Review Summary: Yes, it is an Amon Amarth album. However, the band decides to shift things up a little bit to make their most accessible album to date.
Since their 2006 release With Oden on Our Side Amon Amarth has consistently been one of the best metal bands on the planets. Their musical switch from a plodding melodic death metal band that encompassed The Avenger until Fate of Norns (with a few balls to the wall songs per album) into the musical equivalent of death metal Iron Maiden increased their fan base (including this reviewer who jumped on board in 2008) and popularity dramatically. However, this has not curtailed criticism from the metal community who mention the similarities and repetitive nature of songs that have come to define the band’s sound. Will their eleventh full length album Berserker change the doubters?
Well….maybe? Make no mistake; this is an Amon Amarth album through and through albeit with some minor musical nuances to shift up the sound a little bit. Opener “Fafner’s Gold” is the first time the band has tried the “Battery” approach; a nice acoustic beginning to offset the frantic pace of the rest of the song, which is on par with other opening songs from these Swedes. “Crack the Sky” is a conglomeration of Mastadon (which might be intentional) and a power metal song while “Skoll and Hati” is the band’s best impersonation of Iron Maiden to date. These other clear influences are not criticisms of the album as a whole though. In fact, Berserker feels and sounds more streamlined than any previous Amon Amarth record.
Nevertheless, the main aspects that have made Amon Amarth’s sound for close to three decades remain intact. Catchy yet crunchy riffs combined with Johan Hegg’s growls are at a premium here and it is most apparent in the album’s best song “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor.” Beginning with the striking of an anvil, this song is four minutes and forty two seconds of the band at its best: awesome lyrical themes, awesome music, and awesome vocals. It is not genre defining, but it is a hell of a headbanging song. This is the formula that has given the band so much success and they have perfected it.
Overall Berzerker is another solid entry into Amon Amarth’s discography. They take what they have been doing their entire careers but they add some new elements to keep things interesting. This is definitely the band’s most accessible album, but it is still confined within the melodic death metal genre. If you are a fan of the band’s pre-With Oden on Our Side material, then this will not change your opinion of the band. If you like that album and each subsequent release, then listen to Berzerker. Finally, if you have not checked this band out or have only heard a few songs and enjoyed them, then give this album a try.