Raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you together with the Swedish Vikings of Heavy Metal.
My fellow Vikings, it’s time to grab your swords, axes, spears and shields and head into the battlefield once again to the sound of Berserker, the eleventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal horde Amon Amarth and a huge step forward in terms of energy and creativity if compared to their previous album Jomsviking, released in 2016. Not only that, Berserker is also the band’s first album to feature Jocke Wallgren on drums, who joined the band in 2016, bringing thunder to the compositions by frontman Johan Hegg and his loyal henchmen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg on the guitars and Ted Lundström on bass.
Featuring another epic artwork by American artist Brent Elliott White, Berserker brings to our ears pure, straightforward Amon Amarth with no artificial elements, sounding very dense, cohesive and, above all, extremely entertaining from start to finish. Furthermore, while saying that Berserker is not a concept album, Johan Hegg also stated that “it’s also about sticking together in the face of adversity. Then there’s more introverted stuff, as well – songs that relate to my private life, and I got the ideas for those songs from my wife.” In the end, all song work really well, sounding connected albeit each one on its own when you listen to the album in full, therefore providing you a smooth and powerful experience only hardworking bands like Amon Amarth can offer.
The acoustic guitar by guest Javier Reyes (from Animals as Leaders) ignite the heavy and vibrant Fafner’s Gold, with Jocke showing why he became a permanent member of the band. In a nutshell, it’s classic Amon Amarth with an extra kick coming from the flammable riffs by Olavi and Johan Söderberg, while in Crack the Sky it’s time to bang our heads together with the band while Johan Hegg leads the horde with his raspy roars in a mid-tempo extravaganza tailored for enjoying a cold pint of mead. Then slashing guitar sounds kick off another hard-hitting tune named Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, which can’t get any more Viking than what it already is with its pounding beats, crisp guitar solos and Johan’s deep growls, turning it into a must-listen for all fans of the genre; followed by Shield Wall, a true battle hymn spearheaded by the band’s most fearful Viking, Mr. Johan Hegg, vociferating the song’s catchy and inspiring chorus powerfully (“War / Here to conquer, battle ready, no retreat / Vikings / Raise the shield wall / Hold the front line / Fight till death”). Needless to say, this can easily become a fan-favorite during their live concerts.
Let’s keep the fires of Viking Metal burning bright in Valkyria, showcasing a beautiful job done by the band’s guitar duo while Jocke nicely dictates the rhythm with his potent beats, ending with melancholic piano notes, whereas Raven’s Flight contains all elements we love in their music, those being of course heavy and electrifying riffs, nonstop beats and enraged roars. Not only that, it’s at the same time fast and neck-breaking just the way classic Melodic Death Metal demands, while Ted’s bass keeps rumbling in the background majestically. In Ironside we’re treated to accelerated beats intertwined with headbanging moments, exhaling epicness and power in a crushing display of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, setting the tone for The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, bringing forward a pensive and dark aura while the instrumental pieces represent all the obscurity that’s embracing the main character to perfection. Moreover, get ready for battle to the sound of Olavi’s and Johan Söderberg’s guitars, who shred their strings with a lot of passion and feeling.
When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails is another one of those creations by Johan Hegg and his crew overflowing epicness where all instruments are in perfect sync, therefore enhancing the song’s taste and impact (especially Jocke with his rhythmic and groovy beats); and putting the pedal to the metal Amon Amarth smash our heads in Skoll and Hati, a song about the two wolves from Norse mythology (“From the iron moors of Jotunheim / Arose two beasts of wrath innate / Skoll and Hati were their names / Born of Fenris, born of hate”), represented by the speed and fury flowing from drums and guitars, which are all Johan Hegg needs to deliver a beyond powerful vocal performance. There’s no sign of slowing down as Wings of Eagles is just as frantic and vibrant as its predecessor, sounding perfect for heading into the battlefield (also known as the circle pit) to the crushing beats by Jocke and the thunderous bass lines by Ted. And last but not least, Into the Dark is another good song by the band which, albeit sounding as epic as expected, goes on for a little too long (maybe it would have worked better with a few extra variations). Johan Hegg’s deep guttural vocals are amazing, though, as well as the song’s final moments.
Are your spears and swords sharp enough to join the most beloved and dauntless Vikings of Melodic Death Metal in their quest for metal music? Well, I bet after listening to Berserker, available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale HERE (or HERE if you fancy some exclusive, ass-kicking bundles), you’ll be more than ready to head into the battlefield and give your life and blood together with Amon Amarth. Put differently, simply raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you in the name of Heavy Metal.
Best moments of the album: Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, Shield Wall, Raven’s Flight and Skoll and Hati.
Worst moments of the album: Into the Dark.
Released in 2019 Metal Blade Records
1. Fafner’s Gold 5:00
2. Crack the Sky 3:49
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor 4:42
4. Shield Wall 3:46
5. Valkyria 4:43
6. Raven’s Flight 5:20
7. Ironside 4:30
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge 5:13
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails 4:24
10. Skoll and Hati 4:27
11. Wings of Eagles 4:03
12. Into the Dark 6:48
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums
Javier Reyes – acoustic guitars on “Fafner’s Gold”