So, Swedish madmen Amon Amarth present their latest full-length offering, Berserker.
‘It’s Amon Amarth 2.0!’ says vocalist Johan Hegg – and this correspondent for one wasn’t sure just how to process such a statement. What will Amon Amarth 2.0 sound like? Should die-hards the world over be cowering in terror?
Essentially, the album continues the process of ‘softening’ the AA sound that many felt started on last album Jomsviking. So many of the songs on Berserker have flipped from being ‘death metal with classic metal flourishes’ to ‘heavy metal with death metal singing’ that, despite Hegg’s stomach churning interventions, for much of the time you might as well be listening to HammerFall.
The harmony guitars on the mid-section of Ravens Flight sum this observation up perfectly. Shield Wall – the cliched title alone should start alarm-bells ringing – is far below the standard we have come to expect from Amon Amarth, having all the charm of late-period Manowar but without the toe-curling hilarity. (Is that why it’s my favourite track on the album? – Ed).
Please believe – I still feel Berserker is worth a listen – and there are tracks here that fan the flames of metal glory as only Amon Amarth can. Ironside is cut straight from the cloth of the Gods, and this might be a coincidence but it’s one of the few tracks on which Hegg sounds like his old, vital self. But these moments have become the exception – not the rule – and that is a worrying development for long-term fans.
On reflection I believe Hegg was referring to Berserker as heralding a new dawn for the band in terms of the fact that they’ve used a ‘big-name’ producer – Anthrax associate Jay Ruston – and also in the general ‘polishing’ of the sound to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. It’s not a major change – you are not being asked to leap from Power Metal to Cowboys From Hell, after all – and it’s entirely within the ability of most reasonably-minded supporters of the band to like both versions – I’m certainly not throwing this baby out with the bathwater just yet. But this album will have repercussions for the band, for good and bad.
Berserker is out now.