"Versus The World", Amon Amarth took a small step back in their 5th attempt, entitled "Fate of Norns". I instantly notice that it does not have the same ferocious will to bombard the listener with crushing riffs and blast beats like the previous 4 albums have. But what is it that had been changed during the two years between this album and its predecessor? Hegg himself says that the album is more mature, which does explain the more toned down approach, but it does not explain why the album just feels so lack luster.
Call me Sonic The Hedgehog, but I mostly like things fast. I want action, something to get me going, and Amon Amarth has given me just that with their previous releases. But on "Fate of Norns", they give me something else, a new direction that does not necessarily show a new side of the band, but instead proves that the Swedes are versatile and can make albums with unique personalities. It may not have worked towards my full approval, but I still think it is a bold, nice step for the band, which prevents them from the so called "Motörhead" syndrome, which basically is making the same album over and over again, changing very little.
Even if I was sceptical of the change at first, several strong songs did make me appreciate the album a lot more. The most obvious one is of course "The Pursuit of Vikings", a Amon Amarth classic that still to this date has a permanent slot on the band's tour set list. The tempo and attitude of the song is quite mediocre, but it is the nice lyrics and the fantastic riffs that really lifts the song, making it stand out. The opener "An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm" also shows some great riffing, while the title track has some of the band's best lyrics so far, about a father, watching his young child die and later bury him. Strong stuff that fits so well with the mood of the music.
The only song I would consider to be closely related to the band's early work is "Valkyries Ride", a dark song where especially Fredrik Andersson and Johan Hegg shows their evil side, bringing out a true demonic performance. Certainly one of the better songs in this album, especially since it is the only one in that category that comes out of "Fate of Norns". I do wished that "Fate of Norns" showed some more anger, because it just feels sort of stiff, like the band is too comfortable with their current situation. If the band had gone a little more buck wild, both in performance and in production, they might have turned this into another true master piece.
I am definitely two sided over "Fate of Norns", mostly because it is a different album from its predecessors. I still enjoy it, but I feel like a junkie whom has not gotten a fix in a while, I got the withdrawals for something fast and fierce. However, it cannot be easy for this album to follow up such an amazing piece as "Versus The World", having a whole lot to live up to, but it still holds up fairly well, thanks to a couple of great, stand out songs, and a fresh intention that shows a forward drive. The fate still shines bright for the band, even if this is a slight slip up.
Songs worthy of recognition: Fate of Norns, An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm, The Pursuit of Vikings
Rating: 6,5/10 Arsons