Review by David Araneda
Artist: AMON AMARTH
Label: Metal Blade Records / Sony Music
Release date: 3rd May 2019
1. Fafner’s Gold
2. Crack the Sky
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor
4. Shield Wall
6. Raven’s Flight
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails
10. Skoll and Hati
11. Wings of Eagles
12. Into the Dark
After the successful “Jomsviking”, the Swedish Vikings strike again with their eleventh studio effort entitled “Berserker”. This record sets the official debut for Chilean-born drummer Jocke Wallgren, who joined the band for the previous tour. Amon Amarth recently celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary with the release of “The Pursuit of Vikings: 25 Years in the Eye of the Storm”, which included two live concerts recorded at Summer Breeze, plus a documentary about the history of the band. With growing popularity reflected in both records sales and successful touring, “Berserker” became immediately one of the most anticipated metal releases of the year.
The album opens with ‘Fafner’s Gold’, a track that begins solemnly with acoustic guitar, building an epic atmosphere that culminates in an explosion of trademark melodeath riffs and the unique growls by Johan Hegg. The song follows carefully the recipe that has made them famous and that still works perfectly, becoming an instant classic. They continue with ‘Crack the Sky’, a midtempo tune full of groove-loaded riffs, with an outstanding rhythm section that will make you bang your head with a fist in the air. Structurally speaking, the song feels somewhat flat and repetitive for my taste, but it’s still rock-solid.
With ‘Mjolner, Hammer of Thor’ they explore a sound closer to traditional heavy metal, with infectious melodies and rhythm from beginning to end, plus great guitar work by Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg. Meanwhile, ‘Shield Wall’ is another headbanger that will make your shout the chorus at the top of your lungs, including interesting intensity changes through its development. ‘Valkyria’ is a full-blown battle anthem, and from the instrumental point of view it stands out as one of the most inspired pieces of the album, including interesting bass arrangements by Ted Lundström in its middle section and a dramatic piano outro.
‘Raven’s Flight’ was the first single from “Berserker” and gave us a quite good idea of what we could expect from this release: a perfect mixture between technique, brutality and melody, featuring a feast of Iron Maiden-inspired guitars and a superb Johan Hegg delivering one of the catchiest vocal lines on the album. Next is ‘Ironside’, a marching song that keeps the unstoppable energy of this music machine, and that makes you feel as if you were on the battlefield. It’s quite impressive that despite covering the same topics throughout their career, they always manage to recreate the right atmosphere.
With ‘The Berserker at Stamford Bridge’ they slow down their ship a bit, it’s heavier and thicker track, with a more introspective tone, allowing them to enter the deeper realms of their sound. ‘When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails’ is another well-crafted battle anthem with relentless melodic guitars that you’ll get hooked into from the first listen, helping to keep the momentum of the album. ‘Skoll and Hati’ shines as one of the highlights of the record, with a thrashier style but without losing the essence of Amon Amarth’s sounds. I hope they play it live, since it would make a hell of a mosh pit.
Approaching the end of this adventure, the Nordic warriors attack at full speed with ‘Wings of Eagles’, another song that kicks you right in the head and in which they do not spare in going balls out. The chorus reminds me of epic power metal bands such as Rhapsody, but in a Viking fashion. The album closes with the glorious ‘Into The Dark’, a long track with a more complex structure, featuring a more melancholic and gloomier atmosphere compared to the rest of the album. The torch slowly extinguishes with keyboards that once again add some extra dramatism, warning us that the end has come.
“Berserker” is an excellent collection of battle anthems that shows us a band at the top of their game. At this point in time, Amon Amarth knows exactly what their fans expect from them, and they are not willing to make any missteps that would jeopardize their place in metal Valhalla. Thanks to a successful formula that they have managed to perfect over the years, these Vikings will surely continue to attract fans of extreme metal but also those who are into more melodic stuff. Hail to these warriors for keeping on marching in the victorious path that took them so long to build.
AMON AMARTH – “Berserker” videos: