Twilight of the Thunder God is the seventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal giants Amon Amarth (I like to categorize them as the ever-popular Viking Metal genre). The set release date is September 30 here in North America, but is released in Sweden/Finland first on September 17.
First off, I want to tell you that when I saw the album artwork, it kicked my ass. Then, when I got around to listening to the album it kicked my ass even harder.
The first track on the album, the title track, sets the pace wonderfully. It’s the same Amon Amarth riff we’ve heard a thousand times now, but it gets better every time. The drums are in full form, lots of pounding, driving rhythms – perfect for headbanging and hair-flailing. My neck still sort of hurts from rocking out too this song too hard. The thing is, the album does not get any worse from here on out. Most albums around these days (or what seems like it anyway) usually start off strong, then the tracks get a little weaker toward then end [e.g. All That Remains’ The Fall of Ideals – I loved the album, but the second half was lacking in comparison to the opening six tracks]. This album brutalizes you from start to finish. When it’s not brutalizing you, it’s making you feel like you want to wage war with something, or conquer some far off land – inspiring you for the next moment when it kicks in your face some more.
So, when hearing this album, the thought ‘Wow, this is just like every other Amon Amarth album!’ might very well pop into your head. Well, no one can fault you for that. They really haven’t changed their game for a long time, but why the hell would they need to? When you are this awesome, there is no point in changing. Instead, they took the Motörhead, AC/DC, etc. approach and just got really ridiculously good at what they do, and I think them for that. Each album of their last few releases has been better every time.
As far as the album production goes, it falls right in line with With Oden on Our Side, having a very unique, deep sound without being too muddy (slightly deeper this time around, though, and lsightly less booming/bass heavy). It is a little “distant” sounding, but I am almost positive it was meant that way. It gives a great feel to the album. Nothing is mixed to take command over anything, it’s not overly bass-heavy, or light and fluffy. The drums sound especially good on this album. By now, I think it would be fair to say that they really own their own sound, one in which provides great timbre to set the mood for the lyrics along with the pounding music that lies under the vocals. It is always an amazing feat to have as much going on in the same general tone range without having anything become buried.
After a few listens through, the only thing I can find about this album that is not near-perfect would be the fact that is does not stray too far at all from the Amon Amarth “thing”. Not a problem, but not a strength. People will argue either way, and I am pulling for an “Objection your honor, irrelevant” plea. No one would dare criticize the aforementioned bands for not changing their model, why point the finger at Amon Amarth? No one really praises the aforementioned bands for not changing, other than the “stayed true to their roots” ideal, which is neither here nor there.
An interesting fact about this album is that it is the first to feature guest musicians. The tracks “Twilight of the Thunder God”, “Guardians of Asgaard” and “Live For the Kill” all feature guest musicians. Before doing a small amount of research, I found out about the first two, since they are not very obvious. When I heard “Live For the Kill” however, I really assumed it was Apocalyptica, since they pretty much are the guest musicians for most metal tracks featuring cellos. It is a damn good thing, too. Those boys in Apocalyptica know their way around a cello, and in quite stellar metal fashion as well.
All in all, Twilight of the Thunder God is not much different than anything Amon Amarth has ever done, sans working with guest musicians, but it is simply better. Like an artisan honing their craft, they will only get better with time and practice.
Track picks: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” and “Live for the Kill”
Overall score: 10/10 devil Horns