This is the perfect music for charging off to war.
Metal Blade, 2013
Okay, so I’ll readily admit I’m a little biased where Amon Amarth is concerned. They rank among my all-time favorite bands, but I feel this is for good reason. These Swedish melodic death metal gods are masters of their craft, and haven’t released a crappy LP since, like, ever. Yeah, some are better than others, but if you’ve ever heard anything from these guys and are an actual metalhead, I’m reasonably sure you’d agree with me. Deceiver of the Gods, the band’s ninth studio album, is absolutely no different. Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg (guitars), Ted Lundström (bass), and Fredrik Andersson (drums) are in rare form here. All albums from Amon Amarth feature lyrics that revolve around the brutality of the Norsemen towards their enemies as well as healthy chunks devoted to discussion of the darker side of Norse mythology. It’s not necessary to be familiar with said mythology to appreciate what happens on an Amon Amarth record, but it helps to be at least passingly knowledgeable about the Poetic and Prose Eddas.
Thematically, the first half of Deceiver of the Gods deals primarily with Norse trickster god Loki and all the evil crap he’s pulled on the other gods and mortals. Loki was a shape-shifter, and the aptly titled “Shape Shifter” details this thusly: “I am the eagle in the sky/ The vicious wolf howling in the night/ I am the walker on the wind/ Lying words with an honest grin/ The shape shifter”. This is delivered in Hegg’s trademark growl, which is surprisingly and happily easy to understand given the musical genre in question; most folks should be able to figure out without much help after a few listens. The guitar work on this track (as well as the rest of the album) is primarily double-picked and harmonized nicely, the drums are insanely fast, the bass is deep and solid, and the waves of auditory destruction crush over the listener much as the wave of raiding Vikings did in the slaughter at Lindisfarne (look it up).
The second half of the album are typical Amon Amarth battle-hymns. The excellent “Blood Eagle” opens with an auditory recreation of someone having said torture performed on him. For the uninformed, the blood eagle involves the cracking of the ribs near the spine followed by the victim’s lungs being pulled out through the hole created. Any unfortunate souls upon which this torture was visited could expect to live in agony for hours before the release found in death. Hegg gives some details in this fashion: “Penetrate your naked skin/ Rip flesh and dig within/ With a pleased and twisted grin/ I spread your lungs like eagle’s wings”. The riffs in this particular song are probably my favorites on the album, driving and absolutely evil. “We Shall Destroy” is a midtempo crusher that suggests there is absolutely no escape from the rage of battle-crazed Norsemen; that the warriors in question are seeking Valhalla and are utterly undaunted by the thought of death. The following cut is entitled “Hel” and details what happens to folks that don’t die in battle. It’s not pleasant: “Here hunger is your plate/ Here famine is your knife/ Here you will forever dwell/ I welcome you to Hell”.
This is normally the part where I’d get nitpicky about things on Deceiver of the Gods that annoy me. I’m hard-pressed to find fault with this album. All I can say that would go into the negative column is that one song, while badass, is just slightly less badass than the others. The pseudo-offending track is the still balls-out awesome “As Loke Falls”. Still and all, one only marginally weak-ish track does not detract at all from the overall experience. My normal complaint with Amon Amarth albums does not apply here, e.g. earlier albums featured so much overwrought distortion that amp feedback was an ever-present detractor from otherwise excellent metal brutality. It seems, though, that the band has figured out how to overcome this weakness, and no such annoying feedback is present here, thank Odin.
The Bottom Line: Deceiver of the Gods is a must-have for Amon Amarth fans, and indeed any death metal aficionados. If you miss this album, you’re missing out.
Purchase: Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods