Last updated on 10 July 2020
Sometimes things just fit. At the time of the release of Berserker, Amon Amarth‘s 2019 epic, I was just reading the newest novel of Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series.
A perfect backdrop to a great story, whilst Johan Hegg growls about the English growing confused when faced with the berserkers of the Norse invaders. Back in time, way back in time.
And it is interesting how stamina and – for sure – authenticity will keep you on track with a style that did not change much over time. If anything, Amon Amarth will serve as a dead-certain value in the ubiquitous world of Death and Viking Metal. And their newest 2019 Viking assault Berserker confirms that, if nothing else.
Not that they don’t face some mighty competition.
You got yourself big names out there like Ildra, Tyr, SIG:AR:TYR or – again – Leaves’ Eyes. Albeit that the latter issue from the Symphonic and Melodic Metal corner, which leaves me scratching my head sometimes. Even if they try to spiff things up with some terrible growls.
For the length of their impressive career, Amon Amarth really delivered record after record of the same ilk, flavor, and taste. It is a sense of comfort given to the fan base that, whatever happens in this difficult world of much metal, they can don their mailcoat, strap on a sword and head over to the next Amon Amarth gig. And they won’t be disappointed.
It also speaks to the band’s strength and skill that the fan base did not tire of the same recipe all over again. But then again, other metal bands like Iron Maiden did this with great success, too. So, it is a true and tested formula. One that works only, if you are good at it. And our Swedish fighters definitely excel at their trade.
Berserker: A sure value in a confused and uncertain metal world?
Quite. A little bit like all of them burger joints that serve the same food all over the world. Even if this comparison limps somewhat bad. Yet, the strength of any Amon Amarth record lies in the story it tells.
This was already the case with Jomsviking, and – indeed with all other of their albums, I had the pleasure to listen to. And I reckon their direction will not change for the next 300 records or so.
This time it is berserkers and their crazed antics that took the band’s fancy. The ones that – in a drug-induced haze – fought like demons on a mission. And struck fear into their enemies’ hearts. So much so that many a tale survived.
Rich pickings for Amon Amarth to indulge in, and so they did. Ranging from the Swedish Ironside to the legend of the Battle at Stamford Bridge. The one that historians ironically don’t really know where it took place. They only know that there – apparently – was a battle somewhere.
Now, what about Berserker, the record?
You guessed it. Momentous flashes of innovation in style and delivery are for the weak and silly on this new album. It is – after all – typical Amon Amarth fare, which delivers well-known metal shards with the same gusto than its brethren from earlier times. So, if you are looking for some new injections of greatness, come back later. Or never, the way things go.
Berserker – however – draws from almost flawless execution. A delivery of quality seldom seen this side of Death Metal. All elements perfectly arranged, pretty much no note out of place. And you can actually understand Johan Hegg‘s growls and follow the story.
Even if I would advise him not to sing clear vocals, like the ones on Ironside – for instance. They just don’t cut it. Attempts of professional full-time growlers going for clear voice often end in dismay. Aephanemer’s Marion Bascoul already tried that one. And the outcome was not all that pretty. Yet, Alissa White-Gluz features pretty tasty clear vocal powers. So, there you go for exceptions confirming the rule.
Then, I really enjoyed Ted Lundström‘s bass work. An instrument that often loses itself in this mighty wall of sound. Yet, on Berserker the bass gets us a pretty tasty counter-weight to the never-ending riffing of all sorts and colors.
And what feeds the storyline?
Fafner’s Gold – the opening track – pretty much sums it up. You’ll get snippets of styles collected from all over the Extreme Metal universe. All thrown at ye with a seriously speedy metal assault. And served on a bed of often tremolo-infused, corny tunes that will just rock the fan crowd during concerts.
I really enjoyed the raw power of Raven’s Flight. Talking about them carrion eaters and portents of doom that haunt the battlefields. Sometimes even before the slaughter starts. Whatever the track lacks in sophisticated arrangement, it makes up in energy and drive. Something I really appreciated on Berserker, by the way. A hellish energy-fueled relentless attack on your eardrums, like the crazed Norsemen it depicts.
Crack the Sky with its airs sometimes reminiscent of stuff Rotting Christ did, really made me want to kick back them spurs. If you need firing up, this track will do it for ye. A muscle-laden Viking monster to sing along with, whilst you race towards the enemy at breakneck speed.
Then, the aforementioned track Ironside follows closely. This one impresses with some heavy chugging. Kind of solemnly at first, then taking on some energy. Pretty much along the lines of Into the Dark. The one that takes on heat, as the track progresses to oblivion.
And where does that leave us?
As to myself, I like Amon Amarth and their consistent style. As always and like its predecessors, Berserker delivers the full package. The band rocks off to ravage yonder shores with a brand of gusto and power that you won’t really find with any other band.
Admitted, this record may not be as crusty as former works. And many fans may feel adversely affected by this fact. But you just got to admire their full steam ahead approach on metal. Their flawless style and relentless energy reminiscent of the Norse warrior really make me want to break out that battle jacket and head over to the next concert hall.
Berserker will definitely slake your metal thirst, and then some. It may be too sure a value for some, but in the end, metal is what you came for, and metal is what you get.
Now, let’s get onto that mighty destrier and break a lance for the Norse fighters. And frighten these Saxons out of their wits. Plunder awaits.