It was with insane anticipation and fear of disappointment that I heard the promo of this new recording from Amon Amarth, easily my favorite band for the last 10 years. Right off the bat, I will calm all of you who have been waiting as eagerly as me - it's a decent piece of work.
Surtur Rising is also their longest album to date, at least the one with the most songs (together with the Crusher). Hegg & co. have always spoken about going for "quality over quantity" in earlier interviews, but with their popularity ever on the rise, fans amassing to see their live showx and the amount of merchandise these guys pull each gig, I guess they just figured they would have to make a 10-song album this time.
The opener War of the Gods is easily one of the best openere's I've heard in quite some time. It's not as good as "Death in Fire"; more like a mix of "Valhall awaits me" from the "With Odin on our side" album (their best album to date according to me) and the opener on "Once sent from the Golden Hall". The music is quick and catchy and there's a part where Hegg is speaking swedish, giving flashbacks to their first record.
The second song is a contuination of something they started on "With Odin on our side", and this is something I was extremely disappointed not having on their previous record. It took some time before this song grew on me, but once I got into it, I had seriously problems listening to anything else for quite some time. The song is part 2 of a piece called "Loke's Treachery", and we will probably have part 3 (and maybe even more) later on. Especially Soderberg and Mikkonen is doing an insanely well-executed job on this one.
Next song is Destroyer of the Universe, definately the fastest track on this record. It plays something quite like "Asator" from the "With Odin on our side" album. I think I find Asator to be a bit better, but this is not bad either. The verses are fast, insanely fast and the refrain is better than most of the other fast songs they've made so far.
Then we have Slaves of Fear, which features Johan Hegg's very distinct and specialized growling tecniques (feeeaaaAAAARRR!!) and a melodious riff from the guitars.
The rest of the album is decent enough. Special songs of note are "For Victory or Death", which features the first use of keyboards in any Amon Amarth song ever. I feared this, but it works out. It's not bad, like I thought it would be. They've pulled this very carefully, and the chords sounds like guitars played in an ice cave. "The Last Stand of Frej" has a very heavy and serious nature to itself, telling the tale about the Norse God Frej's final battle in Ragnarok. This song was very moving and had a major impact on me.
Finally, "A Beast Am I" features a very beautiful and moving guitar-only solo in the middle of the song.
Conclusion will have to be that Amon Amarth has pulled some strings from their first album on this one and at the same time tried to remain true to the sound they've established and developed over the years. I think they've managed to create yet another strong album, but the lyrics are a little off this time around. They're a little odd and there's no really good one-liners, maybe except from "None of your tears mean nothing to me/Why would it not/Just leave it to me" from Tocks Taunt. There was also a really awesome cover of System of a Down called "Aerials" on the promo I got, I dont know if its going to be on the album but I hope so because it really rocked!!
I'll put this above "Twilight of the Thunder Gods", a little below "WIth Odin on our side". It's about as good as "the Fate of Norns"; maybe just a little better. Its hard to say when they have 8 albums out.