Reviews for June 20th, 2013

Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods

Sound the horns and grab your steel! The mighty Amon Amarth have been sighted on the horizon; they come bearing their ninth album, “Deceiver of the Gods.”

Man, have I got a lot to say about this album. First and most obvious – A NEW AMON AMARTH ALBUM! The release of a new Amon Amarth album is reason enough to celebrate, but listening to “Deceiver of the Gods” I find that Amon Amarth have outdone themselves once again. Whenever a band releases a new album, they always have to say in interviews how they feel this is their strongest record to date, even if they know it is not. Listening to “Deceiver” I would say that for Amon Amarth this statement would ring true. I thought their last album, “Surtur Rising” was crushing, but this is a whole new level of annihilation.

I suspect one of the reasons “Deceiver of the Gods” is so amazing is that it was produced by metal producer/engineer extraordinaire Andy Sneap. Andy is a musician in his own right (Hell, Sabbat) but he is probably most well known as a producer that gets the most amazing sounds. Andy is the one who brought Megadeth back from the abyss with his amazing production on “United Abominations.” Remember how fucking incredible “Dark Roots of the Earth” sounded for Testament last year? Andy. I love this guy; whenever I hear that he is producing an album, I get excited. Armed with this knowledge it is no surprise that “Deceiver of the Gods” is the best sounding Amon Amarth album ever, from a production standpoint anyway.

Still not convinced? How about the fact that track 8, “Hel”, features guest vocals from one of the greatest voices in metal? I about died and went to Valhalla when I read that Messiah Marcolin (Candlemass, duh) did guest vocals on an Amon Amarth song. This combination alone is worth the prices of the album for me.

If you pick up the deluxe edition of “Deceiver of the Gods” you also get an additional four tracks. These songs have led me a merry chase around the internet. The four tracks, on a separate disc, are billed as “Under the Influence”, which leads one to think they are cover songs. I Googled all the song titles trying to determine who the original bands were, only to find…nothing. In a way this was satisfying because I felt off my game that I didn’t know them on my own. So I’ve come to the conclusion that either they have renamed the songs from their original names, or (and this is my guess) these are actually original Amon Amarth compositions written in the style of bands that influenced them. How cool is that?

The first bonus track is called “Burning Anvil of Steel” and sounds straight out of the Judas Priest catalog. “Satan Rising” sounds like it might be a nod to Black Sabbath. Is that Johan singing clean??? In “Snake Eyes” it is easy to hear the Motorhead influence. “Stand Up to Go Down” is likewise easy to peg as a Bon Scott-era AC/DC styled tune. If these truly are original compositions, Amon Amarth did an amazing job of writing in the style of these bands.

“Deceiver of the Gods” is definitely going to be one of my top albums of 2013. If not for the Black Sabbath album, I would say this had a shot at the top spot. This is an album everyone is going to want to hear. It’s not out until next week in the U.S., but here is a taste to hold you over until then. This is the album’s title track. Check it out.

Kalmah – Seventh Swamphony

Kalmah is a melodic death metal band from Finland and “Seventh Swamphony” is, you guessed it, their seventh album.

Kalmah play in a style somewhat similar to fellow Finns, Children of Bodom. They play a fast and melodic death metal that relies heavily on melodic interplay between the guitars and keyboard. Other than this stylistic parrallel, that is where the similarities end; Kalmah is no Bodom clone band.

Where Children of Bodom bring an almost pop element to extreme metal with their incredible melodic gymnastics, Kalmah have more of an orchestral symphonic feel. And I’m not talking Rhapsody symphonic here; I mean something that comes from a much darker and intense place.

Listening to “Seventh Swamphony” I can’t help but feel like Kalmah is a severely underrated band. There are plenty of people who say the name Kalmah with reverence, but not nearly as many as there should be. I hope this album will contribute to breaking Kalmah in a big way with metal fans. They are seven albums deep and more than due for the recognition.

So do your part and check out the title track from “Seventh Swamphony.”

Orphaned Land – All Is One

Orphaned Land is a metal band from Israel and “All Is One” is their fifth album.

I have been hearing good things about Orphaned Land ever since their third album was released in 2004. In all the years since then I have been meaning to take a closer listen to Orphaned Land, but I have never managed to hear more than a few tracks. This is my opportunity to dedicate some real time to one of their albums.

Back in 2004 when I first heard of Orphaned Land it seemed a novelty to have a metal band from the Middle East. I am glad to say that in 2013 it is not nearly as unusual to hear of such a thing, and there is a stream of new and interesting bands coming from the region.

It doesn’t take long to hear the Middle Eastern folk elements that crop up in the songs on “All Is One.” I love to hear bands incorporating their local flavors into their music; not only is it being true to themselves, but it definitely freshens up the metal style, which is often in danger of stagnating.

These songs on “All Is One” are hugely epic in scale and masterfully executed in the delivery and production. I really need to go back and listen to their older material, because if any of it is as massive as this album, I have been missing out. As is it is, the few listens I have managed while writing this review is not going to be sufficient to do the album justice. It will take repeated listens to learn all the ins and outs of “All Is One.”

Ultimately, I find “All Is One” to be a vastly enjoyable and refreshing listen. I will definitely be looking forward to spending more time with Orphaned Land. Check out the video for the track, “Brother.”