Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: May 3rd, 2019
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Johan Hegg – Vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – Guitars
Johan Söderberg – Guitars
Ted Lundström – Bass
Jocke Wallgren – Drums
- Fafnir’s Gold
- Crack the Sky
- Mjölner, Hammer of Thor
- Shield Wall
- Raven’s Flight
- The Berserker at Stamford Bridge
- When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails
- Skoll and Hati
- Wings of Eagles
- Into the Dark
When talking about the best melodic death metal bands in the world, one band that should always be mentioned is Swedish Viking themed band Amon Amarth. They’ve been around since the early 90’s, and while other big names in the genre have gone through some ups and downs, as well as long periods of downtime, in some cases, these guys have been consistently putting out great albums their entire career, never going more than three years in between releases. Their previous release, Jomsviking, was particularly impressive, as it was an epic concept album, with a slight narrative angle to it, while still delivering their typical brand of melodic yet intense melodeath. Three years later, they’re back once again with their eleventh full length release, Berserker, and while few could blame them if they were to put out a less impressive effort, following such a strong release, the band has once again delivered and produced possibly their absolute best batch of songs to date!
Compared to Jomsviking, Berserker is a much more straight-forward, more in your face kind of album, with the focus put entirely on unleashing one killer song after another, which is exactly what the band has done. It definitely has all the signature elements of the band, with a ton of fast paced, headbanging melodeath fun, as well as some more epic mid paced stompers, a slower, almost power ballad like track, an epic closer, and of course there’s a ton of violent Viking imagery, as always. On the surface, the album may seem to be a “Greatest Hits” of sorts, and that isn’t entirely inaccurate, as there certainly is a feel that the band is combining all their best elements and throwing them onto one album, but there’s also some surprises to be found, including a nice acoustic section to open the album, as well as the aforementioned rather surprising track, and a few other little touches. Performances are obviously amazing all around, with duo guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg delivering some awesome riffs and melodies, while drummer Jocke Wallgreen is on point with some epic grooves, and of course, vocalist Johan Hegg unleashes his usual epic, deep death growls, which sound as impressive as ever. Sound production is also flawless and crystal clear, as always, with everything sounding perfect.
Songwriting has always been a strength for Amon Amarth, with all their albums having their share of killer tracks, though if anything, Berserker is even more impressive than usual, as none of its tracks are anything short of absolutely amazing! First up is the incredible opener, “Fafnir’s Gold”, which starts off with a nice acoustic intro for about 35 seconds, before some melodic guitar leads take over, and then after about a minute, the full band is in action, and the track charges ahead at a frantic pace, and turns into the kind of epic, speedy and hard hitting opener fans of the band have come to expect. It has a perfect mix of hard hitting riffs during the verses, and some great melodies to accompany Johan Hegg during the epic chorus. Next is second single “Crack the Sky”, a more mid paced track, with some nice grooves, as well as some excellent drumming. It gallops along at a decent pace, with some excellent lead guitar work, as well as Johan’s typically powerful growls, and then the chorus is insanely catchy and melodic, and is sure to become a fan favourite, while the melodic guitar solo in the second half is also amazing. After that is another fun, speedy track in “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor”, a heavy, guitar driven track, which moves at a frantic pace, alternating nicely between heavy and very melodic guitar work. Instrumentally, it’s one of those tracks that shows that the band could be an amazing power metal band, if not for the growls, but as is, it’s an amazing melodeath track, with a fun chorus, fun verses, and awesome instrumental work all around, as well as some cool hammer sound effects, for good measure.
The first real slower track on the album is “Shield Wall”, an absolutely brutal, yet epic and powerful track, with some very hard hitting riffs. It has a more modernised sound to it, with some very chunky yet awesome riffs, and Johan is at his absolute most intense, especially during the heavy and epic chorus. It’s definitely one of the band’s heavier tracks, yet it still has some nice melodies, as well, especially in the middle, and it’s an awesome track overall. On the lighter side, “Valkyria” is another more mid paced track, with some lighter, more melodic guitar work, while still being pretty epic and intense. It has some very nice melodic guitar leads throughout, as well as a nice chorus and fun verses, and it has a really cool atmospheric outro. Next is lead single “Raven’s Flight”, and it’s another standout, flawlessly alternating between speedy and slower passages, as well as some epic galloping riffs, excellent melodic guitar work, and some very heavy riffs. It has a very catchy and epic chorus, very fun verses, and awesome instrumental work, throughout, as well as a ton of tempo changes, all of which help make it an unforgettable track.
Following that absolute monster of a track, the album goes into slightly lighter territory for a while, starting with “Ironside”, another more mid paced track. It has some great riffs, but it’s the melodic guitar work, epic melodies and vocals that carry the track. It’s a very epic, very melodic track, with an amazing chorus, great lyrics and an incredible performance by Johan. Even softer than that is “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge”, an ultra-rare power ballad for the band, and it’s a bloody good one! It opens with some very epic melodic guitar work, and continues along with just that, vocals and some very light percussion for a while, before full drums appear during the chorus, and then the full sound kicks in shortly after that, for a heavy, yet melodic and very powerful track. It has an epic chorus, more epic lyrics and another incredible vocal performance, as well as some epic instrumental sections in the second half. It’s a pretty surprising track overall, and it may not win everyone over at first, but it’s a definite grower. On the slightly speedier, but still fairly light end of things is “When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails”, another track dominated by light, melodic guitar work, and epic vocals. It moves along at a nice pace, with some great riffs and beautiful melodies, and it’s another epic, and very melodic track, with an excellent chorus.
The heaviness gets kicked up several notches again for the remainder of the album, starting with “Skoll and Hati”, a fast and furious track, with some very hard hitting lead guitar work, frantic drums, and intense vocals. It’s the kind of speedy, aggressive track the band excels at, while still having some awesome melodies. In similar territory is “Wings of Eagles”, another ultra-fast, very heavy track with some excellent riffs, fast paced drumming, and a great melodic chorus. The chorus in particular is one of the band’s best, most epic in quite some time, and the track is amazing overall. Closing out the album is the mini epic “Into the Dark”, which starts out with some slight symphonic elements, before settling into a nice groove, with light, melodic guitar work, and then after a while some heavier riffs kick in, and the track turns into a mid-paced, very heavy track, more epic guitar work and amazing vocals. It’s yet another track which strikes a perfect balance between heavy and melodic passages, with Johan being softer at points, while being very intense at other points. It’s an epic track on its own, and an excellent closer.
Amon Amarth show no signs of letting up any time soon, and if anything, Berserker may be their best release yet, with a perfect mix of everything they’ve been known for in the past, as well as some small surprises here and there. It’s definitely one of their most energetic, most consistently entertaining releases, with an amazing flow, going from one killer track to another, and it has a perfect mix of fast, mid paced and slower tracks, while striking a perfect balance between heavy and melodic. It’s easily the best melodeath album I’ve heard in recent years, and it feels like the band is at the absolute top of their game right now. Long-time fans should be very pleased, while any melodeath fan who’s somehow never heard of the band before, could do no better than to check this album out right away, as it’s an absolute masterpiece!
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.