Amon Amarth
The Crusher

Sweden’s Amon Amarth is one of the few bands who started out playing death metal and maintain a steadfast proponent of the genre, musically and ideologically. While the band’s previous death metal masterpiece, The Avenger, solidified Amon Amarth as worldwide death metal entity, on The Crusher the mead-swillin’, Thorshammer-wearin’ outfit seem to be stuck in mid swing of their mighty broadsword. It’s not a terribly important that bands of this ilk progress exponentially from one release to the next, but what The Crusher does with remarkable ease is rehash riffs and ideas from the warchest of their previous releases.

Of course, each Amon Amarth release is like a small lesson in Viking violence and the culture’s Christian plight, so kudos to growler/edda spinner Johan Hegg for continuing to wage the lyrical war with poetic style. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the songwriters in the band: Olavi Mikkonen, who still pens the majority of Amon Amarth material, needs some serious help from his fellow bandmates. Not only is Mikkonen’s writing particularly one dimensional, but it’s also surprisingly predictable for this once intrepid Swede. Actually, there is something here that smells ‘ and it’s not fermenting grain, either. Previous Amon Amarth albums, all produced at Abyss Studios, had a unique strain running through them; they never had sounded the compressed, lifeless productions typical of Abyss. The Crusher, however, is much less powerful than even Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds. The drums kick, but they certainly don’t possess the punch needed to make Amon Amarth’s epic metal fly; and the guitars rarely come out of the background, which is a true shame since it’s Mikkonen and S’derberg’s majestic riffing that makes Amon Amarth the great band that it is.

Underground fans will revel in the remake of ‘Risen from the Sea (2000)’ off the band’s rare Thor Arise demo; too bad the rushed production makes it less magical than the original. There are a few excellent songs here, and they’re sandwiched together for convenient listening. ‘As Long as the Raven Flies’ and ‘A Fury Divine’ do, in fact, match the power of ‘The Last with Pagan Blood’ and ‘Metalwrath.’ The tracks’ soulful and purposeful riffing are mainstays of what we’ve come to expect from the band, blending mid-tempo trademark Swedish riffing, ravaging percussive work and memorable melodic work. ‘The Fall through Ginnungagap’ also succeeds as a bona fide Amon Amarth battle cry. The song uses a myriad of tempo and atmospheric changes to fit Hegg’s near-perfect, multi-pitched roar; the guitar work here is of special note as it shows when Mikkonen has the fire, he blazes the fretboard with barbaric fury. A similar outburst of energy is heard on the solo of ‘Releasing Surtur’s Fire’ ‘ S’derberg’s dive bomb into Mikkonen’s flurry of Slayer-esque notes is a bright moment on an otherwise lackluster album.

There’s no way to tell if the U.S. version of The Crusher will have the ‘Eyes of Horror’ Possessed cover, but it’s a one day at the studio affair that even in its hollow sound retains the essence of the original. By no means is The Avenger a terrible album. The fact remains Amon Amarth could do better (and they have), and longtime fans (including myself) will hear the difference.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
May 8th, 2001

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