This is the band’s 11th studio album and, in all honesty, if you are familiar with the band, you more than likely know exactly how they sound. With that in mind i am going to spend some time looking at the stories behind the songs rather than discussing the music.
This may seem an odd thing to do in a music review but let’s face it, they are the AC/DC of melodic Death Metal, so you know what you are getting and talking about Norse mythology is for more interesting.
If you would rather watch my video review than read my utter drivel I don’t blame you -
In Norse mythology, Fafner was a dwarf who turned into a Dragon, Cos apparently he could just do that.
Apparently, 2 brothers killed someone for a cursed treasure. Fafner then took the treasure (and turned into a dragon ) and guarded the treasure, but his brother "Regin" wanted it but decided to send in someone else to get it for him.
"In search of
A dragon's tale
He'll run his sword
Through his scales
A dragon's tale
This piece of Folklore inspired J.R.Tolkien's The Hobbit
Crack the Sky
A song about Thor doing a bunch of lightning and shiznit in the sky and that.
"Besieged by countless foes
His eyes they are aglow
Longing for the fight
He stands upon a mound
Doesn't aim the throw
Just lets the hammer fly"
It doesn't get much more Viking then Thor with a hammer which brings us nicely into…
Mjolner, Hammer of Thor
Mjolner, is known to be one of the most fearsome and powerful weapons in existence according to Nordic folklore (the most metal of folklores)
Another one of its names is "The Crusher" (the most metal of all the hammer names)
"Treasures will be forged, for the Asagods
A spear and ring for the Asgård king
But finest of them all, The Crusher it is called
Mjölner! Hammer of Thor"
Named after the defensive structure the Vikings would form in war.
Raise the shield wall!
Hold the front line!
Fight 'til death!"
I loved the bridge section in this song
"Warfare! Honour! Glory! Death!"
The Valkyrie were the "Choosers of the Slain" who would choose who may die or live in battle (a woman scorned and all that)
"Sooth my mind
Ease my pain
Let me see the shores of my homeland
If chosen, the deceased would find themselves in Valhalla (apparently, they do a great piss up in Valhalla)
"And when it is time, please bring me
To the Allfather's hall"
This song looks at a battle that was fought between King Aelle's army and the Viking army of Ragnor Lodbrok's sons who seek revenge after his death.
"We hold our heads up to the sky
And know that we will never die
As long as we stand side by side
As long as we can see the ravens fly!"
I assume that one of the sons fighting this battle was Bjorn Ironside, who the next song is based on.
Based on the mighty Viking warrior "Bjorn Ironside" who supposedly united the tribes (though he may not actually have existed) and born the son of the legendary "Ragnor Lodbrok" (who may also not have existed but you have to say that the names are about as metal as it gets) He achieved his nickname "Ironside" due to the fact that he never got injured despite the amount of battles he had fought in. It would also seem that he had a bit of a mission in escaping his fathers shadow.
"Born the son of a legend
What will be my fate
Will his shadow always loom above
Or will my name prevail
The weight I carry from his past
Has always weighed me down
I've struggled hard to find my path
To prove I am my own"
The Berserker as Stamford Bridge
This song is about the battle at Stamford Bridge, recounting the Vikings last stand against the English army in 1066 and the mind-bending heroics of one axe-wielding warrior.
Supposedly the English finally outmanoeuvred the Vikings by advancing on them overnight and arriving on their position with far greater numbers.
In order to engage with the Vikings, the English, had to cross a narrow bridge in single file but on the bridge was a mighty Viking warrior (the berserker of the album title) who, supposedly, killed between 40 and 70 men before he was finally taken down. Men were sent along the river in barrels and once under the bridge they thrust a spear up through the bridge and into his nether regions.
"On the bridge we met his axe
While he stood, none could pass
His axe cut deep, through flesh and bone
He held the bridge all on his own"
When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails
I don't have much information on the specific events for this one but there is a definite nautical feel to the lyrics.
"Yes soon our longing hearts will spread their wings once again
On salty winds across the open waves
Oh, how we're yearning for that summer day, my friend
When once again we will set our longship sails"
A very NWOBHM vibe to this song
Skoll and Hati
In Norse mythology these lupine siblings chase the sun and the moon, forcing the cycle of day and night. and when we reach the end of the world (or Ragnarok) they will catch up with their respective prey and darkness will fall upon the world.
Sounds like a shitty job!
"At the end of time they devour sun and moon
Then darkness will fall upon the world
And the end of time will be coming very soon
When all living things shall burn"
Wings of Eagles
Another one that i don't know the specifics, but it seems to be dealing with the Vikings looking for pastures anew .
"Driven out of Norway
To Iceland we set sail
My father then went further
To a place where we'd be safe
The barren soil of Greenland
Could not sustain our clan
We needed to go westward
To find a better land"
Into the Dark
This song seems to be a much more personal affair and, Johan Hegg, said in a recent interview with Metal Hammer magazine that this was about the darkness we carry around in us and makes us do things that are counter-productive. "About realising that the way you behave sometimes either hurts yourself or the people around you"
"Out of the dark
My demons arise
Dragging me back
Into the dark, into the dark
I think I am free
They drag me back down
Down through the void
Into the dark, into the dark
Dagas my guide
But Thurisas bides
Drags me back down
Into the dark, into the dark"
I know that i have talked very little about the music on this album but you know what to expect from Amon Amarth at this point. I do not mean that in a condescending way however.
The musicianship is on point, the production sounds fat and powerful and Johan does a great job with both the vocals and lyrics.
And it is the lyrics for me that makes this such a great album. The folklore that it draws on and the imagery that it conjures up takes me away from the mundanity of life for a second and that is what all good music does.
It transports us away for a brief time and that is never a bad thing.