Amon Amarth
The Avenger

In times when extreme metal bands are experimenting more often, there’s nothing more gratifying to the ears than a good, solid death metal album.

Just the thought of a great death metal album is exciting enough to dust off debuts by Entombed, Dismember, Morbid Angel, Unleashed and Death for another nostalgic listen. Well, before you get start rifling through the coveted collection in search of the perfect escape, Sweden’s Amon Amarth makes endless searching easy by releasing Avenger.

 In the grand tradition of death metal classics, the true magnitude of Avenger doesn’t hit on the first listen. Or the second! By the time the album closes a second time, it’s evident that something of importance exists within its half-hour timeframe. That evidence exists after the panting on “The Last with Pagan Blood.” When the entire second section of the song ignites into one of the most explosive melodic exchanges heard in brutal death metal, it’s clear that Amon Amarth is sounding death metal’s much-needed battle cry. The line “Pride and Glory In Our Hearts,” however, speaks not only to Scandinavians, but to metalheads worldwide. It’s time to embrace metal as our faith and move forward with our convictions. With lyrics like “Wrath, hate, pain and death! The code we live by, It’s in our souls, Metal is the way,” the song “Metalwrath” can be read in the same light. It’s Amon Amarth’s “Hit the Lights.”

However, don’t get the idea that Avenger’s greatness is limited to one song. Tracks like “North Sea Storm,” the menacing “God, His Son and Holy Whore” and the mighty finale “Legend of a Banished Man” display Amon Amarth’s ability to balance melody and power without sacrificing a lick of the band’s patented aggression. Of course, all of this wouldn’t be possible without the searing guitar dynamics of Olli Mikkonen and newcomer Johan S’derberg. Again, this isn’t anything A terribly novel idea, but the thin line connects Avenger to heavy metal stalwarts Iron Maiden and Judas Priest musically and idealistically is testament to metal’s longevity and tenacity.

Sure, we’ve heard In Flames, Witchery and countless others do it successfully, but each riff and solo (listen to the solo interchange on the title track to hear what I mean) on ‘Avenger’ strikes with such overbearing honesty that it’s bound to be mentioned in the same breath as the honorable aforementioned. Yes, true death metal returns!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
September 2nd, 1999

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