Twilight Of The Thunder God
posted on 9/2008 By:
As reliable as ice cream cake is delicious, Amon Amarth may not be the most technical, inventive, or progressive metal band around, but damn it if they aren’t as consistent as anyone in the biz. When they’re really firing on all cylinders, these guys are more than capable of delivering truly excellent material (Versus The World, With Oden on Our Side), and even when they’re running slightly off (Fate of Norns, The Crusher) they never fail to at least deliver albums full of solid, enjoyable headbanging anthems. Twilight of the Thunder God (incidentally featuring some of the coolest cover art ever made) happens to fall comfortably between the realms of “excellent” and “solid”, and while it doesn’t quite reach the band’s supreme showing two years ago in With Oden On Our Side, it's still another high-quality effort and worthy of the strong reception it's going to receive.
Amon Amarth have never been one to open an album with less than one of the best songs at hand, and “Twilight Of The Thunder God” is no exception. With such a catchy lead melody, triumphant chorus, and epic guitar solo, this track just kicks so much ass that it feels like it could be an anthem for metal in general, despite the very specific lyrics. Sure, in typical AA fashion, this is a straightforward and fairly simplistic composition by death metal standards, but this band is just so damn good at arranging riffs and building tension that they are somehow able to take a quite basic formula and create truly memorable songs like this time and time again. Johan Hegg’s vocals on this track are just fucking immense, and it's hard to deny at this stage that the man is truly at the top of his game and one of the most iconic and skilled front men in the genre.
From this mighty opening note, Amon Amarth plug through nine more tracks in highly enjoyable, if not spectacular, fashion. “Guardians of Asgaard” features two of the most addicting melodies on the album and some very catchy lyrics, with a pummeling chorus that is sure to become a live favorite despite being a tad generic. “Where Is Your God?” continues in a more intense vein, with walls of blazing tremolo riffs that hearken back to the band’s speedier early work. The powerful melodic chug of “Varyags of Miklagaard” and the heroic tremolo riffs of “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” are both highly infectious, again somehow sounding very epic despite their rather simplistic structure. “No Fear For the Setting Sun” and “The Hero” both make for a solid if slightly less impressive portion of the disc, but then “Live For The Kill” comes in with its awesome traditional metal-sounding intro and glorious melodic peaks, complete with a surprising yet wholly effective string interlude that builds up tension for a superb climax. Again, let me stress how skilled Amon Amarth are at making the most out of the purposely simple approach they take to songwriting, always stringing together riffs carefully and with great regard to pacing and cohesion. This especially applies to the leads, which are so catchy and perfectly suited to the music at hand that it’s sort of hard to believe anyone could not enjoy them. Just as much care has gone into the absolutely superb mix, with the thunderous drums and huge guitars creating a sense of intensity many bands simply don’t reach.
So yes, Twilight of the Thunder God is probably exactly what you thought it was going to be. It's melodic, it's epic, it's heavy as balls, and of course, it’s a great album. Not their best (a more distinctively grandiose closer a la “Prediction of Warfare” would have been nice, and there are some riffs scattered about that sound a bit too safe), but more than worthy of your money even if you aren’t really going to be surprised by a damn thing. It's like sticking with that long-term girlfriend as opposed to banging random drunk chicks; sure, the drunk chicks may offer strange and exciting twists to the standard formula, but where are they when you need someone to gripe to after a shitty day at the office? Not singing to you about something as cool as protecting Asgaard from “three evil giants from the south,” that’s for sure.
posted on 9/2008 By:
I remember back in 2004 when Fate of Norns was released it was met with feelings of ambivalence. The underground grumbled with minor disappointment, and the general consensus was that Amon Amarth’s resistance to variety had finally caught up with them and their trademark sound was becoming tired and worn out. The album was nevertheless received fairly positively; it was still a respectable Amon Amarth release, after all, but it made people (including me) wonder what the future held for the band. The very solid With Oden on Our Side, thankfully, made everyone forget about those worries. Fate of Norns was labeled a slight stumble, and the Viking behemoth was back on track. Now I have the seventh full-length release, Twilight of the Thunder God, blaring through my headphones, and it makes the misgivings of four years ago look absolutely ridiculous.
Thirty seconds into the opening track, “Twilight of the Thunder God”, I discovered that there was an uncontrollable, gigantic shit-eating grin on my face. After listening to the entire disc many times, that reaction hasn’t changed a bit. The epic melodies, relentless pounding, and Norse growls are mightier than ever, proving that Amon Amarth’s craft is like a sword that has been continually finely tempered over the years, rather than made worn and dull from overuse. Johan Hegg’s vocal performance improves with every album, and Twilight of the Thunder God features his most impressive work yet. The blood stirs and fists rise to his roars of “Thor! / Hlödyn’s son / Protector of mankind / Ride to meet your fate / Ragnarök awaits!” And the guitar leads are equally rousing and memorable. Be it the aforementioned title track, the inspiring melodies of “Varyags of Miklagaard”, the momentous thrasher “Where is Your God?”, the imposing riffs of “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags”, or the powerful and tragic closer “Embrace of the Endless Ocean”, examples of superbly written guitarwork abound. Between the guitars and the vocals, not a single second passes without a terrific hook being thrown the listener’s way.
There are a few new flourishes that Amon Amarth fans will notice immediately, such as the backing hums of “Free Will Sacrifice” that makes the soaring guitars and Hegg’s lyrics all the more gripping, the brief horns on “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags”, and the perfect string interlude on “Live for the Kill”, courtesy of Apocalyptica. For the most part, though, Twilight of the Thunder God consists of the Amon Amarth style everyone expects. I have no doubt that such a statement will be repeated ad nauseam throughout the various reviews of this album, but with a negative tone. You will find no such tone here. Those criticisms are odd to hear when so much of extreme metal sounds the damn same. Countless bands regurgitate identical copies of the stereotypical black and death metal styles, all contributing nothing new to their respective genres other than different sets of riffs and growls/screams, but reviewers and underground consumers alike have no problem embracing those bands. Is it acceptable for a band to blatantly replicate the style of others, yet unacceptable for a band to do the same with its own unique sound? I don’t care to dissect the reasoning behind the arbitrary fine line between variation and adherence to convention that bands are required to walk. What I do know is this: many well-respected bands put out two or three great albums, and then spend the rest of their career getting lost in a less satisfying state of stylistic upheaval. If it is a choice between that fate and setting sail on an unwavering voyage of blood, guts, gods, and glory, it is without hesitation that I choose Amon Amarth’s consistent quality. And if that quality comes by way of reiterating the same album, it’s a good thing that album is, even ten years after its first appearance, better than the vast majority of anything committed to a disc.
For those who, like me, are looking for more of Amon Amarth’s inimitable take on melodic death metal, Twilight of the Thunder God will render you nothing short of ecstatic. Similar to career highlights Once Sent from the Golden Hall and Versus the World, every song is Amon Amarth at top form, which makes listening to the entire thing start to finish far more rewarding than picking out a few outstanding tracks. What’s more, that completely cohesive forty three minute experience is easily a contender for Amon Amarth’s best work yet. Even after innumerable spins of the previous six albums, Twilight of the Thunder God has me more involved in their tales of Norse gods and battle, more enthralled by the heroic melodies, and more stirred by the angry choruses than ever before.
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