Amon Amarth
Once Sent From the Golden Hall/The Avenger (Bonus Editions)

Metal Blade is a wonderfully sharp company. What better time to rerelease one of their more popular band’s older material than now (y’know, when they’re finally popular)? And in retrospect, it’s really bizarre that it took an audience this long to take notice of Amon Amarth. Certainly they now can be mentioned in the same breath as some of the earliest death metal bands that had been releasing material a decade prior. Hence, reissues.

1998s Once Sent from the Golden Hall has all the signs that it’s an Amon Amarth album, but none of the polish that their newer entries have. It’s cut from a rougher cloth than any of the other albums. Some might be a little dissuaded by that; after all, clean-cut and more melodic lead-driven Amon Amarth is what got them in the spotlight in the first place. Still, some great songs are gloriously seated on this CD, including two of their more grandiose, the mighty “Amon Amarth” and the only song they regularly play live from this album, “Victorious March.” These are the more easily digestible tracks Once Sent has to offer, the one smothering the listener in foreboding gloom, the other priding itself on its fist-pump ready riffage.

The drumming is considerably different here than on any other Amon Amarth records, due in part to drummer Martin Lopez’s more technical drum style. A few more might be dissuaded by that fact as well, though the result is not as disjointed and inappropriate as it may seem. Fredrik Andersson is more straight-ahead than Martin, to which new Amon Amarth fans will indubitably be more accustomed. I would not go so far as to say this is a bad album, though some may have trouble following the metal breadcrumb trail if they started as late as Twilight of the Thunder God.

It is harder for me to talk about Once Sent than any others in the Amon Amarth discography, perhaps because it’s my least favorite, but maybe also because I can rarely see this as more than a springboard for one of their best albums, 1999s The Avenger. Chugging, marauding riffs, no frills drumming, and a more hoarse presentation of Johan Hegg than any other, The Avenger plays like a fist-fight fueled by honey and blood, smashing eardrums to paste. This is perhaps the best amalgam of the unrelenting heaviness of Once Sent and the melodic hooks of Versus the World, and the result is the most agreeable Amon Amarth album around.

The thing about The Avenger that some might not like is the seven-track length, and yeah, while this is the shortest of the albums, clocking in at just over 36 minutes, it is chock full of furious, memorable songs, perhaps most memorable of which are “The Last with Pagan Blood,” “Legend of a Banished Man,” and “Bleed for Ancient Gods,” the first and last of which regularly see rotation in their live sets. This is the lineup we’re all familiar with, as Johan Söderberg and Fredrik Andersson both joined prior to this album, giving the album the right amount of fullness and crunch necessary to maximize headbanging goodness.

It sounds like I’m picking and choosing one album over the other (and I am), but make no mistake: both albums are absolute necessities for those looking to sink their teeth into the more visceral and violent side of Amon Amarth.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kris Yancey
July 4th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Grimulfr

    The key questions on any reissue are is it a strict reissue or is it a remaster with sound improvements, is there any new artwork extended liner notes, and are there any bonus tracks. If I already have the originals should I care about the reissues?


  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    these two have been remastered and both come with live CDs


  3. Commented by: Jeff

    Once Sent… is easily the band’s best, with The Avenger coming in second. Those two were my first exposure, so that might have something to do with it. Much better than the ear candy bubblegum viking stuff they are releasing nowadays.


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