Intelligent music is a good thing. Music which appreciates the purpose of music as an art form, with thought provoking lyrics and ingenius song structures made to stimulate the mind. But sometimes all that thinking gets boring and you just want a big slab of huge riffs and crushing drums to blow your head off. And as of yet, there is no band out there who accomplish this to the same standard as Amon Amarth. So sit back, relax, and let the titanic wall of sound that is “Once Sent From The Golden Hall” blow you off your feet, and 99.9% of other metal bands out of the water.
Despite the fact that this is Amon Amarth’s oldest and rawest release, it is also, strangely, more infectious (I don’t want to say “catchy”) than most of their later work. The rhythm guitar sound on here is big, fast and crunchy, exactly what the modern day headbanger wants washing over their ears. What comes as more of a surprise though, is that the lead guitar is mostly made up of fast, tremolo picking, somewhat similar to “The Gallery” era Dark Tranquillity. A brave, yet wise move on Amon Amarth’s part as the alternation between monsterous, crushing riffs and the more atmospheric lead guitar helps build a nice balance between power and atmosphere, appropriate for a Viking metal album
The drumming on offer here is very worthy of mention. The drummer knows exactly what he is doing. The style is open, yet still satisfyingly powerful. It’s excellently in pace with the rest of the music, and the double bass pedal evokes all the power and brutality you could ask for.
Johan Hegg’s vocal performance is also astonishing. In general he alternates between a very deep, low growl, evoking the same thick, dense power of the instruments, and a more throaty rasp. Similarly to the guitars, this union of opposites helps blend the power and emotion essential to a Viking metal album. On “Once sent…” he belts out what I consider to be some of the best executed lines in all of metal, a particular favourite being his roar of “THE BATTLE RAGES!!!/BUT I HEAR ONLY RAINDROPS FALLING!!!” on “Without Fear,” the third track.
If any fault is to be found with “Once Sent…” it would be a meager one with the production. Considering the overall quality of the recording here, which correctly emphasises the thick, organic air of dense power present, it is a minor gripe. But in general, I found the guitars were too loud, often stifling the excelent double bass drumming and thereby costing “Once Sent…” some of the brutality it potentially had.
But, all things considered, this is a fantastic composition, combining raw power, sublime brutality and melodic harmonies in a way that few bands have ever accomplished. For anyone who just wants to thrash, this is an integral part of your collection. What are you waiting for?