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Amon Amarth
Twilight of the Thunder Gods Toby Cook , October 20th, 2008 18:13

If you like arson, looting and smashing giant sea monsters with a hammer – you’re going to love this

Twilight of the Thunder Gods

OK, let’s be honest – when a new Amon Amarth album comes along, you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to hear: Thunderous riffs, epic solos, and songs about burning and pillaging the towns of your enemies.

And you know what? That isn’t a bad thing.

Amon Amarth (or ‘Mount Doom’ in Elvish for any Lord of the Rings fans out there) have been churning out with alarming consistency their unique brand of Viking themed death metal, or Viking-metal if you will (although I’d rather not) since forming in Tumba, Sweden, way back in 1992.

Now 10 years, and seven albums, on since the release of their debut - Once Sent from the Golden Hall and AA have barely changed a thing, - that is until now... sort of.

The album opens with the title track, and tears through you like Jörmungandr (that’s the sea serpent on the album cover) tears through longboats - Andersson's double bass attack is relentless, the guttural roar of vocalist Johan Hegg is as good as it’s ever been and the frenetic guitar work of messes Söderberg and Mikkonen reminds you why you liked them so much in the first place.

Things carry on in this vein, through - ‘Fee Will Sacrifice’ and the immense riffery of ‘Guardians of Asgaard’ But after that, things start to evolve somewhat – there are certainly no major departures in terms of musical direction, but there are subtle nuances that mark out the majority of Twilight... from its predecessor With Oden on Our Side.

Rather than the bulk of songs being about hacking off the limbs of anyone who looks at you funny across the local Viking alehouse or nearest battlefield, this time around AA have become slightly more introverted in their lyrical approach.

‘No Fear for the Setting Sun’ is a dying warrior's final battle cry, and ultimate resignation to his fate (“This day my luck, turned to the worst”), whilst the incendiary ‘The Hero’ is the painful lament of one Norseman’s perhaps not all together wise choice of slicing up so many a foe (“I know who I am, my soul is death and misery, I am an evil man.”)

There is though one truly surprising moment on Twilight... and it happens in the second from last track, ‘Live for the Kill’, where for the first time, well ever, the sounds of a string section can be heard.

As the searing guitar melodies seem to be coming to a crescendo all goes quiet and the eerie sounds of Finland’s four piece cello quintet Apocalyptica come in, mimicking the initial guitar riff, the result of which is a track that is not only the standout moment on this record, but arguably the finest of the bands career to date.

It’s easy to be sceptical about a band who, it can somewhat legitimately be said, have made a career out of releasing the same album time after time, only with smoother production, and on occasion Twilight... rings true to this – ‘Varyags of Miklagaard’ is essentially AA by numbers and the epically titled closer ‘Embrace of the Endless Ocean’ is anything but (possibly a better title would have been ‘Embrace of the Slightly Tedious Ocean’?).

Nonetheless it would certainly be unfair to write off this LP – there is enough solid death metalness to satisfy the die hard fans and if you’ve never been exposed to the churning Nordic fury of Amon Amarth before, this isn’t a bad place to start.