Amon Amarth ~ Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
Release Date: March 29, 2011
I have been so amped about this album, and I’ve talked about it so much, that I thought I’d already written my review weeks ago. What an assjack! Needless to say I’m humbled by my own ignorance.
The Gods of Swedish metal have returned with their eighth studio album. Another epic monstrosity that wastes no time stepping on your head for a quick kick to say hello.
Surtur Rising draws it’s theme and name from Norse mythology and Surtur, the leader of the fire giants of Muspelheim, and the oldest being in the nine worlds. Surtur battles his mythological foe, Frej.
Perhaps it is my own unrequited love for these guys, but it seems Amon Amarth keep getting better with each passing album. Surtur Rising is every bit as powerful and in your face (perhaps more so) than Twilight of the Thunder Gods. Amon Amarth set out to make this their most brutal and raw effort yet, and I can’t argue with the outcome.
This time around the band added some new twists with more guitar effects, some acoustic guitars, some orchestral stuff, and a lot more guitar solos than we’re used to hearing from these guys. Yet the album is still every bit as aggressive as you’ve come to expect from Amon Amarth.
The album opener, “War of the Gods” hits you hard and fast with traditional AA down-tuned riffing, replete with vocalist Johan Hegg’s trademark growling. An opening war cry to set the table for what’s to come.
The band intentionally set out to throw listener’s some twists on this record, and the album’s second track, “Töck’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II” is a perfect example. This track is the sequel to “Hermod’s Ride To Hel – Lokes Treachery, Part 1″ from the With Odin On Our Side album. An excellent riff on this one and great guitar work from Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg.
Surtur’s theme song, :”Destroyer of the Universe” reigns a cacophony of chaos. Thundering drum work by Fredrik Andersson and one of my favorite guitar solo moments on the album.
On “Live Without Regrets” we get more classic Amon Amarth, melodic yet crushing in its relentless attack. We can hear the Nordic flavor the band is renowned for.
“The Last Stand of Frej” tells the tale of Surtur’s nemesis, Frej. This is as close as AA gets to doom metal. The music is at once epic and bleak. A hero’s dying aural epitaph.
“For Victory or Death” is another dose of Amon Amarth Viking metal that is at times pulverising in its delivery. And the trituration continues on “A Beast Am I”. Arguably the band’s heaviest, and most brutal song to date. Olavi and Johan concur on this.
In contrast, the album’s closer “Doom Over Dead” is almost a Nordic lullaby by AA standards. Here we get some of the orchestration Olavi mentioned in our recent interview. The battle is over and Surtur moves away, the world aflame in his wake.
For those who grab the iTunes version, they will get a cover of System of a Down‘s “Aerials”. The limited edition version features covers of “War Machine” by KISS, which the band completely rearranges, and “Balls To The Wall” by Accept which they stay pretty true to.
In all, Surtur Rising is among Amon Amarth‘s best works; brutal and aggressive, with excellent riffage and the dark bellowing we have come to expect from Johan Hegg. Expect to find this on many 2011 “best of” lists at year’s end.