The Crusher

Amon Amarth

Metal Blade Records, 2001

http://amonamarth.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/09/2001

Can a thrash metal band who have one leg firmly planted in the warrior ethic change their spots?

Amon Amarth answers the question on their latest disc, The Crusher, by saying sure... as long as they don't abandon the imagery completely, and they replace it with a heavier dose of anti-religious sentiment.

In the two years since their CD The Avenger, vocalist Johan Hegg and crew have obviously spent some time looking at their songwriting and their career, deciding how they wanted to position themselves in the all-too-crowded thrash metal scene. Musically, they have made some minor improvements, creating a sonic sculpture that is somewhat more interesting than their last disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet if one was offended by the religious hatred that Amon Amarth professed on The Avenger, they're not going to make it too far into The Crusher, as the band rips upon Catholicism almost from the get-go. No less than four songs state the group's stance, from the taunts against those trying to censor them on "Bastards Of A Lying Breed" to going after a priest like he's the target of a fox hunt on "The Sound Of Eight Hooves".

What is intriguing about The Crusher is that unless you take the time to read the lyric sheet, you might not see how certain songs are tied together. I'm hesitant to call The Crusher a concept disc per se, but there is a definite story line running along this album. The first few tracks seem to speak of a war being waged against Christianity - but starting with "As Long As The Raven Flies," the angle of the story seems to chang as one of the leaders of the anti-religious fight is captured and prepares to die for not giving up his beliefs. (From "A Fury Divine": "...Lies! Spread by preaching men / I'm on trial for being who I am / And praising the Gods of my native land.")

But just when it seems the battle has been lost for the natives, "Annihilation Of Hammerfest" sees the victory for the gods of the old land as the hammer of doom - the Crusher - is swung down to unleash its own style of justice. "The Fall Through Ginnungagap" (boy, am I glad that last word wasn't on the spelling test when I was in school) sees the dark forces ready to be released out of a limbo they've been settling in for some time, suggesting the timeline of the story has moved on. "Releasing Surtur's Fire" sees the gods being summoned again, though at a later time, and the carnage begins anew.

It's not a totally cohesive story line, but The Crusher does pretty well with what it has, and it's musically interesting (even if you still need the lyric sheet to decipher Hegg's shouts, and even if Ted Lundström's bass is still too far back in the mix). It's an intense 40-odd minutes that's not for the weak of heart or the Bible-beaters, but it's a step up for Amon Amarth - even though one is left to believe the band hasn't done their greatest work yet.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 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.