Album Review – Amon Amarth / The Great Heathen Army (2022)

Join the great heathen army spearheaded by one of the most respected bands of the current metal scene to the sound of their electrifying, Viking-inspired new album.

One of the best-loved metal bands in the world, Sweden’s own Melodic Death Metal horde Amon Amarth is back into the battlefield with a new opus, the heavy-as-hell, epic The Great Heathen Army, their twelfth studio album and the follow-up to their 2019 release Berserker. Produced, mixed and mastered at Backstage Productions in Derbyshire, England by the one and only Andy Sneap, and displaying a pure Viking-style artwork by Tom Thiel of Illuvision, the album encapsulates the essence of the band currently formed of frontman Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Jocke Wallgren, while still allowing acres of space for new ideas. “The Great Heathen Army is not a concept album like Jomsviking, but I’m taking inspiration from some of the same historical elements,” said Johan Hegg. “There were also some really cool and different ideas I wanted to explore, and they came very much from my wife, Maria, who has been tapping into the more esoteric aspects of Viking lifestyle and culture. Musically, I would say there are a couple of surprises on there, a little bit of uncharted territory for Amon Amarth. Overall it’s one of the heavier albums we’ve made.”

The dirty, raw guitars by Olavi and Johan permeate the air in Get in the Ring, a fighting song that exhales Amon Amarth with its official video featuring wrestling superstar Joseph Ruud (aka Eric Redbeard or Eric Rowan, of AEW and WWE), who’s by the way a huge metal fan, kicking off the album in great fashion. The title-track The Great Heathen Army is another headbanging creation by those Norsemen, where Johan Hegg growls deeply and with tons of anger like a true metal Viking from start to finish; whereas in the fantastic Heidrun it’s time to raise your horns and pints, and sing its catchy lyrics together with the band (“Hail the dead and the goat that gives us mead / On the roof she’s gnawing Lärad’s leaves / Fills the vat with a drink that is so sweet / Worthy of fame / Heidrun is her name”). Then they put the pedal to the metal and deliver the frantic Oden Owns You All, which will inspire all fans at their live concerts to slam into the circle pit manically while Jocke does a great job hammering his drums like there’s no tomorrow in the name of Melodic Death Metal.

Find a Way or Make One brings to our ears classic Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal by the Amon Amarth horde, with the riffage by Olavi and Johan Söderberg being simply incendiary while  the message sent by the band through the lyrics is beyond awesome. Following such powerful tune we have Dawn of Norsemen, a song that goes back to the early days of the band including its old school lyrics barked by Johan Hegg (“We’ve heard rumors of land to the West / Beyond the oceans, where the sun sets / Sailing across the waves, we will fly / This voyage of discovery, no one has tried”); and featuring guest vocals by the one and only Biff Byford of Saxon, as well as his bandmates Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn on the guitars, we’re treated to Saxons and Vikings, a beyond thrilling musical voyage where the unparalleled lines by such imposing vocal duet will pierce through our minds beautifully as a tribute to both bands (and to Heavy Metal in general). They keep pounding their instruments mercilessly in Skagul Rides with Me without forgetting their trademark harmony, and while it’s far from being a masterpiece it’s still very enjoyable. Finally, The Serpent’s Trail, the darkest song of the album, is also the longest one, with Johan Hegg’s introspective vocals bringing an extra somber touch to the overall result while Jocke smashes his drums supported by the low-tuned bass by Ted, flowing into a sinister ending.

My one and only complaint about The Great Heathen Army is the fact that the excellent song Put Your Back into the Oar was not included in the album, and apparently not even in any of its special or deluxe editions, but that’s not a real problem as there’s a lot to enjoy already in the album as is. Having said that, what are you waiting for to put your Viking hands on The Great Heathen Army? Simply go to their official webstore, to the Metal Blade Records webstore, or click HERE for all places where you can buy or stream the album. Don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram to stay up to date with all things Amon Amarth, including their unique live performances, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their Viking-inspired creations. In other words, it’s time to grab your sword and shield and join the great heathen army of Amon Amarth to the sound of their new album, heading into the battlefield ruthlessly, without fear, and with metal music in our hearts.

Best moments of the album: Heidrun, Find a Way or Make One, Dawn of Norsemen and Saxons and Vikings.

Worst moments of the album: Skagul Rides with Me.

Released in 2022 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. Get in the Ring 4:24
2. The Great Heathen Army 4:04
3. Heidrun 4:42
4. Oden Owns You All 4:17
5. Find a Way or Make One 4:30
6. Dawn of Norsemen 5:32
7. Saxons and Vikings 4:55
8. Skagul Rides with Me 4:34
9. The Serpent’s Trail 6:01

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – lead guitar
Johan Söderberg – rhythm guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Guest musician
Biff Byford – vocals on “Saxons and Vikings”
Doug Scarratt – lead guitar on “Saxons and Vikings”
Paul Quinn – lead guitar on “Saxons and Vikings”

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