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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Amon Amarth

With Oden on our Side

Review by Julie Knispel

With Oden On Our Side is the sixth full-length album from Swedish melodic/Viking death metal band Amon Amarth. Released in late 2006 on Metal Blade Records, the album paints a far more extreme musical picture than previous efforts, notably heavier than their previous album, Fate of Norns. While the band has always exhibited a heavier stance than other melodic death metal bands, moments on this release rival some of the heavier traditional black and death metal groups in the genre. Despite this, the band still add some twists via syncopation and more complex arrangements reminiscent of the Gothenburg school of extreme metal.

Vocalist Johan Hegg stated in a number of interviews that this album would be more of a roots effort, hearkening back to earlier releases such as Once Sent From the Golden Hall. As such, the album eschews much of the band’s developing complexity and melody for a sound that is more immediate and in the listener’s face. While the style is unmistakably death metal, production values are excellent, with plenty of depth and separation in instrumentation. The band maintains their Viking-inspired image through the album’s packaging, with runic and flame inspired iconography and photography throughout.

While With Oden On Our Side may not offer up the same kind of musical diversity that other melodic death metal bands live by, they are certainly one in the top echelon of extreme metal bands. This new release shows that time has not dulled the intensity of their musical fires, and offers an excellent entry point to the band’s heavy catalogue.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Valhall Awaits Me
This track opens the album on a particularly unrelenting note. The pace is blistering, with occasional harmony guitar sections adding some unexpected tonal colour.
Runes To My Memory
Johan Hegg’s vocals on “Runes To My Memory” show off a few facets of his distinct style. From more guttural and traditional death metal to a higher pitched delivery more typical of black metal, this track actually offers up some memorable hooks to coincide with Viking inspired lyrics of death and memory.
Asator
One of the alternate names of the Norse god Thor, this song switches from uncompromising blast beat extreme metal to melodic solo sections reminiscent of 1980’s thrash metal. The whiplash pace continues unabated to the end.
Hermod's Ride to Hel - Lokes Treachery Part 1
The fourth song on With Oden On Our Side opens with counterpoint and syncopated beats under which multiple guitar parts duel and entwine around each other. From an arrangement standpoint, this track best exemplifies the band’s occasional leanings toward a more progressive sound without lessening their metallic impact. Multiple vocal lines are used to excellent effect here, creating vivid auditory images of dialogue between the gods.
Gods of War Arise
Viking metal, as the term implies, deals with more than just Norse mythology. Many of Amon Amarth’s tracks tell tales that might be ripped from the imagery we all connect to the concept of pillaging Vikings, sailing from town to town to sack and loot. “Gods Of War Arise” tells just such a tale, perhaps in the guise of an ode to the gods of old, offering up spoils in hopes of success in upcoming raids.
With Oden on our Side
Some very nicely arranged alternating guitar/drum parts open the album’s title piece before shifting into some particularly anthemic melodies. Hegg sings a story of honour and battle against nearly impossible odds, screaming “Futile to resist...the battle is already won.” Some nicely played harmonized guitar solos again add to the musical intensity.
City of the Black Birds
This track starts off slower than any previous track, with a sound more reminiscent of mid-1980’s heavy metal before exploding in typical Amon Amarth intensity. One may never be able to say that Hegg’s vocals have the same range of a Mikael Akerfeldt, but they are perfect for his band’s brand of violently heavy metal. Johan Söderberg’s and Olavi Mikkonen’s guitar playing on this track is among the most intense and intricate on the album.
Under the Northern Star
Another surprising song opening is heard on “Under the Northern Star,” where chopped guitar chords keep rhythm under soaring Euro-metal leads. This song is more reminiscent of the band’s more recent material, showcasing musical intricacy many people might not think extreme metal capable of (thanks to stereotype).
Prediction of Warfare
With Oden on our Side closes with this heavy mid-tempo stomper, offering up one last tale of dragon ships at sail, battle and pillage imminent. Guitar solos reminiscent of early Iron Maiden and some interesting production (panning and phasing of sounds) add extra character to this solid album closer, and offer up yet more evidence of the band’s willingness to push beyond their chosen genre’s boundaries to create something unique and their own.
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