The day is here and the wait is finally over. A little less than three years after the release of its 2013 album Deceiver of the Gods Amon Amarth has returned with its latest full-length studio recording Jomsviking. The band’s tenth full-length studio recording, it is also the band’s first ever concept album. Considering Amon Amarth’s history one can only ask how the band could possibly make a concept album, let alone one that works. The fact of the matter is that the band has done just that and has succeeded at doing so for that matter. The main reason for that is the story that the band crafted for the album. It lies at the center of the album’s presentation. While it is a purely fictional story, there is in fact some history behind it that will interest listeners as much as the story. It is just one of the album’s most important elements. The music that serves as the album’s foundation is just as important to the album’s presentation as its story. Rounding out the album’s most important elements are the story’s transitions. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of this powerful new offering from the veteran “Viking Metal” act. All things considered, the album has officially made this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums all the deeper and richer. Regardless of listeners’ familiarity with the Swedish metal band’s body of work, Jomsviking proves to be a good addition to any metal aficionado’s music library.
Amon Amarth’s latest full-length studio recording Jomsviking is a good addition to any metal aficionado’s music library. This is regardless of said listeners’ familiarity with the veteran Swedish metal band’s body of work. This is proven centrally through the album’s story. Jomsviking marks the first time ever that Amon Amarth has crafted a concept album in its almost twenty-five year run. One might not think that a concept album about vikings, love, loss, and revenge would work. But this record proves otherwise over the course of its eleven songs and fifty-two minutes. It is hardly the happiest story. But as frontman Johan Hegg explained in an interview, he likes stories with sad endings because “they’re the ones that affect you the most.” Hegg has a point considering that some of Shakespeare’s greatest works were tragedies (E.g. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Ceasar). Hegg explains of the story’s background that it centers on a young man that has lost the woman that he loves because she is being married off to another man. He ends up accidentally killing the man in question and in turn is forced to leave his land. The story that follows is one that honestly plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy believe it or not, thus making it well worth the experience. It’s just one aspect of the story that makes it so worth the listen. The story is actually based on the well-known Viking mercenaries known as Jomsvikings. The Jomsvikings were pagans that worshipped the Norse gods, and basically fought for anyone that paid the right price. The thing is that the Jomsvikings’ headquarters has never officially been found. Because of this, confirming their overall history has been difficult. Regardless of fact or fiction, that the band would craft a story based on such a well-known group of figures is in itself impressive. That the band would craft a story that is so vivid and in turn engaging makes the story even more important to the album’s overall presentation. It is just one element that proves the album’s value to any metal aficionado’s music library. The album’s musical content is just as important to its presentation as its story.
The story that lies at the center of Jomsviking is in itself an important part of the album’s presentation. That is because on one level it is historically based (at least to a point). That in itself could lead listeners on their search into the history behind the album’s story. On another level the story itself is a vivid tale that is so rich in its crafting that seeing its events unfold in one’s own mind is extremely simple. It’s like a story that came from the mind of a major blockbuster screen writer. Speaking of that a clear reason that it comes across as vividly as a major motion picture is the album’s musical foundation. Guitarist Olavi Mikkonen discussed just that in the band’s interview. Mikkonen went so far as to say of the album’s music that crafting the album’s songs is “basically making music for a movie.” “You have to follow certain moods and we had to figure out where we needed the aggressive songs or the more mellow or sad moments,” he said of developing the album’s musical foundation. “And then we had to find the right ideas for that.” He went on in his discussion to note the amount of fun that the band had in balancing everything in terms of the album’s music. The band got each of the moods right from beginning to end. There are familiar elements incorporated into the album’s body along with some metalcore riffs as well as some speed/thrash material, too. Those elements, when set alongside Hegg’s vocal delivery and the attention to each song’s mood, make a musical foundation that holds its own from start to finish even without the album’s story. The album’s story set atop that foundation makes the album all the more worth hearing and worth the addition to any fan’s music library. Even with both elements taken into consideration they are not the only important parts of the album’s whole. The story’s transitions are just as important as anything else in this record.
That story that sits at the center of Jomsviking and its musical content are both key elements of this tenth full-length studio recording from one of the metal community’s most respected acts. While both elements are pivotal in their own way to the album’s presentation they are not the only elements that should be noted in examining this record. The story’s transitions are just as important as the story and its musical foundation. The transitions may not seem important to the story. But since the album does center on a full-length story, its transitions are in fact more important that people want to think. The reason that they are so important to the album is the way in which they were executed. So many concept albums out there have clear transitions in their stories. That is a given. But at the same time, those transitions are rather fluid to say the least. In other words there is no real division between the stories’ “chapters” so to speak. Everything runs together in those stories. In the case of Jomsviking the band has clearly separated each of the story’s chapters from one another over the course of its eleven tracks. What this does is ensure listeners’ engagement from beginning to end. That is because it gives listeners the chance to stop and catch their breath and make sure that they understood the events of each of the story’s chapters. Given Jomsviking isn’t the only concept album to take this approach in its storytelling. Even with this in mind the fact that the band has done so with its first ever concept album shows why it is so important. It is a very wise way to keep the story progressing while keeping listeners engaged at the same time. That smart writing style works alongside the album’s musical content and the album’s central story to make the album in whole not just another impressive record from Amon Amarth but also another clear candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums in an already very crowded field.
Amon Amarth’s latest full-length studio recording is one of the best concept albums to be released within the rock and metal communities in many years. That is because on the surface, it presents a story unlike any presented by any other band in said communities. It takes the band’s familiar Viking themes and made them into one complete story that plays out so richly and vividly that listeners can clearly see each scene play out in their own minds. It’s like something right out of a major big screen blockbuster. And considering how dark and gritty so many of today’s movies are, it would potentially even fit in very nicely. Just a thought for the band should any of its members read this review. The music that serves as the story’s foundation is just as important to the album’s overall presentation. The story’s transitions round out its presentation. Unlike so many other concept albums out there, the band didn’t just string all of the story’s songs together in one long presentation. Rather, the story is broken up into distinct “chapters” separate of one another. Again, Amon Amarth is not the first band to take this smarter route with a concept album. But at the same time considering the number of concept albums that don’t take that route. Thankfully Amon Amarth is one of the band’s that opted against that route. Because of that it ensures the maintained engagement of listeners regardless of their familiarity with the band’s body of work. And regardless of that familiarity listeners in whole will come out of this record agreeing that, again, it is one that every metal fan should have in his or her own music library. Those same listeners will also agree that it is one more candidate for a spot in what is an already crowded field of albums deserving of a spot in 2016’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums. It is available now in stores and online. The band is currently touring in support of Jomsviking. The band is live today in Berlin, Germany. It is the last date on the current European leg of the band’s tour in support of Jomsviking. The band will launch the North American leg of its tour on Thursday, April 7th in San Diego, California. More information on Jomsviking and Amon Amarth’s upcoming tour schedule at:
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