SummaryEmotional climax of epic and sorrow intertwined
|4.2 (2 votes):|
Amon Amarth are difficult to label with just one term. There’s a definite element of death metal in the music, yet simply calling them “death metal” would be terribly misleading as they sound nothing like, say, Morbid Angel, a typical death metal band. They’re not ‘melodic death metal’ either as they’re technically, musically and even thematically very different from the early wave of Swedish bands (Inflames, Dark Tranquility etc) and their overflowing of riffy melodies and brighter musical airs. The tone here is a lot more grave.
So instead of spending time thinking of the right label, it seems wiser to break down what their sound is made up of. On their first studio full length here, they use a death metal rhythm section of rapid fire drum kicks, heavy overheads, forceful toms, backed by a prominent bass presence, and for the guitars a heavy use of tremolo picking with the band’s trademark system of one dynamic lead tremolo riff conducting the melody on a higher pitch, over the steadier rhythm tremolo riff acting like the bass root-note and chord progression motor.
The vocals, by viking giant Johan Hegg, consisting of growls, loud shouts and screams contribute rhythmic patterns rather than melody although they are not monotonic. They bring the melodic guitar work to life with their foreground presence, injecting an enormous rush of energy necessary to fully animate the surrounding instrumental. So despite being technically similar to death metal the music at its core actually is anything but death metal in what it conveys. It is deeply sorrowful and has a penchant for suspended power chords with reverby leads playing on top, making it powerfully atmospheric and emotionally evocative. In this sense, it is vibrant with life and passion and over-the-surface versus the typical death metal band more focused on producing bleak, atonal and underground music. It should really be emphasized just how much the focus is on sheer, heart-wrenching sorrow; a Swedish specialty, but potently accomplished here in particular.
Every song offers a new aspect of the same album concept. No song repeats the same formula without supplying a fresh idea at the heart of it each time. Some are defiantly epic, others focus more on the profound sadness aspect while some even bring a bit of brightness to the mix (‘Friends of the Suncross’). But they’re all animated by a relentless vivid passion that never lets down and among the many things that could be said about the album, questioning its intensity is arguably not an option.
Lastly, the first verse riff to the track ‘Amon Amarth’ towards the end of the record is possibly THE most exceptional melody this reviewer has ever heard. Which sounds absurd, that a single melody could even receive such a distinction, but that’s how strongly it might resonate with whoever listens. It sounds primordial and ancient, like it came out of some forgotten moment of human history. It’s as invigorating as it is moving on a profound level. It remarkably depicts epic tragedy, with a hint of darkness, and it’s almost got that feel of mythical tale/legend to it, like it illustrates musically an old fable from Norse mythology. An absolute hair-raising moment. Most of the time, to achieve such a result bands would resort to gaudy guitar work and overly dramatic and ultimately superfluous ways to produce emotionally intense music; but this instead is just so very plain and unassuming. It is so much the real thing rather than a cheap forced imitation of it.
This debut album was a sign of great things to come, albeit a little raw compared to the later works, and it helped set this band apart forever. How many bands in the field of melodic sounding death metal are instantaneously recognizable the way Amon Amarth are?
Release date: January 26th, 1998
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