Even though multiple interviews have contained singer Johan Hegg stating that Amon Amarth don’t consider themselves a “viking metal” band, there’s simply no denying that’s exactly what they are. In the band’s early stages, they metamorphosed from a crust grind act called Scum into the Swedish melo-death powerhouse that first garnered big attention with their mini-CD, Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds. By the time Amon Amarth really began to assert their dominance, the Swedish scene was already well-established. So while, sonically, these guys aren’t exactly blazing trails like the initial wave of Gothenburg bands, there’s no denying that they’re excellent at what they do, and are among the sub-genre’s most reliable prolific outfits.
Amon Amarth’s last record, Deceiver of The Gods, came out almost three years ago. And despite the recent departure of their longtime drummer, Fredrik Andersson, recent updates have suggested that we should see a new AA record sometime in 2016. Here’s hoping. A quick note: Criminally Slept-On is typically aimed at exposing lesser-known songs to metal fans who may have been casual listeners of the band featured. When it comes to Amon Amarth, the fanbase is particularly rabid. And the fact that they’ve spent their entire career with essentially one label makes all of their material pretty easy to run down. Having said that, I’ve picked a few of my AA favorites this week that either seem to get overlooked in conversation or in the live setting. Maybe you’ll check out something you may have missed before. Let’s find out.
1) “Satan Rising”
For Deceiver of The Gods, Amon Amarth took a pretty ingenious route when it comes to bonus content. Special editions of the album contained a four-song EP called Under The Influence. The second disc featured not simply covers, but new original tracks written and performed in the style of four different bands who were seminally influential in crafting Amon Amarth’s sound. I chose “Satan Rising” because, first off, I’m a massive Black Sabbath fan, and second, because I think, songwriting-wise, it’s the best track of the batch. The most impressive aspect is vocalist Johan Hegg’s performance. While Hegg’s typically a one-speed growler, he manages to mimic vintage Ozzy clean vocals with killer precision. If you’re not in the mood for buying a deluxe version of the album in order to get these songs, the EP is available on its own through iTunes.
2) “For Victory or Death”
Surtur Rising, on the whole, felt a bit like a slump in a few ways. There was no doubt that Twilight of The Thunder God would be a damn difficult album to follow, and there are places on Surtur where it felt like the band knew it, too. I think it’s possible that resulted in the band attempting to change speeds a bit, which worked sometimes, but sometimes didn’t (“Doom Over Dead Man” and the awful cover of System of a Down’s “Aerials”). For my money, where this record best excelled was when the band remained confident in their ability to continue doing what made them so revered, and I think “For Victory or Death” is a perfect example of that. It’s got the same upbeat tempo as fan favorites like “Twilight of The Thunder God” or “Runes To My Memory,” and the intro/verse guitar melody is one of the most memorable on the record.
3) “Where is Your God?”
Some of Amon Amarth’s most popular songs can be found on Twilight of The Thunder God, and many would argue that this record features the band at the peak of their career. Songs like the title track and “Guardians of Asgaard” have become live staples at AA shows. Probably my favorite track on this album is “Where Is Your God?” It’s the shortest of this batch of songs, and pound-for-pound, contains some of the music savage lyrics this side of “Blood Eagle.” I don’t know why they don’t play it live more often.