|Title:||Deceiver Of The Gods|
|Label:||Metal Blade Records|
As a loyal Amon Amarth fan, I have tried to avoid listening to any previews for their new album "Deceiver Of The Gods", pre-ordering it for the purpose of receiving the package as close as possible to the European release date, June 24 2013. The limited digipak version I have received is a small box — decorated with a wooden-effect — which contains a richly-illustrated thin cardboard envelope, in turn enclosing the CD and the booklet themselves. In addition, Metal Blade went on to include a double-face poster with the cover artwork (which I didn't appreciate at all, because it's too "fantasy" oriented) and a picture of the band, there is also the EP "Under The Influence" in CD-pro format. I hope I can be forgiven if I've spared myself the trouble of adding the 90 additional euro required to purchase the ultra-limited edition, which came with a Loki bust: it didn't fit very well within my furniture…
Having closely followed my favorite Vikings through the years, I perfectly knew what to expect, since their death metal has become more and more melodic and "round" starting from 2006; the sound has been totally polished and they went on seeking the effective refrain to play during live shows. "With Oden On Our Side" and "Twilight Of The Thunder God" represented two amazing and really fresh (for Amon Amarth standards) efforts, signaling a second youth for the Stockholm quintet. Unfortunately, the previous album "Surtur Rising" had already caused some alarm bells to ring, their intensity has now risen to levels impossible to ignore.
These ten new tracks totally lack thrust, thus voiding several good ideas that might have been developed in a better way. The power that you might have expected from Andy Sneap's production just feels closeted and never transforms into sheer aggressiveness, consequently conveying a feeling of dull and "digital" castration. For example, "Shape Shifter" — despite being solid and massive — can't but make us look back on the Amon Amarth of some years ago, while "We Shall Destroy" — with its straightforward manner — sounds more convincing. Not only there's no trace of the Vikings' raw ardor, but the melodies have become way too "easy", with many choruses just squeezed here and there in the songs (as in "Shape Shifter"), sometimes watering down the momentum so devotedly constructed in the rest of the song ("Father Of The Wolf"). There are, though, some compositions that don't feature such pompous choruses ("Blood Eagle"), or lacking any refrain whatsoever. The above analysis results in an album we might define as "heavy", with all the pros and cons this label may mean for a death metal band.
However, Johan Hegg and the others haven't totally exhausted their ideas yet, so they are still able to deliver a few pleasant moments: namely the tragic phrasing in "As Loke Falls", accompanied by the usually mighty growl and Ted Lundström's massive bass tone lashing about in the air. The riffing of the severe "Under Siege" (finally) gets epic in the second half. The last part of the album displays the less canonical tracks, the first of which features the legendary Messiah Marcolin (ex-Candlemass) on guest vocals: "Hel" evolves from a doom-oriented sound, with almost charming choruses and the clean guest voice alternating with the band's typical rough style, consequently resulting in a slight increase in the album's variety. In the end, "Warriors Of The North” puts an end to the conflict, rarefying the atmosphere and exposing a less linear structure. These eight minutes end up leaving a bittersweet flavor on our mouths, both because of the fatalistic aura sparked by their sound and of the doubts this listen failed to erase.
"Under The Influence" is nothing but a flashy divertissement: in this four-track EP, Amon Amarth pay homage to Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Motorhead and AC/DC. They have preferred to record this kind of bonus cd instead of the usual covers, but still I hardly think it will be remembered.
In conclusion, I can't but consider "Deceiver Of The Gods" a trifling album, both compared to the general metal scene and to Amon Amarth discography, where it gets bested by any other of their works. Differently from the previous album, here it seems that none of the interesting sparks goes on to evolve into a concrete result; also the total lack of thrust is too evident to be ignored. Where has the epic and combative Viking spirit — a peculiar trait of their death metal — gone? The Swedish band has already missed the target twice, an eventual third failure would definitely signal their artistic end even to the eyes of the most-devoted of their fans (like myself), who strived to find a reason to appreciate these songs, but can't ignore their obvious weaknesses.