For me, the band Amon Amarth immediately conjures up memories of rousing nights of Viking Metal in the 00s. They are one of those bands who have a template sound yet never fail to inspire with their pumping, steaming melodies. “Jomsviking”, the band’s tenth album, is a themed story of warriors, love and revenge. Who better to tell tales of Viking mercenaries than these hairy Swedes?
The album starts in typically uplifting mode. “First Kill”, “On a Sea of Blood” and “Once Against All” each reminded me of the old days of Amon Amarth with their driving force and uplifting choruses. Power enters from all sides. Energy abounds. Sandwiched between them is “Wanderer”. The catchy melody, the constant drive, the heaviness, the power … they’re all there. As the drum pounds on patiently, there’s a solo, a quiet guitar passage and the spoken word: “I’m haunted by dreams of blood, visions of death and gore. If this is the future, so be it”. It’s dramatic tale.
“We will drink to glory tonight” is the line as Amon Amarth enter true Viking mode with the haunting chorus and war-like drums on “Raise Your Horns”. I’d suggest this is a cast-iron certainty for the live set. The heroic war theme is then maintained with the evocative “The Way of Vikings”, another fluid juggernaut of a track. Showing the other side of the band’s style, “At Dawn’s First Light‘s” flamboyant riffage and solo give more than an air of power metal. “One Thousand Burning Arrows” takes us in a different direction with its epic tale – it’s slower but insistent and impossible to resist as it catchily cranks up the majesty level. Again, the song is not simple as we are taken instrumentally to the dizziest heights. “One Thousand Burning Arrows” was my favourite track.
“We fought the odds and prevailed …. and Vengeance is my name”. We’re in full flow now, musically and thematically. The lyrics are perhaps a bit predictable but the energetic power metal undercurrent belies the death, which the Vikings are glorifying. “Vengeance is My Name” is billed as a bonus track – I’m sure the band know why it’s a bonus but for me it just slotted into the main fare. More logical as a bonus track, if there has to be one, is “A Dream That Cannot Be”, which features German vocalist Doro Pesch. Similar to “At Dawn’s First Light”, apart from the female vocals the growls and colourful drumming add to the light-dark mix. To finish, another flowery rhythm backs up the menacing growls but forward gear is always there in the action-packed and compelling “Back on Northern Shores”. As the battle bus rumbles on impressively, it’s easy to forget the effortless feast of melody going on in the background. The instrumentalists hypnotise us by taking us to dreamy worlds while the vocalist injects his dosage of growly reality.
“Jomsviking” is fun. Once again I found myself warming to the majesty and power of an Amon Amarth album. Familiarity is very comfortable as Amon Amarth delight with yet another set of atmospheric and crowd-pleasing Viking outpourings.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)