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AMON AMARTH: Surtur Rising (Album Review)

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Record Label: Metal Blade

My rating points:

    Track Listing:
  1. War Of The Gods
  2. Tock's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II
  3. Destroyer Of The Universe
  4. Slaves Of Fear
  5. Live Without Regrets
  6. The Last Stand Of Frej
  7. For Victory Or Death
  8. Wrath Of The Norsemen
  9. A Beast Am I
  10. Doom Over Dead Man

The Surtur Rising three-track album preview was a taste of what to expect from Amon Amarth's eighth full length release, and as soon as I received the entire album, I was greatly excited to find out what the rest of the album sounded like.

Other than tracks 1, 4 and 7 which have already been talked about in the preview, "Tock's Taunt - Loke's Treachery Part II" sounds incredibly heavy and aggressive, while still offering some amazing melodic variations within. It just goes to show the natural progression in songwriting, which has certainly gotten better than it was on "Twilight Of The Thunder Gods", creating a near perfect mix of melody and aggression in songs like this one.

"Destroyer Of The Universe" does complete justice to its title, and simply put, sounds absolutely killer. In interviews, frontman Johan Hegg always talked about how the band was going for a rougher, more aggressive sound on this album, and this song is the perfect example of exactly what they set out to achieve. "Live Without Regrets" is more along the lines of track 2 in terms of tempo and song structure, maintaining the album flow brilliantly and keeping the listener hooked.

"The Last Stand Of Frej" slows things down a touch, and has more of an epic feel to it with a really prominent guitar melody. Even though it might not be an instant classic, it offers a good change-up from the album thus far, and is a sign of things to come. "Wrath Of The Norsemen" is again slow, but heavy at the same time and shouldn't disappoint anyone. "A Beast Am I" picks up the tempo again and turns out to be as good a tune as any on this album, with a mellow outro thrown in there, leading into the final track "Doom Over Dead Man". It's musically an excellent track but builds up rather too gradually for my liking, and I felt that A Beast Am I would have been better as the closing track, specially because of the contrast with the blistering speed followed by the outro.

Overall, this album is weirdly interesting, in the sense that the first half of it is largely heavy and offers some of the band's roughest, most aggressive work till date. But then there's the other half which is rather mellow in comparison, and has an almost Dark Tranquillity/In Flames type of Gothenburg metal sound rather than the crushingly epic sound Amon Amarth have always been known for. I would even go on to say this album had the potential to be a perfect ten the way it starts out, but falls a little short of it by the time the tenth track is played. Nonetheless, it's still better than their previous release, and shouldn't disappoint any Amon Amarth fan, or any metal fan for that matter. Recommended tracks are "War Of The Gods", "Tock's Taunt", "Destroyer Of The Universe", "For Victory Or Death", and "A Beast Am I", while the others are all great tunes as well.

An album that has enormous aggression, entrancing melody and everything in between, this is the band's most well-rounded and musically richest album to date. With the special opportunity of seeing them perform this in its entirety beckoning, 2011 should turn out to be the year of the Surtur. A glorious effort! \m/

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