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Amon Amarth - "Surtur Rising" (CD)

Amon Amarth - "Surtur Rising" CD cover image

"Surtur Rising" track listing:

1. War of the Gods (4:33)
2. Töck's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II (5:58)
3. Destroyer of the Universe (3:41)
4. Slaves of Fear (4:25)
5. Live Without Regrets (5:03)
6. The Last Stand of Frej (5:37)
7. For Victory or Death (4:30)
8. Wrath of the Norsemen (3:44)
9. A Beast Am I (5:14)
10. Doom Over Dead Man (5:55)

Reviewed by on March 11, 2011

"...'Surtur Rising' is the band’s flaming sword, and the fleeing Norsemen are all the other metal bands that are getting dominated by Amon Amarth’s wrath."

Everybody has “oh shit” moments. My most recent was when I opened the cover art file for “Surtur Rising.” It popped up on my 21-inch monitor and my gut reacted, “Wow, those little dudes are effed.” I have to imagine the huge warrior is Surtur (the leader of the fire giants of Muspelheim, according to the promo metrials); he’s about five times the size of the fleeing Norsemen, his flaming sword was clearly dipped in the giant volcano behind him, and he doesn’t look too pleased. To finish this drawn out metaphor, Amon Amarth is Surtur, “Surtur Rising” is the band’s flaming sword, and the fleeing Norsemen are all the other metal bands that are getting dominated by Amon Amarth’s wrath.

“Surtur Rising” is a phenomenal slab of Amon Amarth’s melodic death metal meat. Early albums like “The Avenger” and “The Crusher,” while great, tended to be one-track melo-viking-death romps, but “Surtur Rising” is a textured, varied, and acutely composed set of ten songs. The story of Surtur, as told in these songs, is obviously a very complex and winding journey, and the music complies, taking us for a ride that is intense and wholly enveloping.

Album opener “War of the Gods” runs from speedy and straight forward tremolo riffs to melodic soundscapes that are more pensive than aggressive. “Tock’s Taunt – Loke’s Trachery Part II” – which is a follow up to “Hermod's Ride To Hel - Lokes Treachery, Part 1” off of 2006’s “With Oden On Our Side” – is the more comfortable Amon Amarth mid-tempo stomp-and-triumphant-chorus, but set off against “War of the Gods” it is the monolith that supports the earth. The members of Amon Amarth needed music to fit an album-long theme on “Surtur Rising,” thus pushing themselves to write music, and an entire album, that goes beyond their normal arc.

The album winds from triumphant royal halls to quiet country villages; raging wars among the gods to the peace of a weapons master practicing his craft in breeze brushed meadows. While in the past Amon Amarth charged past us, weapons drawn and grins grim, now the band has risen to be the bards of the northern Norsemen. The solos from Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg carry weight and power as they strain against their wordlessness - not just anthemic melody this time for the axemen. Johan Hegg sings with an insistence rarely heard in his burly growl. It is clear we must know this story, and heed its message.

So we sit, and we listen, and awe slowly conquers our brows as Amon Amarth imparts fantastic tales of Surtur lighting his sword in the eternal flame, his battle with Frej, and of Surtur’s pursuit of the power to raze the nine worlds. “Doom Over Dead Man” slowly exhausts its introspective thunder at the end of this tale, and as it does we could swear it was Surtur himself singing us to sleep.

Highs: The guitar solos are phenomenal – they tell wordless stories.

Lows: The bass is buried in the mix.

Bottom line: This is Amon Amarth’s most varied, dynamic, and best work yet.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)