7) “Legend of a Banished Man”
This is the closer from Amon Amarth’s second full-length release, The Avenger. It’s one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite AA records. The thing about this one, though, is that it took me a long time to really get attached to it. Like most of the high points of the band’s earlier output, most of what’s glaringly enjoyable about this music doesn’t take too long to notice; in fact, it usually kicks you in the teeth straight out of the gate. “Legend of A Banished Man” is more of a slow-burner. There’s a lot of building throughout the song, and even at such a young age, these guys did a fantastic job of manipulating the track’s pacing in order to build and release tension… just like a well-told story should.
8) “Friends of The Suncross”
Victorious March” (and its German re-recording, “Siegreicher Marsch”) get tons of love across the board. And, yeah, it’s a great song. But there’s so much more to love on Once Sent From The Golden Hall. The fact that this album is Amon Amarth’s first proper full-length release speaks volumes to their proficiency at the time; the quality of songwriting on tracks like “Without Fear” is indicative of a band much further into their career. Another memorable song from this album is “Friends of The Suncross.” It’s a relatively straightforward banger with some great displays of riffing, as well as a killer percussion performance from a then pre-Opeth Martin Lopez. The whole album’s really pretty stellar, especially given the age of these dudes when they wrote and recorded it. If you’re looking to purchase a copy, I’d recommend, as I would for all of the first three full-length releases, checking out the 2009 reissue series put out by Metal Blade. The expanded liner notes contain some pretty priceless testimonials from band members about the time surrounding the albums’ recordings, as well as touring anecdotes and retrospectives about how their catalog has aged. Fun shit, especially for collectors and big fans of the band.
9) “Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds”
This is the title track and opener from the band’s first proper release, the mini-CD Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds. Not all the tracks on this EP are as solid as most of the stuff Amon Amarth debuted on Once Sent From The Golden Hall, but it’s not without promise. The title track has made it onto pretty much every early AA mix I’ve ever made, and it’s just as dynamic as anything else that came from this era in the band’s songwriting. Memorable, brutal, and fun… especially in the context of the band’s growth as musicians. Stacking these songs up against tracks from Deceiver is a hell of a thing to behold. Sure, they’ve gotten better by leaps and bounds, but even all those years ago, the band’s identity was already formed and formidable. If you wanna spend a shitload of money, you can run down this original release on Discogs. But for those of you who just wanna jam without breaking the bank, Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds is included in its entirety on the “Viking Edition” (yeah, for real) of Versus The World.
I guess in a way, Amon Amarth are a one-trick pony. Maybe the hallmark of a truly emotive heavy metal act is the ability to move from one avenue of expression to another, maybe to address a wider swath of the spectrum of human emotion. But there’s a lot of be said for reliability, and I can name a shitload of bands who’ve tried to swim too far out of their depth and ended up floundering into existential “head-up-ass” territory. If Amon Amarth have shown us anything, it’s that heavy music as a genre, even through the lens of something as seemingly trivial as Viking lore and Scandinavian mythology, is capable of achieving some pretty impressive feats, even in spite of itself and its own reputation. And the thing about said ponies is that, even though they’ve only got one trick, it’s a really fuckin’ good one.