Amon Amarth
Fate of Norns

In my view there are few bands in death metal as emotionally gripping or with as complete a line-up as Amon Amarth. They have developed a sound completely effective and original within the established genre, and 2003’s Versus the World proved it with otherworldly vocals, into battle drumming, thick bass, and guitar leads to push your sensitive soul to the edge. With Fate of Norns, Amon Amarth is back with most of those pieces still intact. Disappointingly however, Olavi Mikkonen’s wondrous lead guitar work is not nearly as prominent, a crucial component mostly left behind from Versus the World’s heart churning emotional drive. Song compositions are also generally a bit more simplistic and grinding at times, and Fredrik Andersson’s drumming is slightly less epic from Versus the World, but Fate of Norns still retains a good amount of Amon Amarth’s epic feel and thunderous pulse with great production and Johan Hegg’s fiery voice as devastating as ever to lead the way. ‘An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm’ is not really worthy of being the first track in my opinion as it does little to introduce or begin the epic maelstrom which Amon Amarth represents and delivers. ‘Where Death Seems to Dwell’ actually seems more fitting as an opening track as howling winds and cymbals signal us to get out the candles if we haven’t already done so. When Hegg’s vocals are introduced in a low, speaking tone, they immediately seem to come from some other world. With his first scream of the song, a drawing lead guitar melody enters the fray and propels him further until Andersson’s crunching drums move at the end of Hegg’s initial vocal line. After that, the song loses some of its initial majesty, but by that point we at least know Amon Amarth’s fate remains intact. Fate of Norns’ title track picks up as probably the most melodic track of the album, and also one of the best. Again, Hegg delivers a stirring performance with vocals evoked from some deep recess tapped by few human beings, stirring anguish and pain, putting the very death into death metal. The few normal people living on our earth will also be sure to sing along to Hegg’s chorus. Andersson puts in a subtly effective performance on the song, and dual guitar melodies at the very end of the track leave me begging for a solo and more lead guitar development, but unfortunately they evaporate as quickly as they begin. ‘The Pursuit of Vikings’ brings some of Andersson’s best drumming on the release, though at times the guitar riffs seem monotonous. ‘Valkyries Ride’ is slower and at points carries a greater sense of doom than many Amarth tracks, but it also sets a crushing tone which will grow on some listeners. ‘The Beheading of a King’ starts with one of the few lead guitar melodies to drive a song on the album. It also has a faster pace pushed by drumming leads, particularly between vocal lines. ‘Arson’ relies on the more emotive lead guitar used so successfully on Versus the World. Immediately, this song adds more emotion to Amon Amarth’s sound. It also contains the only guitar solo on the entire album, one in which Mikkonen chooses his notes as carefully as usual, carrying souls with him. ‘Once Sealed in Blood’ ends Fate of Norns on merely an average note. Standing in my mind overall, from track to track, despite all the positives, is the infrequency of Olavi’s lead guitar solos and yearning melodies. I don’t miss them simply for the sake of having a melody to follow or connect with, but rather because he is a guitarist with a rare sense of melody who blazes with each individual note rather than speed. Setting his talents against the backdrop of Amon Amarth’s epic sound is mesmerizing more often than not, and a vital cornerstone of this band’s uniqueness in my view. With that said, as a die hard Amon Amarth fan, Fate of Norns may not be your favorite release, and it does seem a bit hurried and less epic in parts, but it’s still got plenty of grit and soil to taste. Fate of Norns doesn’t have me pacing around the room ready to fight, filling me with the tears and energy of Versus the World, but it does keep me in my chair with an unwavering, lamenting scowl which, if willing to dig deep enough, can be more cathartic than expected.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Tim Dodd
September 6th, 2004

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