Get Viking’d with Amon Amarth’s Surtur Rising
Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1 Comment
There are a ton of big names in metal that we hear about all the time but somehow never manage to look into, and for me that big name was always Amon Amarth. I have friends that have liked them forever, I’ve seen people sport their hoodies at shows, I’ve seen their albums on store shelves, and every time I made a mental note to listen to the band, but never followed through in doing so. A few weeks ago, the Swedish natives released their eighth studio album, Surtur Rising. After so many years of passing this band up, I finally decided to give them a shot, and I’m very glad I did.
Amon Amarth, named after the mountain of doom from the Lord the Rings, is most often categorized as Viking Metal (I was surprised to see that genre tag actually existed in iTunes) but they can also be described as melodic death metal, often getting associated with fellow swedes In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. In fact, a lot of Surtur Rising took me back to when I first heard In Flames’ Whoracle, but with a lot more aggression and a lot less Depeche Mode. You’ll find bellowing low death growls with harmonizing guitar leads, and windmill-worthy brutality. At first I didn’t know what to expect with the Viking Metal classification, I thought I’d get something weirder, but somehow just about every song on this album makes me want to drink mead and slay beasts with nothing but my fists.
Thematically, the album continues the band’s lyrical focus on Norse mythology. Surtur, the Norse god bearing the album’s art and namesake, according to the lore, has risen during the ending of the world, and has come to cover the earth in fire with his flaming sword at hand. It’s quite the canvas to paint upon, and in all honesty, all this Norse mythology is making me a little more pumped to see Thor this summer. You can hear singer Johan Hegg explain all the album’s lore here.
The album opens with the epic “War of the Gods,” a super catchy, battle-ready song that grabs you by the balls and slams your forehead into a wall at the same time. You won’t mind. The song sets the perfect pace for the rest of the album to follow. The entire album, though fluctuating in tempo, always feels more epic than any other band you’ve ever heard, and even though I can’t quite put my finger on why that is, I love it. Something about the key this band writes in just screams FIGHT. The fact that the band sprinkled in wolf howls and crow’s caws sure doesn’t hurt this case. When you’re not being cast into hell with Hegg’s signature growls, you’ll be swept up in the album’s awesome guitar solos, air-guitaring along with the heavy-yet-catchy riffage, head banging the whole way through.
If you like your metal powerful and masculine, pick up Surtur Rising today. The album comes with a couple different versions: buy the super expensive deluxe version (MSRP $55) and you get a 5” Surtur action figure, a bonus DVD, and two exclusive bonus tracks, Accept’s “Balls to the Wall” and Kiss’ “War Machine.” If you download the record in its entirety you get the mp3-exclusive System of a Down cover, “Aerials.” This was my favorite of the three covers; it gets especially interesting towards the song’s end when it actually starts to feel more Amon Amarth-y.
Overall, Surtur Rising is a solid record that is definitely worth your listen. Though it lacks dynamics at times, it’s well-written, face-punching, Viking helmet-worthy stuff if you’re looking for a good death metal album to head bang along to.
Standout Tracks: “War of the Gods,” “Destroyer of the Universe,” “Live Without Regrets,” and “Wrath of the Norsemen.”