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Amon Amarth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Cookie Monster Vocals and Love Amon Amarth

November 20, 2010 1 comment

Amon Amarth - "Twilight of the Thunder God"

Amon Amarth – “Twilight of the Thunder God” (Metal Blade Records, 2008)

I owe Amon Amarth an apology. I admit it – I was wrong. When I first heard their album, “Twilight of the Thunder God,” I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever come across. Why? Amon Amarth sport the worst (or the best, I guess it depends on your view) Cookie Monster death metal vocals ever. As the legendary Chuck Gill noted, “I could get into this if it wasn’t for the vocals” (and Chuck should know because he pioneered this vocal style singing backup during the encores of Neon Christ‘s sets in 1984 and 1985). The final nail in the coffin, as far as I was concerned, was that this is a chunk of vinyl featuring a bunch of grown men singing songs about Odin, Thor and Asgaard, yearning for the good old days of, say, 800 A.D – some 1,200 years ago. I didn’t just think it was bad; I thought it was retarded. But I recant officially here and now. After listening to it literally about 40 times (hey, I take this reviewing stuff seriously), I have to say I love this album.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start at the beginning.

Amon Amarth are a Swedish band founded in 1988. I read that they got their name from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I wouldn’t know. I’ve tried several times to read it but I never made it through the series; it bored me to death. They have released seven albums filled with songs bearing jovial titles like “Valhall Awaits Me,” “Gods of War Arise,” “Fate of the Norns,” “Valkyries Ride,” and “With Odin on Our Side.”

"The Mighty Thor"

I guess I was predisposed to not take Amon Amarth seriously because, I have to admit, the only reason I know anything about Norse mythology is because of Marvel Comic’s The Mighty Thor, which I read as a child way back in ye olde 1970s. In school back then we flogged Greek and Roman mythology like a dead Trojan horse but no one ever mentioned the Norse gods.  The result? Everything I know about Odin, Thor, Loki and the realm of Asgaard come from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – not exactly an auspicious and  accurate introduction to a topic.

So how did I learn to stop worrying about the annoying Cookie Monster vocals and love Amon Amarth? The music – it kills. Take a listen to the album’s title track and first song:

Twilight of the Thunder God

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnT4VEaOALc>

There is a video for it too but just listen to the song first because honestly the visuals and the narrative, if you can call it that, detract from the music. It is hard to get past the silly Viking costumes and the yearning for times when men were men, Vikings were Vikings, and women, well, they didn’t want much to do with men or Vikings. But if you want to watch the video here it is:

Twilight of the Thunder God” (official video)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQVrl7wRcNg>

Iron Maiden - "Aces High"

In particular, it was Amon Amarth‘s guitar work – the harmonic, two guitar riffing – that changed my mind. Why? Because it reminds me of the mighty Iron Maiden.  Listen to riff-age on Maiden‘s “Aces High”:

Aces High

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0RZ9Zco2eY&feature=fvs>

Now go back and listen to “Twilight of the Thunder God” again. I’m not saying that Amarth stole the riff – I just think they are similar in terms of style. And the Maiden-like two guitar attack and the melodies won me over; they overcame the shortcoming inherent in the Cookie Monster vocal style.

And Amarth is melodic, really melodic with hooks, a rarity in metal land. I have been shocked to find myself walking around the house singing, “Thor, Odin’s son, protector of mankind” or sitting at my desk at work singing “We are the guardians, guardians of Asgaard.”

I can honestly admit now that Amon Amarth are one of my favorite bands and I can’t wait for their new album.