The Swedish Kings of Melodic Death Metal, Amon Amarth, have delivered again! 2019 sees the arrival of Berserker, the band’s 11th studio album. There is no other metal band like these veterans – the near-perfect combination of (seemingly) opposing concepts of melody and crushing brutality, harmony and roaring gutturals – and this record exemplifies that fact, once again, while also showcasing some new aspects. Where 2016’s, Jomsviking, was a concept record that (lead vocalist) Johan Hegg had written the story and the other band members supplied music thereafter, Berserker saw all music finished before Hegg had penned a single lyric. This offering also introduces us to the band’s new drummer, Jocke Wallgren, who fits in nicely with the other members while adding some fresh blood (so to speak).
Fafner’s Gold opens with acoustic guitar and keyboards before launching into the ever familiar gallops of Amon Amarth’s trademark storytelling. A dragon’s tale.
Crack the Sky is a bop about Thor (and his hammer) that sounds like a holdover from 2008’s Twilight of the Thunder God.
Mjolner, Hammer of Thor is pretty self-explanatory. It reminds me of something from Deceiver of the Gods (2013).
Shield Wall sounds like it came right off of Surtur Rising (2011), and is also self-explanatory; though I sense there is something personal, here, too. A real anthem!
Valkyria is a story about a female heavenly messenger in the old Norse mythology. The track also ends with some spooky keyboards (nice!).
Raven’s Flight – war, vengeance, conquest – any questions?! It features a wicked breakdown, and the overall feel of the song gives you a real sense of the battle.
Ironside features ‘the spoken word’ by Hegg, who not only has one of the best general vocal gutterals in metal, but also an awesome speaking voice. This one is adapted from the mythical Norse character by the same name, famously portrayed by the series Vikings.
The Berserker at Stamford Bridge is based on a historical account from English mythology about a battle against a single Viking. The music, here, is extremely dramatic and Hegg shouts a line at one point as if the Berserker himself is speaking. Awesome!
When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails If you liked 2008’s Embrace of the Endless Ocean (Twilight of the Thunder God), then you’ll like this bop. It also has the darker sound of 2006’s Under the Northern Star (With Oden on Our Side).
Skoll and Hati is a song about “one who mocks" and “one who hates.” The former races across the sky chasing the sun, while the latter chases the moon. Isn’t Norse mythology great?!
Wings of Eagles is a narrative about fleeing from Norway to Greenland and westward discovering new and distant lands. In Amon Amarth fashion, the listener feels an emotional bond to the story because of the melodies, harmonies, and double kicks.
Into the Dark is an interesting ballad-like song, like Back on Northern Shores (Yomsviking, 2016). It’s heavy, but very dramatic. Hegg’s vocals hit a new low guttural, here. A perfect ending to this saga.
Favorite Songs: Raven’s Flight; The Berserker at Stamford Bridge; When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails