Sweden’s Amon Amarth are a band that need no introduction. Renowned for releasing high quality material on a consistent basis throughout the entirety of their career (this release marking the passing of their 21st anniversary), all the while refining their style without stagnating or diverging too far off course. The impending release of their 9th full length album Deceiver of the Gods shows the band at their creative and energetic peak, and I am delighted to say that this is probably their strongest, and certainly most diverse work to date. Rejoice, and get ready for a hell of a ride.

The proceedings kick off with what has become the standard Amon Amarth “single” song, “Deceiver of the Gods”. While inarguably a killer head banger, this is easily my least favorite song on the album. It is a balls to the wall, heavily thrash influenced piece that will no doubt be in consistent rotation on their live circuit for years to come. Good, but the best is yet to come. “As Loke Falls” happens to be my absolute favorite song on display, beginning with an absurdly catchy lead reminiscent of “Cry of the Black Birds” from their 2006 outing With Oden On Our Side (up until this album my personal favorite on their catalog). With punching double bass and ferocious vocals, backed by the band’s trademark melodic death metal melodies, this one is definitely a standout song on an album brimming with them.

“Father of the Wolf” is another mid tempo, heavily driven neck breaker, with an infectious chorus. The band’s Iron Maiden influences really rise to the surface on this track, with the leads channeling the spirit of said band’s Powerslave era. This is by no means a downside, and the dual leads towards the second half really get the blood flowing. “Shape Shifter” is a bit of a different beast, utilizing a noticeably different feel than the band generally goes for, with rhythmic double bass and unusually dark, almost Fear Factory-esque riffage characterizing the bulk of the song. Of course, it also contains delicious guitar work, as it wouldn’t be an Amon Amarth song without it.

“Shape Shifter” is another  killer, heavy hitter. Extremely melodic throughout, full of groove and features an unbelievably melancholic end riff that leads into a tragically brief acoustic outro (I would love to hear more of this in the future). “Blood Eagle” roars out of the gates with ferocious riffing and impressive drive, marking what is probably the most in your face, straight to the point track on the album. The cleverly utilized chanting towards the end is an excellent touch, adding atmosphere to a largely minimalist piece.

“We Shall Destroy” kicks off with a punchy mid tempo feel before seguing into an absurdly heavy drum lick that effectively sets the tone for the remainder of the song. The mid tempo feel continues throughout, backed by some gorgeous guitar that reinforce the overall feeling of an army marching to war. “Hel” is a very unique song, featuring the venerable Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass fame guesting on vocals. This is indisputably one of the most distinctive songs of the band’s discography, truly unlike anything that has come before. It is eerie, and utilizes the unique voice of the guest to great effect, and despite being radically different from their previous material, works quite well in the context of the release.

“Coming of the Tide” wastes no time in showing its influences on its sleeve. This is Amon Amarth through and through, reminding of their earlier work while injecting fresh melodies and an air of triumph that stands apart from said early material. The use of steady triplets and the slow buildup to the gorgeously placed guitar solo is another highlight of this release as a whole. The final track “Warriors of the North” begins with a soft guitar lead that transitions into a powerful, melancholic riff reminiscent of Fate of the Norns, somber yet aggressive. Mid-way through, the listener is treated to more gorgeous guitar work that continually reinforces a feeling of deep sadness, with words of winter, war and death. A crushing sequence of shifting guitar melodies and pummeling percussion slowly build to the apex of the album, and combined with powerful lyrics, the album goes out with a bang. Absolutely fantastic.

Production wise the band decided to diverge from the trend of their last three releases, going all the way back to the feel of pre-Fate of the Norns era Amon Amarth, eschewing the polished, clean production for a more raw, gritty feel. This absolutely adds to the feeling of power and heaviness, as it is my staunch opinion that the production hurt the previous releases despite consistently strong material. This band is not meant to be clean or polished. The drums were recorded live, and the guitars have a beautifully organic sound to them. The vocals are a bit loud in the mix for my taste, but this is a minor complaint in an otherwise amazing production. The bottom line? This is not only a fantastic Amon Amarth release, but an absolutely essential pick up for any and all metal heads searching for a truly emotive, powerful listening experience. Deceiver of the Gods IS A MUST OWN!