Over 25 Years into their career, Amon Amarth is as popular as ever. Berserker is the Swedish band’s 14th album of Viking-inspired metal. Their band name comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and the music nearly always covers themes of Norse mythology that inspired Tolkien and countless others.
The new record is no different in that regard, but it updates their musical stylings. Beginning with a phrase of beautiful, acoustic guitar chords, the listener knows they are in for a great listen. Over the 12 tracks, there are moments touching on various styles of metal with a fondness for triumphant guitar leads, chugging verses and bridges, and vocals that call for their exuberant, live crowd to sing along with the Nordic storytelling.
The performances, as usual, are very tight. It feels like the band never falters. Guitar parts are creative; drums are solid, and vocals are varied. While the bass usually subtly bulks the mix, its moment in the spotlight in “Valkyria” is completely awesome. It seems like the five-piece takes their past releases into account, looking to synergize them into a wholly new sound that remains uniquely Amon Amarth.
This same willingness to learn from the past is also present in the production, which has steadily improved over the years. It is crisp, clear, and alive. There are almost no flaws in the mix or the EQ. But, it may be too perfect, if there is such a thing.
The production is almost too clear, too polished. But with this clarity comes new bells and whistles. The hammer sound on the aptly named “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor” is particularly awesome, as it integrates into the intro of the song. Clean production also makes the rhythm and lead guitars satisfyingly distinguishable when one is playing a heavy riff while the other plays a tremolo lead. “Shield Wall” is a good example of these contrasting sounds.
Some old fans may think that Berserker isn’t as hard-hitting as it could be. But, having said that, it is greatly and creatively nuanced. There are chorus-drenched guitars, beautiful piano interludes, moments that emphasize vocals and lyrics, interesting fades, and different colors painted on the canvas of each track.
Still, moments of heavy metal riffs are scattered throughout; there just isn’t the same chugging onslaught, like some of their earlier work. The Avenger comes to mind here. “Raven’s Flight” is one of the songs on the new album that rips through its five-minute track time without letting up beyond a drum fill or moment of suspension. Its lyrics detailing themes of perseverance and togetherness reflect the relentless nature of the riffs.
Throughout their new album, Amon Amarth satisfy with beautiful melody, heavy breakdowns, varied song structures, interesting effects, and the usual Nordic themes. If you like Amon Amarth already, there is little to complain about. You get your money’s worth on this album.