Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Metal Blade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Scandinavian Metal
Renowned for their stoic adherence to their Viking-themed take on melodic death metal, Amon Amarth have worked tirelessly for two decades but are only now beginning to reap the rewards. A vast improvement on 2011's Surtur Rising, Deceiver of the Gods finds the Swedes in an unusually ambitious mood. Their sound remains sturdy and instantly recognisable, but amid the scything riffs, Maidenesque lead guitar melodies and pummelling kick drums that drive the likes of Blood Eagle and As Loke Falls, there are subtle indications that Amon Amarth are defining themselves anew.
What begins with scorching, melodic twin leads, a mead-induced flurry of double-kick drumming, and the meatiest, most malevolent vocals this side of Valhalla? If you answered "The ninth studio outing from Swedish melodic death metal legends Amon Amarth" then you are correct and can drink from the chalice. Bolder and more bottom heavy than 2011's Surtur Rising, Deceiver of the Gods retains the band's penchant for crafting unyielding blasts of Viking brutality, but tempers each beating with the kind of melodic artistry that can only stem from 15 years spent in the trenches. Those artful melodies imbue much of the album with a toasty patina of NWOBH and power metal, especially on standout cuts like "Father of the Wolf," "Under Siege," the aforementioned opening title cut, and the epic closer "Warriors of the North," all of which sound like deadlier Norse spins on the better cuts from Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
With their latest record, Amon Amarth deliver another round of Norse storytelling set to a melodic death metal soundtrack. Now nine albums into their career, the Swedes have developed this combination into a finely tuned package; Deceiver of the Gods gives us everything we expect from the band, along with a little old-fashioned metal revitalization. Melodic leads fly in from every direction, sometimes heading off into soaring solos, sometimes diving into tightly synchronized harmonies.
No one delivers big, punch-in-the-face motifs better than Amon Amarth, and the Swedish melodic-death-metal titans have excelled themselves on their ninth studio album. Produced by Andy Sneap (Opeth, Accept), Deceiver of the Gods is at turns martial (“Father of the Wolf”), elegiac (“Under Siege”), blatantly neo-classical (“As Loke Falls”), and firmly committed to traditional Priest- and Maiden-style riffage (“Warrior of the North”). Not only does Johan Hegg deliver his fiercest growls ever, but he also duets mesmerizingly with operatic ex-Candlemass frontman Messiah Marcolin on “Hel.” It’s more of the same Viking-themed madness, but Thor knows we love it.
For a band so clearly invested in tales of invasion, war, and conquest, Sweden’s Amon Amarth is a strangely lead-footed target, so listless and uninterested in change that they’d make for an easy capture on a Norse battlefield of old. During the last two decades, they’ve released nine albums of headstrong Viking metal, built almost entirely around tales of shared Scandinavian heritage and tunes that either charged like a massive military’s frontline or sailed skyward like a hard-earned victory chant. The best of those records (by mere example, see with Oden on Our Side and Versus the World) have felt both urgent and addictive, combining death metal heft and modern rock-ready hooks to build and brandish verifiable anthems.
For Sweden's Amon Amarth, the Viking invasion never ended. Using Norse trickster god Loki as its focal point, the quintet's ninth LP swings the battle-axe of death metal while digging into human duality as a theme. Ultimately, it's about the extra-chunky riffs and Johan Hegg's inhuman gargle. Ex-Candlemass singer Messiah Marcolin adds otherworldly moans to "Hel." (Amon Amarth cleaves skulls at Austin 360 Amphitheater's Mayhem Fest on Friday, Aug.