By reading the name of the blog, you can probably tell that I’m a massive fan of the Swedish melodic death band Amon Amarth. They were my first foray into the heavier spectrum of metal music and I’ve been listening to them constantly ever since.
Amon Amarth, the Sindarin name of Mount Doom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth, emerged in 1992 following the breakup of grindcore band “Scum.” After the band broke up in 1991, lead vocalist Johan Hegg convinced the original members to reunite. Hegg took over on vocals along with a few other new members, and the band released their first demo in 1993, adopting a death metal sound. Their first released demo was The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter and 1,000 copies were issued.
The band’s initial few demos attracted fans with their unique sound and combination of Norse themes and brutal, yet melodic sounding music. Amon Amarth’s first album, Once Sent from the Golden Hall, was a perfect example of this sound, with tracks like “Victorious March” and “The Dragon’s Flight Across the Waves” becoming fan favorites.
The band continued to evolve and perfect their sound over time, with each release sounding better and better. Masterful drumming and dual guitar work create an amazing sound that makes you feel like you’re on a Viking battlefield while also having you hum the melodies and guitar solos. Death metal is great because it packs that aggressive punch but Amon Amarth manages to infuse melody and really great sounding guitar riffs and solos alongside it, while remaining brutal.
Amon Amarth also is one of the pioneering forces in “Viking metal,” although the band has said that they prefer to be labeled as a death metal band that writes about Vikings. And while they’re not the first band to use Vikings and Norse mythology in their songs, they do it the best in my opinion.
Amon Amarth is one of the only bands or artists where I own all of their music in some form, and I’ve thoroughly listened to every single one of the albums. While I’m a big fan of their earlier albums, I think the band hit their stride in 2004 with the release Fate of Norns. At this point, Hegg’s vocals are becoming much better, and the balance of melody and brutality is perfect in this album, evident on tracks like “Pursuit of Vikings” and “Once Sealed in Blood.”
If I had to choose one album as the band’s best, I think With Oden on Our Side from 2006 would slightly edge out the others. It features some really heavy tracks like “Asator” and concert staples such as “Cry of the Black Birds,” but it also contains some of the best melody-driven songs in the team’s whole discography. The best of the bunch in my opinion is “Runes to my Memory.”
One of Amon Amarth’s biggest strengths (there are many) is their songwriting. This track tells the tale of a warrior in hostile land and how the battalion is ambushed and attacked. As he lays dying thinking of people back home, the chorus kicks in with the warrior asking to be buried properly, having a stone erected with “runes,” or an enscription with a message, carved in honor of him as he journeys to Valhalla.
It’s not the heaviest song in the band’s catalog, but I love the chorus and the melodies in this song, and it’s one of the most memorable and recognizable songs they’ve made. The lyrics are strong and weave an interesting tale, making it even stronger in my opinion. “Runes to my Memory” is part of one of the best Amon Amarth albums to date, and it’s become a concert staple for a reason.
What do you think is the best Amon Amarth album to date? Do you prefer their older or newer albums? Leave comments and opinions in the comment section.