Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (2016) – Review

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The music really fits the theme. Even if it bemoans times long past and a mythology long out of fashion. The Holy Roman Church usurped that top spot a considerable time ago, and with some bloody vengeance, too.

We are talking about the Vikings and their actions, famous for invasions, violence, and rape. This was a gore-laden time, but with promise for a lot of profit, if these marauders were victorious. And they have been, pretty much at every location, their little dragon boats could reach. Perhaps the most famous actions were 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. They deliver 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. The distinctly more melodic approach to their music, and – indeed – some clear voice passages, struck me right from the start. And that specific goodness will surely rub some die-hard fans the wrong way. But hey, you can’t get it right for everybody.

Sometimes this whole new style smacks of Insomnium with an edge. Jomsviking delivers this stellar Melodic Death Metal brand that just keeps you fueled for the duration. And leaves you 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. Most of the elements clearly discernible, lyrics coming through powerfully, and a stellar guitar crunch always present, but not overwhelmingly so. And you’ll find 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, the record is still mastered better than other pots of delight I had the pleasure to review lately. 

Jomsviking charted at the #1 spot on 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 doesn’t end happily.

The Jomsvikings actually did exist in the late 900’s to early 1000’s. Albeit, the sources are a bit confused about what exactly they were. It, however, seems that they were a fighting order with a very strict codex.

Should you follow the journey Jomsviking embarked 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 bacon breakfast.

And some of that stuff clearly puts 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 outdid himself this time. 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 from the prowess this vocalist delivers. 

And did I tell you that the drums are not bad at all? They worked with a session musician – Tobias Gustafsson (Vomitory) – to make the album. The way complex patterns integrate into the album, without seeming overwhelmingly heavy is just good work. 

So, which track got on the favorite list?

First Kill for sure. This one just takes off like a Viking charge. A track that 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. With a typical chugging beat, ready to pull you along.

But now, hold on to your horse! At Dawn’s First Light, the attacking horde will charge you. This track is a gory and wild ride. But you are gonna like it.

Now, as sometimes is the case, you have to wait to the bitter end to get to the good stuff. Same in Jomsviking, and you’ll find two tracks worthy of 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 either. All are worthy of your time. And for sure, all of them have their place in the overall storyline.

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 type of metal to a more melodic offering a trifle difficult to stomach.

Great stuff!

And we’re already looking forward to the next album way down in the future.

Ed’s note: This record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest IV. Well done.

Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Metal Blade Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 25 March 2016

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