Of all the names that have come out of death metal over the decades, Amon Amarth is certifiably one of those names that hasn’t needed any sort of introduction for many of those years at this point. They’ve become the epitome of what it means to achieve greatness in the modern landscape of death metal with their clear image working well with their deadly sense of melody that has yet to wain with time, and their endless conquest for glory is something that has led them to continuously do great things one album after another. It feels like far more than just three years since we last heard from the killers with “Berserker”, but it’s now that they’ve returned with a literal army at their back to deliver what has to be another tremendous addition to their discography.
Years ago, when Amon Amarth first made the claim that they were going to start making death metal the likes of which they had hoped would fill stadiums, many of us, myself included, became terrified that meant a terrible transition in the band’s sound that would be way too commercial and far too boring compared to everything that the band had put forth in their decades-long run before. Fortunately, such a thing hasn’t come to pass even if “Berserker” saw them leaning into that vision more with plenty feeling like the album felt like a watered-down version of what the band was really capable of. Thus, that made the prospect of “The Great Heathen Army” something that was met with as much rejoicing as it was cautious optimism. While the nine tracks that are offered to us here certainly do continue down that path that was laid forth on its predecessor, you could pick any track from “The Great Heathen Army” and find yourself in wildly better company. Melodic to the very bone but never once lacking in intensity as well as the occasional bout into something a little different for the sake of variety, it’s on their twelfth full-length album that Amon Amarth finds themselves succeeding where they stumbled slightly before. It brings much more credence and glory to the concept of them making material that can fill out stadiums at the very mention of the band, but there is still plenty of work to be done should the band want to travel that path. The heart will always act for something much more vicious and intense the likes of which Amon Amarth has literally made a career out of, but given what they brought forth in order to bring “The Great Heathen Army” to life and the improvements that came with it, I don’t think I can sit here and find myself truly disappointed or thinking that this band has become something not worth talking about. At the end of the day, this is still Amon Amarth and there is always something to be said when these Vikings raid at dawn to plunder the villages of Essex.
This is the engaging and vicious Amon Amarth that many of us have come to know albeit in a different form than what many may be hoping for, and while it is still something that many will look down upon and sneer at, there’s no way that I can sit here and tell you that this album is anything short of a damn good time that fills my heart will joy just to see the very name of Amon Amarth back yet again. To join all that is “The Great Heathen Army” is to take place in one of the greatest gatherings that the modern landscape of death metal has to offer, and those that truly lose themselves in its midst will find themselves having a truly glorious time.
“The Great Heathen Army” releases on September 5th via Metal Blade!
PRE-ORDER “The Great Heathen Army” via multiple sources here.
LISTEN to singles from “The Great Heathen Army” on Bandcamp here.
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