|Melodic Death Metal
Metal Blade Records
March 29th, 2011
Release length: 48:40
Initial pressing review on March 9th, 2012.
Hell yes! Surtur Rising is exactly what the fans would expect, as well as have wanted. Once again, the band continues to grow. With this effort, we find the band taking all the powerful and melodic moments of Twilight of the Thunder God, and mixing them with the slower, more epic sounding concepts from With Oden On Our Side and Fate of Norns to create a very impressive album that delivers on practically every level. The album starts with the energetic, hook driven powerhouse “War of the Gods”, a staple performance that feels carried over from Twilight of the Thunder God, but just feels far more epic and well designed, having a fantastic amount of power that is only enhanced by the deep gutteral vocals grab you by the throat and simply will not let go. However, after that, the album loses a good amount of that epic energy filled style for more slower, catchy music that feels like traditional Amon Amarth that is simply well done on an epic, memorial-to-the-fallen kind of vibe that the group is known for creating, especially with the track “Live Without Regrets”, taking on a somber Viking atmosphere that will have any listener feeling as if they should be paying respects to a proud man who has fallen.
While “War of the Gods” is a blood pounding energetic track, the pace changes significantly, and never really gets back to that level of intensity. Once “TÃ¶ck’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II” kicks in, it’s a whole other experience. This actually leads to a bit of a conundrum. While “War of the Gods” is an amazing song, it was also the single, and makes one feel as though the band put this on here specifically to feed the fans of Twilight of the Thunder God into buying this release, whereas a good majority of the rest of the material is that slower, epic Viking Metal feel from before that release. In a sense, it feels out of place, though not necessarily hurting the album as others do appear later on at the end. “TÃ¶ck Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II” continues the tradition of Viking Melodic Death Metal, and each song that follows just gets stronger and more epic in a manner best suited to a conceptual album. “The Last Stand of Frej” shows this build up nicely, as the song is one of the more epic sounding tracks that feels more like it took from Classical symphonies then anything in the way the song is composed and performed, having that booming, powerful feel to it similar to that of one of Beethoven‘s finest compositions, but all the while still retaining that Viking Metal quality the band has, and the dismal, somber atmosphere.
While these slower tracks are the meat of the album, there are still a few faster tracks that are here to impress, but none really have that melodic epic energy that “War of the Gods” has. “Wrath of the Norsemen” is a good song that goes at a faster pace, though nothing too extreme, being a welcome addition to incorporate a more uplifting atmosphere to such a dismal sounding release. “A Beast Am I” hammers in with full force, speeding away with a chugging, pounding motion that pulls the atmosphere away from a Viking Metal approach similar to “Slaves of Fear” or “TÃ¶ck’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II”, but it still shows the strengths and staples of Amon Amarth down to the deep gutteral vocals that reach deeper levels then what has been heard lately, and just comes off with that signature Amon Amarth performance sound of heavy guitars and burdening atmosphere. But, out of all the tracks, nothing can compare to the closing track, “Doom Over Dead Man”, which takes that epic somewhat Classical symphonic performance in a whole new direction, laying back on the booming epic sound, and having a very heavy sadness to the atmosphere in an epic sense similar to “Live Without Regrets”, but far more powerful and intense. You can feel the emotion in the music, as well as the vocals through the whole track. The song also includes keyboards that just add to the raw emotion the song gives off, making it enough to break even the strongest Metal fan to tears with how depressing and powerful the track can be.
The iTunes Edition of Surtur Rising isn’t really all that different from the traditional version you’d buy in the store, except that this version comes with a bonus track you can’t find on any other pressing. Luckily, for those who want a physical copy of the release in any of the many methods it will be available, you can just purchase the song from the store for ninety nine cents. The iTunes Edition comes with a digital book, of course, and does cost less then the retail version, but not really by much. That’s about all the metaphorical physical differences here, and since you can just buy the bonus track, for a collector it’s pointless. However, the bonus track itself is an interesting addition. “Aerials” by System of a Down is the cover song here [watch my interview with Fredrick Andersson to learn why they chose this song in the first place]. The track is basically just the original, but played by Amon Amarth, no real differences at all outside of it sounding a little heavier due to the distortions used by the band, and gutteral vocals instead of System of a Down‘s signature vocal approach. It’s not the most engaging song, but it’s a nice cover nonetheless, and worth picking up for a couple spins.
While this is a worthy addition to the Amon Amarth library, and a release that delivers onto the fan’s expectations, you need to go into the recording knowing that this simply is not Twilight of the Thunder God. The best way to sum it up, at least to the fans, is to take “Runes to My Memory”, then mix it with “Free Will Sacrifice”, but amplify the level of depressive and somber atmospheres, allowing it all to build until the very end, and you have Surtur Rising, except for only three faster and upbeat songs. This is a far more epic and insanely depressing release, not with the quality, but on an emotional level. If you think you know Amon Amarth, this album is going to prove you completely wrong. Surtur Rising is a whole new beast in itself, changing the game from catchy tracks to mournful epics of mythology and viking legends on a level you have yet to experience, one that could break the most seasoned veterans of the band into tears. It’s hard to picture an album that could possibly top Twilight of the Thunder God, but Surtur Rising easily crushes that release as much as it is going to crush you. In short: Surtur is pleased…
01. War of the Gods – 4:33
02. TÃ¶ck’s Taunt – Loke’s Treachery Part II – 5:58
03. Destroyer of the Universe – 3;41
04. Slaves of Fear – 4:25
05. Live Without Regrets – 5:03
06. The Last Stand of Frej – 5:37
07. For Victory or Death – 4:30
08. Wrath of the Norsemen – 3:44
09. A Beast Am I – 5:14
10. Doom Over Dead Man – 5:55
|Initial Score: 10/10
iTunes Score: 10/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Metal Blade Records.
iTunes review edition of this release provided by personal funds.