Over the past four or so years, no band has risen from underground to head-of-the-class faster than Amon Amarth. Their last album “Surtur Rising” was a breakout party onto the main stage despite being their eighth record, which is testament to the band’s patience and dedication. Hoping to capitalize on their sudden glory, the band has channeled their experience and authenticity into their ninth record, “Deceiver of the Gods.”
In a year when Finntroll has set the bar high for over-the-top epic metal, and with a Turisas release yet to come, I thought that “Deceiver of the Gods” would be more. But just becaue it isn’t what I expected doesn’t make it a bad record. This is a solid album of powerful, vengeful metal that does some nice things with very little window dressing.
The thing that “Deceiver of the Gods” does exceptionally well is find the beat in the noise. No matter how big the production gets, the underlying percussion stays on point and continues to move the songs along. Nowhere is this more evident than for “As Loke Falls,” which sounds huge and impassible until you detect the measure beneath. Couple this with the ripping guitar intro and you can see Amon Amarth at their heavy best. The band has honed their talent even further for “Deceiver of the Gods,” learning how to deftly make a moment sound bigger than life without it escaping orbit and leaving the listener behind.
The album doesn’t hit is best stride until later in the record, peaking at the end with the two song set of “Hel” and “Coming of the Tide.” The former is a power anthem that adds some harmony in the form of doubled up vocals and the latter a churning stew of Nordic metal both in theme and execution. These are the moments when Amon Amarth holds their own, shows their versatility and justifies their position near the top of the genre.
Oddly enough, and possibly as a point of caution, I’ve listened to this album three full times now, and I find I don’t have as much to say about it as I thought I would. “Deceiver of the Gods” simply is what it is, which is a power metal album disguised with some harsh vocals and super-overdriven guitar and drums.
“Deceiver of the Gods” is not the blockbuster game-changer that “Surtur Rising” was for Amon Amarth, but it’s nearly impossible to have two coming-out parties for the same band. Additionally, this album continues to deny the stereotype of Scandinavian metal, cutting back on wandering, folk-influenced instrumentation and frivolity in favor of power, amplitude and intensity. That latter point places Amon Amarth in a contrary role to many of their contemporaries and alters expectation of the album’s sound and presence. Those who look to the Nordic nations for fanciful stories of gnomes and dwarves will walk away empty-handed, but those looking for substance over flair, as well as heavy-handed authority, will enjoy “Deceiver of the Gods” quite a bit.