The music really fits the theme. Even if they bemoan times long past and a mythology long out of fashion – the holy Roman church having taken over for some time now with some bloody vengeance too, by Loki. We are talking about Vikings and their doings, famous for invasions, violence and rape. This was a gore-laden time, but promising a lot of profit, if victorious. And they have been everywhere that could be reached on their little dragon boats. Perhaps the most famous actions being the invasions of the British isles back when the years were still counted in the hundreds and not the thousands.
The Swedish metallers Amon Amarth have been a stable brand in the Viking Metal genre, delivering a steady, if not somewhat repetitive, but always reliable mix of Death Metal infused Viking tales. And now with their 10th full length, they grace us with a first theme album called Jomsviking. What strikes me straight away is the more melodic approach to their music and – indeed – some clear voice passages. Johan Hegg impersonating multiple characters in this record. Sometimes this whole new style smacks off Insomnium with an edge. And Jomsviking delivers this stellar Melodic Death Metal brand that just keeps you fueled throughout the record and wanting more, gory as the story may indeed be.
Andy Sneap mixed, mastered and produced the album in the UK. And I really like what they did. No element really lost, lyrics coming through powerfully, guitar crunch always present, but not overwhelmingly so. And no drum work that tries to beat the hell out of you for 52 long minutes of rumbling metal. The only weak point is the bass that you got trouble discerning. But then this is still better mastered than on other pots of delight I had the pleasure to review lately.
Jomsviking charted at #1 in the German and Austrian billboards, followed by Switzerland at #3. The Swedish charts did not make it to pole position, which is surprising in a way. Usually the Scandinavian fan crowd is pretty sturdy in their support. The US Billboard 200 got them to rank 19, which is pretty good all considered.
The story is – not quite surprisingly – about disappointed love. Very disappointed love. The antagonist kills another man upon seeing that his wannabe bride got married off to someone else. Getting chased off his land and finding a home with an order of mercenary vikings, called the Jomsvikings, he tries to take revenge. And it don’t end happy. The Jomsvikings actually did exist in the late 900’s to early 1000’s. Albeit the sources are a bit confused in what exactly they were. It however seems that they were a fighting order with a very strict codex.
Should you follow the journey Jomsviking is embarking on? You should. Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen deliver some stellar riffing throughout the record. All done just the way I like it, with this crusty #metal egg and beacon breakfast. Very tasty indeed. Some of that stuff is putting a smile on my face, just have a look at Back on Northern Shores. Well, actually, they almost overdo the riffing on that one. More to that later.
As mentioned before, Johan Hegg has outdone himself in this record. The way he handles the growls on this disc is the proverbial proof of the pudding. Many a growler in #metal could probably learn something form the prowess Johan is delivering.
Drums? Not bad at all. They worked with a session drummer – Tobias Gustafsson (Vomitory) – for the sake of making the album. The way complex patterns integrate into the album without seeming overwhelmingly heavy is just good work. As per my latest information, Tobias will not continue as the official drummer of Amon Amarth and the search for a replacement of Fredrik Andersson will continue.
So, which track got on the favorite list? First Kill for sure. This one just takes off like a Viking charge. The track really feels like a speed version of Insomnium in a way. Then, Raise Your Horns will make you chant along until your voice wears out. Typical chugging beat, ready to pull you along. Now, hold on to your horse! At Dawn’s First Light the attacking horde will charge you. This track is a gory, wild ride. And you are gonna like it.
Do you feel like some of that today, including a few body parts? Have a look at this:
Now, as sometimes is the case, you have to wait until the bitter end to get to some good stuff. Same here and there are two tracks worth your time: The first is the aforementioned A Dream that Cannot Be ft. Doro Pesch (ex Warlock) and her very metal voice. Absolute stellar crunch, with Doro unleashing the female role of the track. First the song goes traditional Death Metal for a while, then moving back to their usual style. Very fitting and great choice!
Then the last track Back on Northern Shores will just keep you rolling on these huge, riffing waves towards this shore you would like to raid. Some of that delivers in a sort of thrashy Power Metal style. So, what about the other tracks? There is no bad song on this record and no fillers neither. All are worthy of your time and for sure all of them have their place in the overall story line.
It is difficult to find a lot of fault with Jomsviking and its delivery of trademark Viking Metal. Crunchy to the last second, great riffing and a theme that is holding its water will make you want more of this. This album is one of the best, if not THE best production Amon Amarth concocted so far. Even if some of the hardcore fan crowd might find the change from a somewhat austere to a more melodic style a trifle difficult to stomach. Great stuff!
Editor’s Note: This record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest IV. Well done.