Stand yourself at the ready with attentive eye and sharpened sword for it is time to once again do battle at the side of the Vikings of Death Metal Amon Amarth as they pummel the senses with their latest epic Twilight Of The Thunder God. As an album this stands proud and strong as the perfect follower to their previous effort With Odin On Our Side and in some cases delivers a bit of a musical upgrade as it finds the band raising their own personal bar in terms of their delivery. "TOTTG" resonates with Metal power as soon as it begins and there is such a driving force behind the albums title track that the listener feels as though he is riding into the fray at the side of Johan Hegg - the bands giant of a front man. To me that is an effective beginning because it draws you in immediately as opposed to waiting for any of the action and intensity to build up. Those who have enjoyed Amon Amarth in the past already know this but those who are new might not realize that while Viking in theme and generally spirit, that their music is still a more conventional Melodic Death Metal that calls to mind some aspects of Thrash as opposed to being anything Folkish which we find more commonly in bands like Ensiferum or Turisas. Despite this, the bands energies on the new album focus on the mythology of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and many of the songs sing about his majesty and adventures. The guitars of Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen really shine brightly here as they trade leads and truly crushing riffs in order to drive the bands point home with much more resolve. While the album maintains certain heaviness from beginning to end they wisely don't make every single tune a Thrash Fest which allows them each to remain interesting individually and not bleed into one another by keeping the same tempo and vibe. Too often do the Death Metal bands have tracks that go from one to the next and often find the listener wondering if a new song had begun. I had to offer up some levels of praise for the bands rhythm section as well for bassist Ted Lundstrom helped to keep it steady while the drumming of Nico Mehra at times made you feel how he was keeping up such a pace. There are points where it seems as though he is running in place as the double kicks roll at break neck speeds. As a fan of drumming in the first place I was very satisfied with the stuff happening here.
Another interesting aspect presented on Twilight Of The Thunder God is that there is not one but instead three guest stars making their appearance on the tunes across various points on the album. The first is Children Of Bodom's Roope Latvala, who appears on the albums opening track and the second Lars Goren Petrov who drops by for "Guardians Of Asgaard". Of course the most interesting of them all in my mind was the Metal cello experience known as Apocalyptica who help out on "Live For The Kill". The track is a fast one and we only really hear the cellists come in towards the end when it slows down a little bit. I would have liked to see them more prevalent during the course of the tune for outside of the mellow part I felt that this particular band was caught up in the mayhem being laid down by Amon Amarth. It was very hard for me to find a track that I didn't enjoy on this one and it was what led me to feel so strongly about the band raising their game. Favorites above the rest fell to the albums rousing opening track and "Varyags Of Miklagaard" and "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flads". Each of these capturing the spirited nature of the albums subject matter. "The Hero" was also a good one and since Hegg sings a little clearer than most of his Death Metal counterparts it is easy for all listeners to follow along with his tales. They provide a booklet in the CD which lines out the whole epic story so if you can't follow him you can simply read along. I didn't get to examine that too much since I was reviewing the release based on a downloaded link this time around. While it still sounds great on the player I must get my hands on one of the many cool versions that they have released for this album. We've lined out a couple of them below for the collector meets Metal head fan.
Of the number of different editions to find for this release the most sought after version will probably be the limited edition one that comes with "bobble heads" figures of the warriors along with a healthy booklet on the subject matter. There is also one with a DVD to my understanding but we know nothing more on these having only reviewed the single CD version that we were serviced via the online link. There is a lot of cool artwork that depicts scenes of epic battles and its just what the doctor ordered if Death Metal of this kind is the cure for your ills. Having followed the band for a couple of years already it was definitely safe to say that a new listener could find themselves getting into this one very easily and that the often hard to please legacy fan will not have any problems raising the horns to it. The band will of course be embarking on a city to city tour of destruction that should not be missed if you can get a ticket. This band is a powerful Metal experience live so don't cheat yourself by letting that show pass you by. With Twilight Of The Thunder God Amon Amarth has proven that their best years are by no means behind them and that battles and adventures still lie ahead for years to come. Horns up to that.
1. Twilight Of The Thunder God
2. Free Will Sacrifice
3. Guardians Of Asgaard
4. Where Is Your God?
5. Varyags Of Miklagaard
6. Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags
7. No Fear For The Setting Sun
8. The Hero
9. Live For The Kill
10. Embrace Of The Endless Ocean