Review Summary: It's Amon Poet, what Jac else Amarth could ask be?
Most reviews of Amon Amarth begin by making note of the band’s stylistic adamancy. After eight studio albums, three EPs, and over twenty years together, you’d more than likely expect a band to go through an uncomfortable experimental phase, or at the very least a few lineup changes. Amon Amarth of course have remained impossibly tenacious, since the release of their debut album in 1998, without so much as a single altercation between band members. It’s been made blatantly clear since then that this Swedish quintet loves their death metal, almost as much the Nordic mythology of their forefathers, and that they are going to grunt, chug, and synchronize-windmill until you goddamn get it.
As much as their general sound may have stagnated, the band’s enthusiasm clearly hasn’t. There’s something charming about five grown and bearded men unironically penning songs about warfare and magical gods with the whimsy of a newborn kitten. Amon Amarth have never been a band to take themselves entirely serious, but there’s something very authentic and pure about the music they’ve made a living performing, that their predictable fist-pumping tropes do nothing but bleed pagan passion.
Amon Amarth’s ninth studio album is almost exactly what we’ve come to expect from them, with one notable exception: Deceiver of the Gods is predictably loyal to the band’s discography. Despite the (mostly) simple song-structures, the band manages to avoid total redundancy by understanding exactly how much material is necessary to leave the listener in a fit of berserk rage. The perfect amount of exposure is between forty and fifty minutes, which Deceiver very snugly fulfills by falling just short of the forty-eight minute mark. It’s the perfect amount of time for the album to remain wholly entertaining.
All kidding aside, Amon Amarth have always done a pretty solid job at injecting identity into songs that are rudimentarily very similar. The song “As Loke Falls” is immediately identifiable because of a looped tapping motif that transfers its triple feel to the bass drum. It is one of the album’s most driven tracks. “Father of the Wolf” is similarly effective on the strength of its screaming and wah pedal-drenched chorus, were-as the lead single “Shape Shifter” features a sickeningly heavy groove throughout. Again, the material isn’t exactly new but Amon Amarth know how to craft an effective death metal song without succumbing to the same drop-D riff or an analogous kick-drum pattern.
There is actually one track that is quite different than any other the band has released. Track number eight that is entitled “Hel”, opens as a typical mid-paced Amon Amarth track for the first ninety seconds but quickly after becomes a moody, classic-metal romp, courtesy of sung vocals by Candlemass’s Robert Lowe. It’s refreshing to see the band experimenting with something as foreign to them as sung-vocals. But once the initial shock of their appearance wears off “Hel” actually reveals itself as one of the album’s least interesting and engaging tracks. Almost certainly because the whole song was composed with a guest vocalist in mind.
The album perhaps shines brightest in its most familiar moments. The opening title-track could be swapped with any of the openers from the band’s past several albums, but the double-time chorus and the full rhythm-section dropout before the explosive climax is stupidly effective. However, my vote for the album’s strongest track is the six and a half minute “Under Siege.” The song juxtaposes thick, straight-time verse riffs, with harmonized upper-register guitar leads, before segueing an ascending bass riff (!!!), into the album’s most effective climax.
Deceiver of the Gods certainly doesn’t do much at all to separate itself from Amon Amarth’s discography, but the band plays with such unabashed enthusiasm that fans of the genre will have no qualms. What we have here is incredibly solid, unpretentious death metal. Expecting anything less from Amon Amarth would be inconceivable at this point in their career.