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Rating Amon Amarth’s Albums
Chances are, when the notion of Viking-themed metal makes it’s way to your brain, you will think of Amon Amarth at some stage. That's probably because a) they are one of the most enduring, popular and successful bands that focus on that material and b) they kick ass.
Yes, the mighty Swedes soldier on, pillaging their way around the world on massive tours and release album after album of chugging, throbbing Odin-orientated goodness. From their early days screaming about Christianity to myths and history blended into a melting pot of brilliance, the band developed, explored, toured and had a blast along the way, playing to delirious metalheads in every corner of the globe.
So, in celebration of their 31 years rocking out to tales of the gods, here are their 12 main releases in order of overall quality, according to the humble opinion of one dude.
12) Once Sent From the Golden Hall - 1998
The first album didn't so much as announce the bands arrival as get lost in a busy market with little to separate them from their peers. Raw, scrambled vocals, clumsy drums and chaotic guitars with little to identify them as the same band today. Siegreicher Marsch, however, may have indicated a hidden quality and is a high point on an otherwise forgettable debut.
11) The Avenger - 1999
Better guitar work than it’s predecessor but still lacking the hooks meaning that the vocals let it down. Light on myth with a focus more on fighting and raiding. Heavy anti-Christian messages throughout but not one I will be dusting off for a spin any time soon.
10) The Crusher - 2001
It’s no coincidence that the lowest placed albums on this list are in the order of age for this was a time that Amon Amarth were finding their feet and developing sound but hadn’t found that winning formula yet. Masters of War was the song of the album, spawning a remaster some 20 years later. At this point in their career, Amon Amarth were feeling disheartened at their lack of breakthrough success and figured after the Crusher failed to meet their expectations that they had one more in the tank, hopefully the album that would make it all worthwhile.
9) Fate of Norns - 2004
This was not that album. Here is where our list starts to deviate from chronological uniformity for 2002’s Versus the World was the one that changed the band. More on that shortly.
Fate of Norns was a middling sort of album, better than the average death metal band (Amon Amarth themselves don’t like the description ‘Viking Metal’, insisting that they are melodic death metal) but nowhere near the quality of the later releases with the exception of the iconic The Pursuit of Vikings. Chances are if you are reading this and a fan of the band, you now have the riff in your head. You are welcome. A staple of live shows where the guitar notes always elicit a fervent roar from the crowd, this song holds up even if Johan Heggs epic vocals have developed positively over the years since its release.
8) Versus the World - 2002
The album I mentioned earlier? The one that convinced Amon Amarth to rock on? It’s this one, Album opener Death in Fire grabbed you by the curlies with chugging riffs and a chorus to scream along to with fists raised. Across the Rainbow Bridge conjures up images of an old, Viking warrior seeking Valhalla in an strangely touching reflection of fate, chance, life and death and A Thousand Years of Oppression stuck a middle finger up to religion (well, Christianity) once more. Rough, ready and fun, this album announced Amon Amarths sound and their songwriting prowess started to bubble up.
7) Jomsviking - 2016
Look, I’m not saying Jomsviking is a bad album, far from it! It’s just that they have so many good and great albums that its impossible to nail down! Next week this may be number 3 after listening again for a while. It’s all subjective, innit?
Anyhow, Jomsviking has high moments such as the Raise Your Horns, a rousing drink-fuelled party song written for live shows and a good time that warriors at Odin’s feast would be proud of. The Way of Vikings blasts your hair away with epic, swirling riffs that maintain momentum for the whole song and a welcome visit from the excellent Doro on A Dream that Cannot Be gave Hegg some vocals to bounce off. Personally, A Thousand Burning Arrows is the album highlight for me, detailing a Viking funeral for a king and it’s a slower, more poignant song but stirring in a sort of beardy masculine kind of way. Ultimately, for this list there were too many songs that made me go ‘meh’ such as On a Sea of Blood, One Against All and Vengeance is My Name. Decent songs but that’s about it.
6) Berserker - 2019
These last two were the closest in my scoring technique, Mac’s Excellent Scoring System or MESS for short. And in the end Berserker just squeaked past Jomsviking but this is not a hill I will die on for both are solid efforts. Rip-roaring tracks like Crack the Sky and Raven’s Flight set the pace for the album with other strong offerings like Mjolner, Hammer of Thor, Shield Wall and Skoll and Hati give plenty of opportunities to enjoy. Into the Dark is a creative highlight as it explains mental health troubles from the perspective of one suffering their own demons, who is revealed later to be none other than Loke himself. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, while not the most catchy of tunes, is sure to interest any history buffs, alternating its narration from opposing sides of the English Army and a camping Viking horde.
5) The Great Heathen Army - 2022
Amon Amarth’s latest release hits the top 5 in style, ranging from the sublime (The Serpents Trail) to the ridiculous or ridiculously brilliant (Heidrun, truly the GOAT) and continued their recent enjoyment of guest singers by bringing Saxon vocalist Biff Byford onto the cleverly conceived and executed Saxons and Vikings. Album opener Get in the Ring is a song written for a wrestlers entrance but it never really seems to find itself but it’s more than made up for by the excellent Find a Way or Make One and the chugging juggernaut sound of Odin Owns Ye All. A solid, enjoyable effort with some that made it onto this reviewers daily playlist.
4) Surtur Rising - 2011
War of the Gods rips your face off as soon as you listen to this apocalypse themed album before giving way to another myth-heavy offering with Töcks Taunt, the sequel to Hermods Ride to Hel from With Oden on Our Side. Surtur Rising dialled up the atmosphere with a couple of strings arrangements included to juxtapose the brutal vocals and throbbing riffs, most prominent on Doom Over Dead Man and a secret section at the end of A Beast Am I, the anger-laden narrative from the imprisoned Fenrir’s perspective which manages to introduce a tinge of sadness to the tale of a caged beast who didnt ask to be who he is. Slaves of Fear treads old ground of anti-religious sentiment so prevalent in their earlier albums and other stand out The Last Stand of Frej sends a popular god into the next realm in a battle after stabbing a fire giant in the eye. Who said metal wasn’t poetic?
3) With Oden on our Side - 2006
The top 3 was a tough one. If you know your Amon Amarth then you know the three that are left and can probably empathise. This list will change frequently but I feel confident that in my humble opinion, these are the three best albums. With Oden on Our Side is consistent and excellent. Hermods Ride to Hel is one of my all time favourites, from the mythological visuals to the riff and especially the segment where Hermod and Hel speak. it is simply incredible. Runes to My Memory, telling the story of a dying Viking in a far off land is oddly touching and introspective whilst the title track itself delivers and then some. Prediction of Warfare, as well-written lyrics as you will find anywhere on their catalogue and the frantic, warmongering of Cry of the Blackbirds announced Amon Amarths credentials as modern titans of metal.
2) Deceiver of the Gods - 2016
DOTG is an enjoyable romp from start to finish. The title track and album opener maintains its breathless pace into the swirling, melodic carnage of As Loke Falls in an epic, whirling riff that steals the show from the picture painted by Heggs vocals. Father of the Wolf and Shape Shifter, the latter being superior in my view, continue the theme that this is Loke’s album. A clever bit of concept work comes in the form of Under Siege, from the point of view of besieged townspeople, which is then followed later by Coming of the Tide from the view of the fighters who were far to the south. Unique and each song being a different style and speed, knitted together it tells a longer story than each on their own. Hel delves into the place named after the goddess (and child of the Trickster) with added vocals from Candlemass crooner Messiah Marcolin. A strong album, wrapped around the theme of Loke himself.
1) Twilight of the Thunder God - 2008
Fifteen years after it’s release, this album still kicks ass. The title track is a shoe-in at every Amon Amarth show ever and deservedly so ‘cos it absolutely slays. Guardians of Asgaard is similarly held in high regard by fans at live shows, frequently initiating rowing by enthusiastic pit lovers, or at least until the fantastic Put Your Back Into the Oar was released more recently, becoming the defacto rowing song for gigs. Even what would normally be expected to be filler tracks by lesser bands, the other songs on the album (with the exception of Where is Your God, which, for me, is an outlier in terms of quality) like the brilliant Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags or The Hero are excellent. Live for the Kill, a tale of wolves chasing fleeing soldiers includes a welcome melodic strings section again, capturing the beauty and danger in a time of victory, death and natures dispassion. Album closer Embrace of the Endless Ocean is divine and a fitting end to an album that etched itself into the pantheon of all time great melodic death metal offerings.
Don’t agree with me? That’s okay, I don’t agree with me sometimes either and that’s the beauty of music right there. You do you, I’ll do me and let’s headbang together to the best Viking metal band around - just don’t tell Johan Hegg I called them that.