Amon Amarth

Versus the World (Metal Blade ’03) Rating: A-
This fourth album by this Swedish death metal band is a good 'un (as are their previous three, at least based on my research of the band on various Intenet sites, as I haven’t heard any of them yet). The band are also dubbed "Viking metal" (a la Bathory), but all I can make out is that the lead singer (Johan Hegg) says "die" a lot, and besides, I could care less about the lyrics, anyway. With bands like this it's all about the rush, and these guys consistently (to borrow a phrase from Judas Priest) deliver the goods. Actually, aside from Hegg's hoarse, deep-pitched growl, which isn't nearly as annoying as expected (it somehow fits), the music has more in common with power metal bands like Iron Maiden than most bands I associate with this extreme type of music. Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg have a knack for melodic dual guitar riffs, they offer a fair amount of variety within the fairly limited boundaries of this type of music, and different ideas and sections within single songs keep things fresh and interesting. Indeed, the band's progressive tendencies reveal plenty of chops, none more impressive than Fredrik Andersson, whose fast double drum assaults pace most of these songs. You'll recognize this right away, as "Death In Fire" begins the proceedings with what sounds like an avalanche of drums (I swear this guy must be related to an octopus). The groove then kicks in and the band unleashes the surge that all the good metal bands have; I especially love the way the vocals and the guitars simultaneously get louder at the most intense moments, and it is this attention to detail that enables the album to hold up so well. Truth be told, much of the album blurs together for me after awhile (the slow, groovy "Where Silent Gods Stand Guard" and the epic "...and Soon the World Will Cease to Be" are other highlights), as above all else this album delivers consistent headbanging quality. Amon Amarth are one of those bands who you know what you're going to get when you listen to them, and though I suppose that connotation has both its plusses and its minuses, for most of Versus the World these guys do indeed sound like they could take on all comers.

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