Amon Amarth album The Great Heathen Army (2022) – review

Amon Amarth album The Great Heathen Army (2022) – review

Swedish Vikings of Melodic Death Metal band Amon Amarth celebrate their 30th anniversary this year and released their new (twelfth in a row) album The Great Heathen Army on August 5 on the Metal Blade label. Given the fans’ polar opinions about the collective’s last album of 2019 Berserker, as well as its musical content itself, which began to bear the blatant features of classic heavy metal, the new album was eagerly awaited by everyone, especially since the band is famous, famous, talented, but not particularly diverse and experimental.

So the album was recorded in the British studio Backstage Productions with the famous musician and producer Andy Sneap, who had worked with the band before. The record also features the star guests, namely the almost complete Saxon band: vocalist Biff Byford, as well as guitarists Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn. The album itself, which is 40-odd minutes long, features 9 tracks. Before the album’s release, the band unveiled two singles with a video and another one on the day of the release of the record itself.

The band’s vocalist Johan Hegg described the record before its release as follows:

Overall The Great Heathen Army is one of the heavier albums we’ve made. There are some dark and heavy songs that are really powerful and in-your-face, but we obviously have some trademark melodic Amon Amarth songs on there as well, and a few surprises too. It’s a really well-balanced album. It sounds great. Andy Sneap is awesome. It was great to be able to work with him again.

Amon Amarth album The Great Heathen Army (2022) – review

And guitarist Olavi Mikkonen said the following:

We’ve been away making new music and we’re back with new darker, more death-metal sounding album. If Berserker was our heavy metal album, then The Great Heathen Army is our death metal album. But with that said, it’s still very much contemporary Amon Amarth, but perhaps style-wise we have gone back to our roots a little bit.

The first single from the new album Get In The Ring, which is also the opener on the record, was released on June 02 along with a video. Actually the song itself was written for professional wrestler and friend of Amon Amarth Erick Rowan, who also starred in the video. The video itself, in my opinion, doesn’t really reflect the meaning of the song. The lyrics are more about a Viking who challenges an enemy for a one-on-one fight. In the video a kind of futuristic and gloomy fighting club with machine guns, flamethrowers, dancing broads and other modern content is presented. Thus the message of the video is completely different from the content of the song itself, although the clip is cool. In terms of music, the band showed nothing particularly new with this single, although the track is really in tune with the death metal roots of Amon Amarth – melodic, but at the same time quite harsh.

On July 7, the second single, the title track of The Great Heathen Army, was released. A video clip was made for the song, but it is more adequate. It also features the musicians, as well as two guys who play war to the music of the band: one for the Vikings, and the other for the English. Of course, the Vikings win. The song talks about the Vikings’ sea voyage to the British Isles in 865. The army of that period was historically called the Great Heathen Army. The song itself is a melodic death metal anthem that was definitely written to be sung along with fans during concerts. The composition contains a rhythmic mid-tempo riff and a very catchy chorus.

And then, apparently, comes the first surprise promised by the musicians – the song called Heidrun. It’s about a mythological goat called Heidrun, who chews the leaves of Larad or the Yggdrasil World Tree from the roof of Valhalla and makes mead for the fallen warriors by filling a huge cauldron, and the mead never ends in that cauldron. Very catchy, super melodic and fun, a kind of table song with elements of folk and the voice of the goat itself, bringing variety to the album.

The next song Oden Owns You All is the heaviest and the fastest on the album, where the death metal meets the groove and thrash. But in spite of its obvious aggressiveness, the composition still has places for more melodic moments. The song praises the brave warriors who died in battle and that Odin owns them all.

Find A Way Or Make One is another anthem with driving heavy metal riffs and great solo parts. The song makes a good concert number thanks to the catchy refrain. The video for the song was a little bit strange again and was posted on the day of the album’s release. In the video the musicians together with the employees of a typical office who are tired of their everyday life, break up the office. The video is funny and the metaphor is clear, but the meaningful part of the song is rather superficial, because the lyrics is about a single brave Viking who doesn’t give up no matter what.

Dawn Of Norsemen is one of the most sweeping tracks on the album. It is the most dynamic song, with a muffled part in the middle of the track, which recovers in time for a grandiose conclusion. The result is a layered anthem with passionate and powerful vocals and atmospheric solos and some of the album’s best riffs. Johan Hegg’s vocals showcase a new level of his skill. The song tells the story of the first Viking expeditions to the British Isles.

Apparently, having successfully completed the British campaign and captured almost the entire composition of the English heavy metal band Saxon, our Vikings decided to record the following composition with them with the obvious name Saxons and Vikings. Of course, Johan Hegg performed as Vikings, but Biff Byford himself, as well as guitarists Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn performed their solo parts as Englishmen. This is apparently another surprise promised by the Amon Amarth group. The result is a very interesting composition with a vocal duel between two vocalists, not only vocal, but also verbal (just read the text), each vocalist tells the story of the opposing sides during the invasion of Wessex and in turn wishing each other an increasingly terrible end. An interesting rhythm and a memorable chorus, I would like to see it live. Great song.

Skagul Rides With Me is a mid-tempo atmospheric song with beautiful harmonies, but underdeveloped. Among the other songs of the album it is the weakest.

Amon Amarth album The Great Heathen Army (2022) – review

And the final track The Serpent’s Trail is the longest track on the album. Another mid-tempo, atmospheric song with an epic narrative and a beautiful melody, where first in a clear voice and then in growling, part of the story is told about how the brave Hermod – one of Odin’s sons – goes to rescue his brother Baldr from the world of the dead. He travels for nine days, through dark caves and winding forests, before reaching Gjell, the river that separates the living from the dead. All in all, interesting from a narrative point of view, but musically there is little dynamics, which makes the composition seem a bit tedious, although it is cute.

As a conclusion. Amon Amarth have recorded a very diverse album. All the songs, with few exceptions, differ from each other and each has something different. In terms of the style of the material itself, in my opinion, there is a natural evolution of the band: a decrease in the share of melodic death towards epic heavy viking metal with the prevalence of heavy metal anthems. The album is too smooth and polished, it lacks real intensity and Nordic fury. The album will be interesting first of all for the fans of the band, who waited for the new material, and the fans of the Viking theme will find much interesting here too.