Versus the World (Reissue)
Metal’s true Vikings reissue one of their greatest albums
The metal world has seen more than its fair share of battle metal bands emerging over the past few years, and whilst some of them have been a complete joke, others have shown that a dungeons and dragons image shouldn't hinder the ability to actually conceive music that shows talent and creativity. But no matter how good some of these bands are, they'll always be a joke when put up against one of the leading pioneers of the genre, Sweden's Amon Amarth. Little introduction is needed for these five burly, bearded Vikings, as they have been true to their cause since their inception in 1988 under the moniker of Scum, making this their 22nd anniversary. And what better way to celebrate than by reissuing some of their first albums as a thanks to the fans. The band already released the first three albums in early 2009, Once Sent from the Golden Hall, The Avenger and The Crusher, and they have now released Versus the World, which was originally released in 2002. This was one of the albums that really opened the world's eyes to the brilliance of their music, and even today it contains some of their best material. As well as the original nine tracks remastered by Jens Bogren, the band have generously included a second disc that features the album played live in its entirety, recorded at Club Zeche Bochum between Dec 28th and 31st in 2008. And, as a cherry on the top, all new liner have been included by the band. Put all this together and it's a generous offering, and something that die-hard fans shouldn't pass up, even if they already own the original release.
The opening track is one of the band's greatest, Death in Fire. When I saw Amon Amarth live a couple of years ago, this song sent the crowd wild as they screamed the chorus in unison back at singer Johan Hegg. Instantly recognizable from the start is the band's relentless drumming provided by Nico Kaukinen, and when this album was first released, this set a new benchmark for bands in any genre that were treating the drums as secondary to the rest of the band, as well as the producers and mixers that were drowning out the drums during album production. The drums are punishing throughout every song on the album, never losing their vigour, and some of the greatest drum riffs I have ever heard are at the beginning of songs such as Bloodshed and Death in Fire. Amon Amarth manage to flawlessly mould melody with deadly aggression, and none of the tracks ever seem to stagnate on a single atmosphere. Instead they seamlessly progress through various emotions, thanks to some killer shredding by guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Anders Hansson.
Highlights on the album include Death in Fire, Bloodshed, which has a repetitive, simple yet catchy chorus that is repeated, creating somewhat of an anthem, and the finale ...And Soon the World Will Cease to Be, which is the longest track on the album, clocking in at just over seven minutes, with beautiful lead guitar work that will almost bring a tear to your eye, not only because it is so incredibly epic, but because it marks the end of an amazing album.
I did the maths and realized that there is absolutely no reason not to go out and buy this reissue. This isn't just for fans of battle metal, this is for fans of any metal. It is hard to fault a band like Amon Amarth that forged themselves a reputation bigger than their beer bellies, whilst continuing to back up that reputation by releasing quality album after quality album to this date. This is one kind of rape and pillage that you should welcome.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)