Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Iconic Viking metal band Amon Amarth have crafted their twelfth album, The Great Heathen Army.

Since 1992, Amon Amarth has been carrying the banner and swinging the sword for Viking metal, an heroic melodic heavy metal style that is wildly popular from sea to sea and icecap to icecap. Releasing a new album every two or three years for the past three decades has made them a reliable source of fresh music for their legions of fans. The new record has nine tales of heroism and conflict set in a savage world and told in the way only Amon Amarth can. The band is Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen (guitar), Johan Söderberg (guitar), Ted Lundström (bass), and Jocke Wallgren (drums).

The battle begins with “Get in the Ring.” The song has a very ominous set-up to put you in the right frame of mind for the tenacious musical intercourse. Hegg’s gruff vocals cast their familiar spell over the abiding guitar riffs and steady percussion. It is an excellent choice for an opening song as it reminds you how much you like Amon Amarth. The title track follows, and it has a serious tone with a lithe delivery. “Heidrun” takes the baton and charges the field with a romping riff that sounds like the steady movement of a well-appointed army. A catchy chorus makes this song one that will stick in your head. “Oden Owns You All” is a much more aggressive track, with rippling percussion and forceful pattering that enhances the established style and theme.

Overall, the album delivers what the band’s fans are looking for. My favorite track is “Dawn of Norsemen” because it encapsulates the elements I like most about Amon Amarth from the story to the melody to the reliable rhythm section. You might choose a different favorite, but if you have enjoyed the previous albums from Amon Amarth, I think we will agree that the new one gets high marks. Recommended.

The Great Heathen Army is out now through Metal Blade Records in a variety of forms. Make your choices at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://amonamarth.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-heathen-army

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/amonamarth/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/amon-amarth-the-great-heathen-army/

© Wayne Edwards

Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Týr, A Night At The Nordic House (Metal Blade 2022)

Folk metal icons Týr have recorded a live album with an orchestra that exhibits an unforgettable musical symbiosis, A Night At The Nordic House.

It has been a little over twenty years since progressive folk metal band Týr was founded in the Faroe Islands. Their location is certainly a memorable aspect of the band’s character, but of course it is the music they create that sets them apart. Over the years they have released eight full-length studio albums, the most recent being Hel (2019). Their style is a progressive form of epic folk metal that overlaps Viking and death metal as well.

The new album was recorded live at The Nordic House in Tórshavn, in the Faroe Islands on February 8th, 2020, with the Symphony Orchestra of the Faroe Islands. If ever there was a metal band that could make effective and dramatic use of an accompanying orchestra, Týr fits the bill. From the press release … “Working with the Symphony Orchestra was without a doubt one of the highlights of our careers,” admits vocalist Heri Joensen. “The feeling of sheer sophisticated power behind us was extraordinarily uplifting. We were awed by how well the songs worked in a symphonic setting. ‘By The Sword In My Hand,’ for example, seems to take on a new life.”

There are eighteen tracks on the massive album, including the opening intro. “Gates of Hel” is the ideal song to hear first if you want to know what to expect from the rest of the performance. The slow build is enormously enhanced by the fullness of the orchestration. The primary instrument is still the guitar, and the voices and orchestral apparatus work a pervasive, all-encompassing effect. The gruff lead vocals match the perfectly the melodic aspects of the overall musical construction.

“By the Sword in My Hand” is another exemplary performance. The theme is an epic tale of conquest and the ideal instantiation of the narrative. Dazzling lead guitar work and soaring choruses combine into overwhelming musical power. The final track, “Álvur Kongur,” is the capstone, and you get the feeling at the end that seeing this performance would have been as amazing an experience as hearing it.

A Night At The Nordic House is out on Friday March 18th through Metal Blade Records. Highly recommended for fans of Týr, and genre fans as well – but, seriously, if you appreciate folk/Viking/epic metal then you are already a Týr fan.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://tyrband.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/tyrband

Týr website, https://tyr.fo/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Týr, A Night At The Nordic House (Metal Blade 2022)

Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

The incredible 15th album from the Bergen, Norway metal band Enslaved is Utgard, another impressive achievement in their long career.

The most recent previous studio album was E in 2017, and the songs on that album were generally long (most around eight minutes or longer), which is the usual way Enslaved creates music. On Utgard, the band’s compositions are tighter and yet every bit as creative as earlier releases. The band is now made up of long-time members Grutle Kjellson (vocals and bass), Ivar Bjørnson (guitars and effects), and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal (guitars), along with newer recruits Håkon Vinje (keyboards and vocals) and Iver Sandøy (drums). The confluence of these musical elements is an alchemy all its own.

“Fires In The Dark” opens with an acapella treatment (in Norwegian), followed by an acoustic guitar moment, sudden heavy riffs, wispy atmospheric sounds, then a narrative element. Sort of a heavy version of Andrew Lloyd Weber in that it is a big production and a complex construction. The melodies in the guitars have a very magic carpet, djinn feel to them in the second half – a mystical desert vibe. The integration of diverse elements is the mainstay throughout. “Jettegryta,” the next song, does this too, in a very different way. It is not simply the variation of coarse and clean vocals but also shifts in musical cadence and style, sometimes perpendicularly, that throw you off cliff after cliff then lift you up on hurricane winds. We hear Epic Metal then Prog then a classic metal riff, here and there and all around.

On side two, “Urjotun” is a peppy straight-up prog rock song that is taken over by darkness as it progresses. “Flight of Thought and Memory” wells up feelings of sorrow and regret, while “Storms of Utgard” is more confrontational with amazing lead guitar work. The closing song is “Distant Seasons.” You can feel the curtain falling when it begins in its quiet and gentle way, but the power wells up soon enough. The relatively brief nature of the songs is a departure in a way for the band, but all the elements we have come to expect from Enslaved are nevertheless here in full force. Recommended.

Out now from Nuclear Blast, you can get Utgard on CD and vinyl and of course as a download – Bandcamp is best place for the digital.

Links.

Band: http://enslaved.no/

Band Bandcamp: https://enslaved.bandcamp.com/album/utgard

Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enslaved

Nuclear Blast Shop: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/vinyl/lp/enslaved-utgard-black-vinyl-.html

Enslaved, Utgard review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Ensiferum celebrates 25 years of music with a new album, Thalassic – a Folk Metal epic tale told in heavy sea shanties.

I read that “Ensiferum” is Latin for something like “sword-bearing,” and that “Thalassic” is Greek for “relating to the seas,” so I do now definitely understand why the band’s music has often been called Viking Metal. Still, the broader Folk Metal label usually gets applied to them, placing the band among the storied list of famous acts like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amon Amarth, and stands with recent releases like this year’s Falconer album. It is a big tent, and this manner of metal music has legions of fans. Ensiferum brings out the heavy from every angle in Thalassic, the band’s first actual themed album.

The Helsinki band has been making music for two and a half decades, and has gone through many line-up changes and rearrangements throughout their journey. The current band is Sami Hinkka (bass and vocals), Markus Toivonen (guitar and vocals), Petri Lindroos (guitar and vocals), and Janne Parviainen (drums), with Pekka Montin (clean vocals and keyboards) contributing to the studio recording.

The maritime musical gets started with a sweeping orchestral opener, then dives straight into seafaring metal. “Rum, Women, Victory” is an anthem style radio song that alternates between gruff and clean vocals that ride along the waves of roiling guitars and peppering drums. The pace is fast and urgent, and, you can tell from the title, light hearted. This one is going to be a singalong at live shows for sure. The Greek mythology themes start to emerge with “Andromeda,” which takes a more serious and somber tone, opening the way for the full tale to be told. The production is front stage in this album, with a big full sound, a generous use of keyboards, and many moments of relief that keep the music and story moving along. It is designed to be theatrical and they pull it off well. The concept is fully realized and fans of the band and fantasy metal music are going to love this album.

Thalassic is available now from Metal Bade Records in many forms and functionalities. If you are looking for a big sound and a maritime mythology story to go along with it, Ensiferum has your number.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/Ensiferum

http://www.ensiferum.com

http://www.metalblade.com/ensiferum

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)