No band in metal adheres more strictly to their musical template than Viking warriors Amon Amarth. Eleven albums into a 25-year career, these progenitors of an entire genre (yes, Viking metal) show no signs of slowing down – or of deviating from their chosen path.
Berserker follows 2015’s well-regarded Jomsviking, and while singer Johan Hegg claims the band wanted Berserker to be more diverse lyrically and musically, I’m not hearing it. The songs here tell all the usual stories, in Hegg’s raw growls: Viking conquests of lands like Greenland, Iceland, and Canada, bloody battles, and of course hammers.
Musically, again, Amon Amarth don’t bring anything new to the table, content to trod familiar paths of metallic anthems and edgy power metal. That being said, there are no weak tracks here, and in fact the pummeling “Shield Wall” and the furious “Crack the Sky” do manage to stand out from the crowd. The boys might not be willing to deviate from their chosen path, but they stay on that path with admirable conviction, delivering a dozen tracks that will put fans in fighting mode to be sure.
The standard power metal tropes are all in play here, from thrashy raging songs like “Skoll and Hati” to the epic-sounding finale “Into the Dark,” which opens and closes with majestic orchestral movements, and is the only song that is much longer than five minutes (again showing how the band sticks to what works). In fact, if it wasn’t for Hegg’s harsh vocals, Amon Amarth might more often be compared to more generic power metal bands.
Berserker is a tight album, with the whole band playing in lockstep. Hegg’s growls are front and center, and he bellows the lyrics with fervor. Even his rare clean moments are wonderfully cheesy. The production brings a warmth and aggression to the songs that is perfect as well. There’s no fault to be found in the performances of anyone in the band, nor in the production, and there are also no poor songs here: just nothing we haven’t heard before.
Amon Amarth may not bring anything new to the table with Berserker, but they’re definitely not going to disappoint any fans either. The songs are tight and well-performed, and the occasional gem among the overall good songs might be enough to sway a few newcomers to their side. To be sure, this is no Twilight of the Thunder God, but at the same time there’s nothing here that won’t stir the blood of Vikings around the world.
(released May 3, 2019 on Metal Blade Records)
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Watch Amon Amarth – “Crack The Sky” Video