “One Against All”are the soundtrack to a furious battle I can close my eyes and imagine before me, the guitar work of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen crisp and precise, much like the warring factions’ blades.
Now we come to one of my favorite tracks and new drinking anthem “Raise Your Horns”. I plan on blaring this one at full volume while hoisting many a shot and beer for the next few months at least. And as soon as we finish drinking to glory along comes “The Way of Vikings” with not only the darkest riff, but the rhythm section of bassist Ted Lundström and ex-VOMITORY drummer Tobias Gustafsson bringing their own killing machines to the fray. The story of two Jomsvikings who used to be best friends, they meet in battle and one of them will die, because “It’s the way of the Jomsvikings!” Hegg screams this line with all the subtlety of a chainsaw and the song simply MUST be a live staple for years to come. Another favorite for sure!
Second single “At Dawn’s First Light” cuts down anyone and anything in its path, while “One Thousand Burning Arrows” once again changes the pacing a bit, keeping things fresh. The spoken intro to “Vengeance Is My Name” is the prelude to a nasty, groove-laden number that had me banging my head while driving my forklift every single time it came back around. Of course, one of the true gems of the disc comes with a guest appearance from The Metal Queen herself, DORO on “A Dream That Cannot Be”. Over and over this one plays in my head, with no sign of stopping anytime soon. I’m already jealous of all the overseas audiences who will likely get to hear this one live as she joins the band onstage at various festivals this summer where they’re on the same bill.
The album ends with “Back On Northern Shores.” This band knows how to close records, and this song is no exception. Broad, sweeping, and clocking in at 7:09 it just feels like we’ve been through everything that has happened right alongside those in the story. You could probably get a movie out of this track alone. I actually do hope they make some sort of companion film to go with this album’s tales of love, death, and revenge because it’s such a compelling story, how can you not? AMON AMARTH have returned with what will surely be an Album of the Year candidate for me in Jomsviking. This is right up there with Twilight of the Thunder God as far as favorite albums from the band go and I need to see this tour or die trying!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM