The Lowdown: Eleven albums into their career, Amon Amarth continue to be a powerhouse of heavy metal. Coming off the success of 2016’s concept album Jomsviking, the veteran Swedish melodic death metal act returns with Berserker, a ferocious collection of brutality and melody. From the adrenaline-fueling drum work to the shredding guitars to singer Johan Hegg’s growling vocals, Berserker is bound to get listeners headbanging throughout its runtime.
The Good: “Fafner’s Gold” begins with a gentle acoustic rhythm before letting loose on the sound of clashing drum cymbals. The guitar roams to a soothing electric tone before setting out on a faster tempo, with the vocals barking over the frenzy, makes for a stellar opening to the album. “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor” is a thrilling track, displaying an incredible balance in the composition that allows the song to be both brutal and catchy, while “Valkyria” provides an epic delivery of tension in its ominous guitar work as the drums pummel forward.
The band explores some interesting subject matter through the album’s lyrics, in particular with “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge”; the song shares the tale of a Viking battle against English soldiers, and the heroic efforts of one warrior. Stories like these help to bring a more emotional component to the band’s material, allowing Berserker to stand out compared to other Amon Amarth albums. Elsewhere, “Ironside” also does a great job of exuding brutality with emotion, the vocals flowing and matching the intensity of the instrumentation, and “Into the Dark” offers a satisfying and epic conclusion to Berserker.
The Bad: The album does play to some repetitiveness if you consider the band’s material as a whole; when listening to Amon Amarth, you know you are going to get a lot of fast and heavy songs, so it’s no surprise that Berserker provides more of the same. While this doesn’t really hamper the album, it would have been interesting to see the band bring forth a little more variety to Berserker.
The Verdict: While Jomsviking was a very solid addition to the band’s discography, Amon Amarth have topped that effort with Berserker. Thanks to unique touches of emotion and exhilarating brutal melodies, Berserker makes for an absolute blast of a time. From the start, the record loops you in, setting you on a path of wild headbanging, extreme moshing, and epic glory.
Essential Tracks: “Mjölner, Hammer of Thor”, “Valkyria”, “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge”