The Vikings were awesome. That’s what Amon Amarth want you to know. With that message in their hearts, the Swedish masters of Viking metal churn out their eighth studio album, 10 tracks of mace-swinging, dragon-boating melodic death in the hopes of topping their previous release, 2008’s hugely successful Twilight Of The Thunder God. But while Surtur Rising succeeds in the most basic ways—it’s an Amon Amarth album—it remains one of the band’s lesser crushers, plagued by repetitiveness and lack of polish.
Immediately, Surtur’s production separates it from its predecessor—on Twilight, the ultra-crisp sound added an urgent gruffness to Johan Hegg’s vocals and the band’s characteristic bulldozer guitar attack, and injected stony undertones into Fredrick Andersson’s drumming. Here, the sound hearkens back to earlier albums like The Avenger, with a muted old-school production that only serves to muddy the band. Things don’t even pick up until “Destroyer of the Universe”, and even then, Hegg & Co.’s signatures are there as if on cue—grinding guitar lead, lyric about endless pain, breakdown that becomes a gallop. At times it all comes together—the breakdown at the end of “Live Without Regrets” will bring a malicious grin to listeners’ faces, and “A Beast Am I” brims with violent energy—but often, it comes off a little predictable, a little light. Like fellow Swedes Arch Enemy before them, Among Amarth seem to have cracked under the pressure of perfecting their sound.
At a certain point, Surtur’s flaws are inconsequential, however. These guys aren’t remembered album by album. Yes, Surtur Rising stands alongside less-hailed Amon Amarth records like Fate of Norns, but on some level, who cares? The heshers who crave this Viking death-march death-metal will have it, and those who aren’t inspired by what they stream on the internet won’t. Even with a lesser work, Amon Amarth have done their job. The Vikings were awesome. CHRIS KROVATIN