CD Reviews Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking

Metal Blade Records

In history, "Jomsviking" was a semi-legendary order of Pagan Viking mercenaries in the 10th and 11th centuries. They had a strict code of valor and were forbidden to show fear. Amon Amarth's 10th studio album Jomsviking (Metal Blade Records) - their first concept album - follows the life of one of these warriors.

Hailing from Sweden, these Viking marauders are: vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg, bassist Ted Lundstrom, and guest drummer Tobias Gustafsson (although new drummer Jocke Wallgren is performing these duties live). The band gets its name from the Sindarin (Tolkein's High Elvish) name for Mount Doom. Metal Queen Doro Pesch makes a guest vocal appearance on "Jomsviking", and the album was dedicated to the memory of Michael Trengert (of Silverdust Records, Nuclear Blast, and Metal Blade Records fame).

The Jomsviking's tale begins when he murders a man trying to abduct a woman as told in the song "First Kill". I love the guitars and melodies in the fierce "The Wanderer", where this warrior who is haunted by dreams of blood accepts his fate. "On A Sea Of Blood" follows our hero's journey on a Dragon Ship, and the subsequent violent attack once it reaches its destination. The defiant "One Against All" pits a sole survivor of a bloody skirmish standing firm against attackers, no matter what the outcome.

The triumphant "Raise Your Horns" is pure celebration of victory. The epic "The Way of the Vikings" is truly inspirational! The merciless "At Dawn’s First Light" depicts a brutal assault on an unsuspecting village.

The somber, funerary "One Thousand Burning Arrows" sends a fallen warrior to the next life with proper ceremony. The spoken intro to "Vengeance Is My Name" is full of conviction, as the warrior runs like a berserker into the thick of battle. In the intense "The Dream That Cannot Be", our hero finds the woman abducted in the first song, but she is her own woman and not in need of rescue (this is the aforementioned duet with the iconic Doro Pesch. Awesome song!) The soul-stirring "Back On Northern Shores" has our warrior triumphantly returning home with the spoils of battle.

Although I lament that there are no hymns to the Norse Gods on this album, I still love the daylights out of it! It is a fantastic album that finds its way into my CD player (I still prefer this option to MP3's) daily! Along with former favorites "With Oden On Our Side" and "Twilight of the Thunder God". (Yes, "Deceiver of the Gods" and "Surtur Rising" are awesome, but the previous two are my motivational music for the day).

For those of you who might've missed it, Hegg was in the movie "Northmen: A Viking Saga" (and Amon Amarth songs were featured during the ending credits). I ran out to Best Buy and bought the movie the day it came out just because of Amon Amarth's connections! (And I was not disappointed. Great movie!)

~Athena Schaffer