Twilight Of The Thunder God
What a surprise that some Swedes deliver melo-death album of the year
The year of 2008 is winding down fast but there are some real gems hitting the shelves of your fave record store still, and I'm going to spoil the surprise right from the get-go by saying that Amon Amarth's Twilight Of The Thunder God - variation on a Bathory theme anyone? - is definitely one of those gems. So much so that it is hands, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest and clearly the melodic death metal album of 2008 and one of the finest the genre has produced ever.
Purveyors of melo-death will recognise and appreciate the perfection of the title track that kicks the album off. It is everything that a fine melodic death metal track should be - textured and thick toned dual guitar assault of riffs and melody, rumbling bass, blasting drums and some truly sinister sounding vocals growls. Amon Amarth (who are vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Fredrik Andersson) hit their groove with the stomping mid tempo based Free Will Sacrifice and the simple-yet-heavy Accept like passages of Guardians Of Asgaard taking the album's intensity down a notch, but certainly not at the expense of anything else. Where Is Your God? is a brutal way to up the album's intensity once more before the very Unleashed sounding in every way Varyags Of Miklagaard shows the band in more of a traditional death metal light than anything else.
Amon Amarth's viking slanted death metal continues with the rolling thunder sounds of the excellent Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags which gallops along at a medium pace relying on the fretwork of Mikkonen and Söderberg to create the appropriate texture that is topped off with Hegg's sinister growl. No Fear For The Setting Sun shines - pardon the pun - through it's choruses before The Hero signals a return to more of the melodic death vein thanks to the layered keyboard that pops in from time to time. Whilst keyboard-less as such, Live For The Kill throws the first real curveball on Twilight Of The Thunder God with its brief and haunting violin passage. It's nice enough but for a four minute song, it does feel as if it is overstaying its welcome a bit sometimes. Thankfully though, the grand finale is everything it should be. There couldn't be a better wrap up than Embrace Of The Endless Ocean as it truly is as good as it gets for epic melodeath finales. It's right up there with Dark Tranquillity's My Negation (from 2005's Character).
It might be a case of business as usual for Amon Amarth, but when business is this good, who cares, right? Twilight Of The Thunder Gods is a pearler of a melodic death metal album. It's polished and smooth and everything you should expect of these Swedes, and without a doubt one of the best albums of 2008.
(Metal Blade Records/Stomp Distribution)