Welcome to The Saw’s Butcher Shop! Ya girl, The Saw is here to alert you to the fact that The Great Heathen Army has landed on our shores! Amon Amarth released their brand-new album on August 5, 2022 (Victorious Music Under Exclusive License to Metal Blade Records, Inc.). We have already discussed the two singles for the new album, and The Great Heathen Tour that will soon blow ashore.
As The Saw has discussed previously, Amon Amarth have had a long and storied career. With roots in Melodic Black Metal from their homeland, to their modern anthemic, hook-laden harmonies, the kings of Melodic Death have a huge production for live shows, and their fame continues to ever expand and conquer. The Great Heathen Army can only add to the fury, supported by The Great Heathen Tour (and the great bands on voyage with them).
The new record begins with the two singles released ahead of the invasion – “Get in the Ring” and the title track, “The Great Heathen Army.” Both tracks are bangers, but for different reasons. To me, each signifies two different eras of Amon Amarth history. “Get in the Ring” is more of an example of modern offerings (which are great!), while “The Great Heathen Army” reminds me very much of older Amon Amarth rage (also, great!). Johan’s vocals are some of the most incredible in all of Metal, which will be a recurring theme in this review! LOL
Along with “Get in the Ring,” “Heidrun,” and “Find a Way or Make One,” have a more modern Amon Amarth feel. Don’t get me wrong, all nine tracks on this new album are completely different. Yet, these three have that familiar anthem that Amon Amarth has mastered; there are hooks, and choruses which stick in your head. Each have great riffs and guitar harmonies, while the drum-work really adds to that groove. Of course, Johan’s voice… thank the gods!
On the other hand: Along with “The Great Heathen Army” are the tracks, “Oden Owns You All,” “Dawn of Norsemen,” and “Skagul Rides with Me.” These awesome tracks align well with songs spanning Amon Amarth’s great discography, but especially their mid-career work. They are still full of wicked riffs, bouncing guitar harmony, big hooks, and even are somewhat anthemic. The difference with these tracks is the song structure. The focus is not on a catchy chorus, but on story-telling and some of the best driving riffs on the record. Sure, catchy is still a thing, here, but it is true for those who have the attention span for progressive composure. I love it!! Oh, and Johan’s voice…
Now, there are two more songs on The Great Heathen Army that your Master Butcher wishes to discuss, but categorically differently: “Saxons and Vikings” and “The Serpent’s Trail.”
“Saxons and Vikings” features Biff Byford (vocalist for Saxon) as the voice of the historical Saxons of Wessex, while (of course) Johan is the voice of the Vikings who have marched in great numbers to invade England. Together, the two spar vocally, retelling the story of this great battle. This is brilliant! Byford’s siren vs. Johan’s gutterals!! Awesome! The song is thrashy, and quick paced.
“The Serpent’s Trail” is, probably, my favorite track on The Great Heathen Army. It puts me in mind of older era Amon Amarth song writing. The longest song on the record (6:01), it begins with a wicked harmonious riff (like, Versus The World era Amon Amarth). The opening verse is almost in spoken word style before moving into Johan’s trademark rumbling gutteral. The bridge is sung and played to the opening riff, then breaks into a beautiful harmonious, dueling solo. The successive verse follows this cycle. The bridge is huge! And the riff is a huge hook! Johan’s ‘Blackened’ vocals even make an appearance in the end, as they see ‘The Rainbow Bridge.’ But Johan’s vocals…
Rating: 9/10!! Big, Beefy riffs, hooks, some anthems, great storytelling, and excellent musicianship!
Favorite Songs: The Serpent’s Trail, The Great Heathen Army, Saxons and Vikings
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