In theory, Amon Amarth are worth loathing: they’re thematically about as dopey as a band can get and as anyone who’s seen Headbanger’s Ball in the last 2 years can attest to, they’re prone to synchronized headbanging and often appearing shirtless though clearly a decade or so past their physical prime. So then why are Amon Amarth worth our time? The answer, obvious to anyone who’s ever heard Amon Amarth, is the bottomless gauntlet of riffs that the band endlessly takes gargantuan swigs from, sounding both lush and emotive as well as skull crushingly heavy. And for those that have fallen for the band’s dopey big riff attack before, there’s little to dislike on Twilight of the Thunder God, their latest. Though some things have shifted slightly, very little has changed, and the album is a little-to-no bullshit slab of brute melodic death metal in a time where melodic death metal has been seemingly sucked dry and left for dead. Amon Amarth are still Amon Amarth, and there is absolutely fucking nothing wrong with that.

Twilight of the Thunder God, much like its predecessor With Oden on Our Side, is a series of triumphant-sounding riffs massive enough to satisfy the jaded douchebag within, but also sopping with a brilliant and vaguely melancholy melodicism. Not enough can be written about the genius of the Amon Amarth riff: the testosterone-blooded man-beast that fucks shit up at the core of metal, no matter how many string sections or how much outside influence is piled atop it, is alive and well in this band. There is virtually nothing played by Amon Amarth that hasn’t warranted a raised fist; cynics may deny this, but the band cut down to the core of any metalhead, playing to our sense of inflated machismo and need for obscene volume. Those that enjoyed the band before have little to worry about; the few changes they’ve made to their sound are minor, and usually executed masterfully. The strings on “Live for the Kill” initially are cause for concern, but when putting Amon Amarth’s melodic prowess into a different perspective, they’re elevated, not pushed into the realm of melodrama (the strings are courtesy of Apocalyptica, marking this as the only good thing that group has ever done.) And though “Guardians of Asgaard” is based around a reheated mid-period Entombed riff, Lars Göran Petrov from Entombed is a guest on the track, which justifies it to some extent. If you’ve liked Amon Amarth thus far, the individual weaknesses of Twilight of the Thunder God are negligible enough to ignore, and may even prove themselves to be endearing.

The record’s one issue is its length. Like sitting down with a bowl of cake frosting, Amon Amarth are awesome at first, tedious after a while, and if you’re not in the mood, possibly excruciating at the end; too much of a good thing is still too much. The problem with Amon Amarth’s lack of variance is that after about a half an hour, everything sounds the same, no matter how big those riffs are. Twilight of the Thunder God, when taken as a whole album, grows incredibly tedious. But ironically, considering their thematic roots in the past, they are perhaps a perfect band for Generation iPod: one or two Amon Amarth songs perfectly serve their purpose, sounding lumbering and confident. Though they may fall short on making an album that’s easy to stay with all the way through, they’re good at tossing you a stellar collection of songs. And what a collection of songs Twilight of the Thunder God is: every goddamn one is a chest-beating anthem.

(3 out of 5 horns)


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