Amon Amarth sure took a different approach when the time came to write their newest album. It was a much more serious approach, as if the band finally decided to come together, concentrate, and gather ideas to make sure they got the exact sound they wanted. They decided to use a producer for the first time ever (the respectable and experienced Jens Bogren) instead of just an engineer, and the band members also quit their day jobs in order to devote all their energy to the new album’s songwriting and take their time when recording it. So did all of this hard work pay off? Oh, yeah! “With Oden On Our Side” is, without a doubt, Amon Amarth `s heaviest and most focused, refined, intense, inspired, epic, and all-around strongest effort to date. This is the release that Amon Amarth have been trying to put out ever since they first started making music well over a decade ago. Indeed, it is definitely safe to say that this Swedish fivesome have officially achieved true greatness.
“With Oden On Our Side” is filled with all the usual Amon Amarth goodies: superb melodic solos, tasty harmonic leads, and gruff yet intelligible vocals. Great riffs, too. The guitarists never lose sight of the groove, and they create a virtual symphony of guitar licks (melodic, slow and heavy, fast and aggressive, and some that border on brutal) which are utilized for maximum variety. Yes, they might be fairly simplistic, but they are superbly strong and meaty, and they build off each other and flow together really well. The album’s main focus, though, is on good, mature, and powerful songwriting. The result is nine well-crafted, instantly memorable songs that are epic without being overly long, and always include plenty of irresistable hooks (which are frequently among the best you will hear in death metal), dynamics, texture, atmosphere, unexpected twists, tempo variation, and fairly intelligent, war-themed lyrics.
Frontman Johan Hegg’s trademark growls do battle against strong, memorable, churning riffs and interlocking double bass thumps to create “Valhall Awaits Me,” a very rhythmic and headbangable album opener, and one that should a concert favorite in the near future. “Runes To My Memory” works similarly, with hefty, powerful riffing and a stomping drum beat, and gradually gains quite a bit of speed and momentum. This song is different, though, because it also features well-placed guitar harmonies, effortlessly contagious, melodic choruses, and memorable lyrics. Later on, “Gods of War Arise” and the title track are two classic-sounding Amon Amarth tunes, as is the catchy battlefield march-vibe of the set closer, “Prediction of Warfare.”
The remainder of the songs, however, find the band stepping out of the box a little, and being a little experimental. For example, on “Asator” and “Cry of the Black Birds,” the Swedish quintet lets it rip with surprisingly thrashy tempos and blistering leads (and, in the case of the latter, pounding, almost blast beat-esque drumming, too.) Elsewhere, “Hermod’s Ride to Hell: Loke’s Treachery Part 1″ is a slowly building, epic hymn with a very dark, restrained and ominous mood. It’s bolstered by chunky, mid-tempo, galloping, and sometimes booming power chords and slow, insidious, spoken word-ish vocals. The song lightens up some, though, because a wealth of wonderful melodic licks are sprinkled into the mix. Finally, track eight, “Under the Northern Star,” is equally as mellow, and just might be the most melodic song this band has ever recorded. It’s highlighted by a gorgeous, soaring solo, chilling lyrics, and deliciously clean guitar leads that carry the song and might very well stick in the listener’s head for days to come.
It is fairly hard to put one’s finger on exactly what category “With Oden On Our Side” falls under for sure. It is primarily a melodic death metal album, but it could sure be argued that it falls more in line with Viking, epic, folk, and/or traditional death metal. And it also has undeniable traces of black, speed, gothic, and doom metal. But it really doesn’t matter what genre you choose to say it is, just as long as you don’t call it anything besides an excellent record, and Amon Amarth’s masterwork. In short: all killer, no filler.