Tuesday, January 28, 2003 @ 2:38 PM
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Ah, the goal to evolve and better yourself without becoming a caricature of your music. Or a cheap imitation of all that has come before. And on Amon Amarth’s fourth album, they have succeeded in that. They have proven they can top themselves, and lay waste to their already stellar back catalogue. And right now, I’d like to express a mighty fuck you to Metal Maniacs for rating this lowly at a three. Which only means good. I find this to be more than good, rating in between excellent and outstanding.
Drums are nothing short of masterful. Blast beats, speed, intensity, double bass, few if any cymbals, and odd time changes that never fail to keep me off guard, on my toes, and humbled with his skill. This guy breaks loose every trick in his arsenal. He can carry the song, add a melody (Gasp! A drummer that can devise and incorporate a melody!), reinforce an already established groove, or simply smash head long into total destruction. Infinite ease, control, variety, skill and forcefulness. This was never over-drummed, it just so happens that the drummer glitters like gold.
Guitars are highly melodic. A thick and heavy riff might lay under or over crystal clear rhythms that are forcefully blown out. There is some restraint, I must say, in the guitar department. I feel an essence of holding back, and that much more is capable from both guitarists. I see proof of this in the buildups, breakdowns and in the bridge points in the majority of the songs. While highly melodic, and with the goal of the song the end result, this is not necessarily a flaw. It is somewhat noticeable that true decimation is possible with these guys, and instead, they choose to leash themselves for the song. That being said, the highlights of the guitars are the incredible amounts of TONE used! As I said, thick and dense weaves and winds nicely between crystal clear tuned notes. Some use of repeated riffing, which ties the songs together beautifully. At some points, the riffs damn near fucking swing like the moods of a manic depressive! Outstanding when these moments arrive. All in all excellent dual guitar work -- yet, they are melodic, not so much brutal. Not a flaw, just a note.
The bass is not dominant in the least -- heard distinctly only once during one song. Vocals are full range for melodic death metal. That means, this dude can go at it! There are screams ala Chris Barnes, short barks in chorus moments (if they can really be called chorus moments), like Chuck Billy in hair-raising decimation. The words are enunciated clearly, with an essence of emotion and variances in tone and delivery. And for death metal delivery, there just so happens to be fucking melody in the voice! Yes. I said that. A death metal growl that is deep and totally tapped into the inner beast, but never sacrificed for sheer brutality in the melodic delivery. Cruel harshness, bitter disgust, savage, shrieks, barks, growls, and it’s all done to utter perfection! This is one of the most outstanding melodic death metal deliveries of all time.
1) “Death In Fire”--Opening drums are nearly tribal patterns, very Neanderthalic feel to them. I get the feeling they were made with actual hands, although I can’t prove that now can I? Beginning riffs are progressive melodies that weave back and forth. Guitar blasts punctuated by the drummer. Solos are crystal clear pounding scales. Vocals introduce the scream, much like that of Chris Barnes. The second solo is accompanied by spell-binding rhythm section riffing.
2) “For the Stabwounds In Our Backs”--Doomsday bells ring, along with an accompanying riff that is just as heavy. The blasting begins as the drums escalate faster and faster. A brutal and vicious song that never lets up till the last note. One riff ties it together, being repeated off and on throughout the song, in different intensities and patterns. Vocally, a near spoken part that puts a stop on my heart beat. Spine chilling, cruel harshness.
3) “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard”--Total head banging quality. The riff swings wildly. Beautiful Beast. Vocally mixed up with great variety. Harshly lush--some deep spoken parts bits that once again raise the hair on your neck. Bridge to the solo is bridged smoothly and effortlessly, then tying back into the main riff. Several near mini-solo’s.
4) “Vs. The World”--Heavy riff opens this up, weaving and slithering. The vocals are especially intense and passionate on this song. Near spewing of venom and the bark of the title “Versus The World!” A decided thrash element hits halfway through. Hatchet riffs pound into the brain. Mesmerizing. Deep spoken part ends the songs with feedback from the guitars trailing off.
5) “Across the Rainbow Bridge”—“Set me Freee! Set me Free!” demands the chorus. Snarling and disgusted vocals that simply rule and dominate this song. Breaks down several times to just the guitars to build back up skillfully into a nasty savage.
6) “Down the Slopes of Death”--The established pattern of heavy repeated riffing while progressively building and stepping up the intensity. A bass bridge is an odd and appreciated touch. The song slithers and weaves along weaving melodies upon melodies. Growls are escalated into screams and shrieks, but go back down to true harshness with ease. Song ends abruptly and forcefully.
7) “Thousand Years of Oppression”--Heavy dense riffing is the choice intro again, pouncing while the drums join in mixed low. It becomes apparent as the song progresses that the low drum mix was a set up for the brutality to follow. It was a cautious spiders web, meant to trap you and suck you in. It worked! I was trapped! A spoken part is heard to full effect because the drums are to the back. You are forced and spell bound to listen and absorb the lesson beaten into your ear drums. Brutal and intense while beautiful with drama--nearly a gothic moment. Very intense with a slow fade-out.
8) “Blood Shed”--This one attacks with all claws aimed right at your heart. Ripping and tearing its path. Deepest vocals are here, although still (as usual) understandable. At the two minute mark the heavy melodies and thrash elements take the song to a different level. “Bloodshed!” barks the chorus (again, if that’s what I could call.) Another spoken part precedes the solo, and the repeated words of the deep “Bloodshed!” is nothing short of: powerful.
9) “…And Soon the World Shall Cease To Be”--A doom tinged riff grinds through the intro as the song speeds up faster and faster. The song does not rest till heavy melodies before the solo, at around 4:30 minute mark. Vocals never lose their intensity as the song fades out and left with only the last guitar riff ringing alone in your ears.
10) “Siegreicher Marsch (Victorious March)”-- Bonus track not included in my promo copy. Nor were lyrics available to me with this review, but as per usual, www.darklyrics.com is outstanding in having what I need.
So, I sit humbled and amazed. Slightly deaf with the riffs and chorus moments ringing for hours in my ears. I ponder it’s rating. I have been guilty of rating some things too highly, some too low. But I find the vocals on this disc exquisite. The drums are executed flawlessly. The guitars weave and wind with such subtly at times -- it truly is a trap. A trap that you have reason or wish to escape. The only flaws are those in the guitar department relating to the bridges, etc. And that is a choice for them to make as to their own song structure. And who am I to question their reasoning behind them laying their songs out the way they want? No one. I am simply a humble reviewer that loves metal, and appreciates a good band.
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Lyrics from “Across The Rainbow Bridge”
My days are numbered: soon I have to leave
The Horns have stretched my living thread
The notion of my demise won't leave me be
Why cannot death just set me free!
I've lived a life or prosperity
But I'm not as young as I used to be
Down the road waits misery
Why cannot death just set me free!
Countless armies have I attacked
Not once have I backed down
And though I've spilled a lot of blood
I never once received a mortal wound
I've raided shores in many lands
I cannot count the men I've killed
So many friends died with sword in hand
But the warrior's death was never granted me
I dress myself in battle clothes
Alone I make the final ride
My sight is blurred, by whipping snow
I seek to end my life
I want to walk across the Rainbow Bridge
And see my fathers in the golden hall
They beckon me to join their feast
In my dreams I hear their call
Sample lyric from ”Thousand Years of Oppression”
After a thousand years of oppression
Let the berserks rise again
Let the world hear these words once more:
"Save us, oh lord, from the wrath of the Norseman"