THUNDER BAY – First of all, I have a confession to make. I am a die hard fan of the heaviest forms of metal. From the black metal of Emperor and Satyricon, to the death metal sounds from Entombed, Canibal Corpse, Lamb of God, In Flames and At the Gates, and grindcore acts such as Napalm Death (coming soon to Thunder Bay), I’ve always had a soft spot for music that makes you hard of hearing.
But if there is one band that has won over my heart more than any other, it’s melodic death metal act, Amon Amarth. Around 1998, shortly after I graduated from high school (sorry to date myself), I stumbled across a sampler CD with a song called Victorious March from some relatively unknown band from Tumba, Sweden. It was from an upcoming album called Once Sent From The Golden Hall. This sound was so different from the North American metal scene that I had to have it.
That afternoon I went down to St. James Stereo on Red River Road and asked the guy at the counter if he had it in stock. The look he gave me was a mix of “very funny kid” and “wait, you’re serious”. Before leaving dejected, I offered my phone number just in case he happened to find a copy.
Imagine my surprise when he called me the next day to say he had found a distributor, and said if I prepaid for the disc and shipping, he would order it in for me. $30 and two weeks later, I had a copy in hand. I’ve been a fan ever since.
So fast forward to 2011 and the release of Amon Amarth’s ninth studio album. Surtur Rising sounds so inherently different from the mediocre production quality and youthfulness of Once Sent, but the exhilaration I got from each new track reminded me so much of the day I first heard that sampler.
If you’ve followed Amon Amarth for any length of time, you will know the routine… for everyone else; here is the rundown:
Vikings, battles, death… and maybe a little bit of Lord of the Rings. After all, their name comes from the famous Tolkien books. The songs feel like long battle marches; epic metal tales of fictitious and real battles between the Viking heroes and their many foes. The thunderous double bass, blasting snare drums, and complex fills are well accompanied by guitars that seem to weave their own tales. Singer, or rather growler Johan Hegg narrates these tales with a commanding presence.
Surtur Rising is mature, fast paced, complex and best of all has a high “replayability” factor. I’ve had the disc in my car stereo for 3 straight days.
If there is one thing many metal bands lack it is good sound production, but again Amon Amarth excels in this department. The guitars sound crisp, the drums rumble and pop and Hegg’s vocals don’t overpower the music, but rather add the proverbial cherry on top of what is all around an awesome album.
Surtur Rising is available in stores, through iTunes and elsewhere on the web. Amon Amarth is currently on tour across North America including several Canadian dates.
(Scott is a local musician and can be found on stage performing vocals, synthesizers and programming with the industrial band Dead Romantic.)