The Swedish Vikings reached their twelfth album, three years after “Berserker”, which I consider the least good in their career so far. The truth is that I wasn’t thrilled with “The Great Heathen Army” on the first listen but in the end I found it much better than its predecessor. Of course, it has some striking weaknesses for me, but the general feeling goes towards positive.
Amon Amarth continue in their well-known melodic death metal style, without particular surprises of course, but with some songs that I don’t think will leave a large part of their fans indifferent. The ones that stood out are the opener (and first single) “Get In The Ring”, “Heidrun” which may have a very simple and basic rhythm but from the middle onwards its amazing melodies and gang vocals are amazing, “Find A Way Or Make One” and “Skagul Rides With Me”.
Of course, special mention must be made of the best in this record for me, “Saxons And Vikings”. Here Amon Amarth team up for the third time (after Messiah Marcolin and Doro) with another classic metal legend on vocals, Biff Byford. But this time they go further, since Biff also wrote part of the lyrics while Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt participate on the lead guitars. If these names don’t tell you anything (which is unacceptable), we are of course talking about members of the mighty Saxon. An awesome collaboration that I would love to see on stage sometime.
In general, “The Great Heathen Army” is, as I wrote at the beginning, much better than “Berserker”, but I wouldn’t put it higher than any other of the rest of the band’s ten records. The speeds are mostly mid-tempo, the epic melodies that used to be their hallmark aren’t as frequent or intense, and there are songs that don’t make the difference. Yes, it’s a good album but that’s all. We are used to much better than that from the Swedes.