Only a few extreme metal bands have made the success that Amon Amarth has reached. 2019 strikes album 11, and they still manage to impress with vicious melodic death metal with the backdrop of Vikings and Norse mythology. I had my doubts since making that much music starts to make some artist tend to run into creative blocks, but I have been proven wrong and should never doubt this quintet of metalheads.
One of the most important aspects of any album is the first song. It sets the tone and gets things kicked off. Fafner’s Gold makes for the ultimate example with its acoustic beginning and transition into the sound that any fan of Amon Amarth can recognize. I heard this fierce track and immediately knew I was in good hands for the rest of Berserker.
Much of the record has a blend of the formula that has been established over the course of over 25 years that Amon Amarth has created while mixing some new ideas. Crack the Sky, Mjolner, Hammer of Thor, and Valkyria give me hope for the future of the group while reminding me they have stuck to their roots in delivering the best Viking metal on the planet.
Shield Wall gets the blood pumping with its fearless battle cry. A hard-driving and relentless song that will make die-hards like myself want to put on Viking armor and destroy everything in sight. A highlight that will be perfect when going into the pit at the next Amon Amarth show.
The shift in sound starts with Valkyria with its clearer bass definition and different overall pacing. The refreshing song has plenty of surprises, especially when it gets to the final moments. While the vicious death metal style that Amon Amarth has established with their melodic guitar work and iconic vocals from Johan Hegg never gets old, but this is a much-needed break from the previous few songs.
Some new ideas took me by surprise. Ironside takes the Swedish quintet into the realm of Nordic folk music that blends beautifully with their death metal style.
Like the previous album, the 2016 Jomsviking, storytelling as a concept album elevated Hegg’s lyrical abilities and much of Berserker proves that. One piece of evidence highlights this is The Berserker at Stamford Bridge. A narrative moves along in a gripping way that gets driven by the hammering drums and violently, melodic riffs.
Similar to the introduction, the closing track Into the Dark, ends the record on a somber, yet heavy note. The closer is one of my favorite tracks along with one of the most unique due to its pacing, Hegg’s immense emotion while having a lot of variation from his bandmates. The many turns across these six minutes go above the already wild ride that is Berserker.
Amon Amarth has outdone themselves with their latest release. The band has blended a mix from their ideas that came from Jomsviking and Deceiver of the Gods. A combination of grounded historical inspired lyrics of Viking adventures to mythical tales of the Nordic Gods makes for one of the most superior records of the year. While Amon Amarth have an issue with sticking to their formula, but they have plenty of moments to change things up without feeling redundant.
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Image via Metal Blade Records