By their own admission, 2019s Berserker saw Amon Amarth, Sweden’s finest purveyors of Viking Metal, hit a more traditional style than many fans were used to.
Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade Records)
Release Date: 5 August 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Having formed in 1992, it took the band until 1998 to deliver their debut, Once Sent From The Golden Hall. Move forward 25 years and the Swedes are deservedly one of the biggest Metal bands in Europe, headlining arenas as well as festivals across the European mainland and events like Bloodstock Open Air (and yes, I was part of the Viking rowing there in 2017).
With 11 albums under their belt, Amon Amarth has little to prove. Their music has always contained memorable refrains, hooks, and crushing riffs, anthemic songs that raise the sails as the longboats head across the sea in search of treasure and adventure. With The Great Heathen Army, they have returned to the melodic Death Metal style that saw them rise to the top, with releases such as Fate Of Norns, With Oden On Our Side, Twilight Of The Thunder God and Deceiver Of The Gods.
Opening with the battery that is Get In The Ring, it is evident from the start that Amon Amarth means business. Johan Hegg is in magnificent form, his guttural roars as unnatural and unnerving as they’ve ever been. Get In The Ring was written for AEW pro-wrestling star Erick Redbeard but equally applies to the Viking themes that the band have used since those early days.
“The lyrics are obviously written to fit both Viking and wrestling themes,” Olavi Mikkonen said. “You can also see Erick as the lead character in the new video for the song. We shot the video in Wroclaw, Poland with our friends Grupa 13 and they helped us create this dark and epic Mad Max meets Viking underground super brutal fight club for the video clip.”
The Title track is an expansive track that has a huge and powerful driving rhythm, sledgehammer riffing and Jocke Walldren’s bludgeoning double kicking.
You want a singalong anthem? Look no further than Heidrun which is sure to be a live favourite, although it’s a bit twee for me and one of the weaker tracks on the album. But that’s picking a little, for Amon Amarth has upped the heaviness significantly for the majority of The Great Heathen Army, and tracks such as Oden Owns You All are skull-crushing in their heaviness.
The band have also continued their tradition of using guest vocalists, and this time it’s a return of the favour by Saxon frontman Biff Byford who follows in the footsteps of Messiah Marcolin, the late ars-Göran Petrov and Doro Pesch as he duets with Hegg on Saxons And Vikings, mirroring Hegg’s contribution to Predator on Saxon’s 2018 Thunderbolt record.
With Andy Sneap once more in the producer’s chair, the sound is crisp, clean and to be fair, damn great! The mix is superb, the guitars of Olavi Mikkonen soaring out above the pounding drive of drummer Walldren and the heavy riffage that bassist Ted Lundström and rhythm guitarist Johan Söderberg lay down.
It may not be their all-time best album (plenty would argue that Thunder God or With Oden take that accolade) but The Great Heathen Army is certainly pushing hard for the top position.
It is an album that showcases a band who, 30 years into their musical journey, is still intent on making high-quality music that will no doubt thrill their legions of fans.
Maybe a ticket to watch them with Machine Head is needed after all.
Vikings And Lionhearts European dates
Fri 16th Sep – ZURICH – Hallenstadion
Sat 17th Sep – VIENNA – Stadthalle
Sun 18th Sep – KRAKOW – Tauron Arena
Tue 20th Sep – TALLINN – Saku Arena
Wed 21st Sep – HELSINKI – Ice Hall
Fri 23rd Sep – OSLO – Spektrum
Sat 24th Sep – STOCKHOLM – Hovet
Mon 26th Sep – COPENHAGEN – Forum Black Box
Tue 27th Sep – HAMBURG – Barclays Arena
Wed 28th Sep – FRANKFURT – Festhalle
Fri 30th Sep – OBERHAUSEN – König Pilsener Arena
Sat 1st Oct – BERLIN – Velodrome
Sun 2nd Oct – AMSTERDAM – Afas Live
Tue 4th Oct – MILAN – Lorenzini District
Thu 6th Oct – BARCELONA – Sant Jordi
Fri 7th Oct – MADRID – Vistalegre
Sat 8th Oct – LA CORUNA – Coliseum
Sun 9th Oct – LISBON – Campo Pequeno
Wed 12th Oct – PARIS – Zenith
Fri 14th Oct – MUNICH – Olympiahalle
Sat 15th Oct – LEIPZIG – Arena
Sun 16th Oct – PRAGUE – Tipsport Arena
Tue 18th Oct – BUDAPEST – Barba Negra
Thu 20th Oct – ESCH SUR ALZETTE – Rockhal
Fri 21st Oct – BRUSSELS – Forest National
Sat 22nd Oct – STUTTGART – Schleyerhalle