The Avenger

Amon Amarth

Metal Blade Records, 1999

http://amonamarth.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/18/1999

Anyone who thinks the men's movement is dead needs only to hie themselves to the record store and grab any of a number of metal albums from European groups. I've heard some of these groups who sing about the glories of war and the Viking ideals - Christ, some of these make Iron John look like a touch football game.

Enter into the picture Amon Amarth, a five-piece group from Sweden, they take this same war-is-good, murder-is-better approach, throw in some anti-religious themes and, apparently, a lot of beer (the latter a suggestion from the band themselves), and you've got their latest disc my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Avenger - which, despite my misgivings for the genre in general, isn't that bad.

Oh, sure, it's very formulatic, with the two-guitar buzzsaw attack and constant double-bass drum work - as well as vocals (provided by Johan Hegg) that sound like he gargled with battery acid before heading to the studio. (The lyric sheet helps, but sometimes it's like reading a Tolkien novel with its imagery.) But the engineering hand of Peter Tagtgren from Hypocrisy helps the band out a lot, and results in a cleaner sound than I think they could have achieved otherwise.

The Avenger is a quick listen, with its seven cuts clocking in at just over 36 minutes. But it is an intense listen from the starting gates with "Bleed For Ancient Gods". I really hate to say this, but sometimes, not understanding what Hegg is screaming about makes for a more interesting listen; when I read along with the liner notes, it just got too medieval for me. Only once did the descriptive imagery bother me - and I think it's because I was listening to this album at breakfast.

Amon Amarth makes no apologies for their hatred of certain religions. I mean, with song titles like "God, His Son And Holy Whore," I think it's safe to say that this one isn't going to be about attending Christmas services at Our Lady Of Perpetual Motion in the suburbs. Be warned if you don't have a thick skin concerning things like this: this isn't the album to play when you have the parish priests over for dinner and a brandy. (And, no, the comments don't bother me... believe me, I've heard a lot worse.)

The twin-guitar attack of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg doesn't always seem to rise up to the level of power I think they're capable of. And while Ted Lundström gets a chance to have his bass guitar work shine on "Legend Of A Banished Man," I thought he was buried too far back in the mix.

If this genre of metal is what gets your flag flying, then chances are The Avenger is going to be an album you will love. For the rest of us, it's an okay listen that reminds us such bands are still out there, but Amon Amarth have yet to prove to me they're required listening.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.