Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Amon Amarth: Deceiver of the Gods - Review

  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Release Date: 25/06/13
  • Number of Tracks: 10
  • Length: 47:52
  • Record Label: Metal Blade
  • Producer: Andy Sneap

"Deceiver of the Gods" is Amon Amarth's 9th full-length effort and features more of the Viking-themed Death Metal aggression that the band has become known for over the last 15 or so years since the release of their first album back in 1998.

The most apparent thing upon the first listen is how powerful the album sounds. One of the main reasons for this is Andy Sneap's commendable job with making everything sound crystal clear; there is no real muddiness to speak of and every instrument sits nicely in the mix. Fredrik Andersson's drums sound massive and pummel away at the listener whilst the guitars of Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikonen have real bite and aggression. As a comparison, "Deceiver..." sounds cleaner than Amarth's 2008, Jens Bogren produced, "Twilight of the Thunder God" but this is in no way detrimental to the overall feel and rather enhances the sound.

One word that comes to mind for this album is "riff". "Deceiver..." is littered with killer riffs, from the Thrash influenced opening of the title track to the groove-filled section about a third of the way through "Warriors of the North" giving plenty to keep the listener interested. There is also the extensive use of Maiden-esque twin guitar leads. Mikonen and Soderberg really go to town with this and it leads to some really nice sections in songs like "As Loke Falls" and "Coming of the Tide". It can be said that every single member of this band is in top form for this record.

Lyrically "Deceiver..." is more of the same for Amarth. In the past Vocalist Johan Hegg has said that he does not wish for the band to be considered as "Viking Metal" however this album will inevitably reinforce that label. The subject matter is firmly placed in Norse mythology and has the usual commentaries on wars and the gods but isn't all guts and glory; the song "Under Siege", for example, deals with the effects of being trapped inside a city that is under attack and is a welcome change of pace.  Hegg's vocal delivery is very well done. His growls are terrifying and match the aggression and the themes of the music perfectly. Song-to-song there isn't a massive change in his style, the exception being on "Hel" where his growl becomes deeper and more menacing, which is a really nice touch given the song's subject matter.

Overall then there are many positives to this album but there are so many things that stop it being great. As good as the guitar work is it becomes frustrating because it leaves you begging for a solo. I'm not saying Amarth should shred for the sake of it but if "Deceiver of the Gods" and "Coming of the Tide" are compared, the latter has a really nice guitar solo followed by some awesome twin leads going back to the main body of the song whilst the former opens with a killer riff then a lead section which doesn't match it for pace and fizzles out. There are too many sections where the lead work on offer just doesn't feel like enough. Yes, the leads are Maiden-esque but Maiden back them up with awesome solos, something Amon Amarth, unfortunately, rarely do.

Another issue is that by the time the album is halfway through there isn't much more to sink your teeth into and it feels like you have already heard everything on offer. As I listener I was begging for something different or a change of pace but for the most part it can be said that the album is very "safe". I was especially let down by 8 minute closer "Warriors of the North". This could have been an epic song with some really nice guitar work and with an epic feel akin to "Miklagard Overture" by Turisas, as it was it just felt like 2 songs added together that sounded the same as everything else and missed the mark of being an epic album closer.

Arguably the only real experimentation on the album came from "Hel", which features former Candlemass singer Messiah Marcolin. Although I liked the idea of the "operatic" vocals, I don't see why they felt the need to have Marcolin and Hegg singing at the same time and instead think a Dimmu Borgir-esque section with an operatic vocalist singing exclusively would have worked much better. This seems to be the only place on the whole album that Amon Amarth move away from their characteristic sound and unfortunately it doesn't work as well as it could.

My overall feeling with this album is that it seems to be a missed opportunity. There are so many songs that lay the groundwork with awesome riffs only to be let down by unsatisfying lead playing. Additionally the pacing of the album is very samey and it can get tiring very quickly. If you have followed this band for some time then this album will probably be very satisfying as it is Amon Amarth doing what they do best but for me it just isn't as good as it should be.

Standout Track: Coming of the Tide

Overall: 6/10


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