Personnel: Johan Hegg (vocals); Johan Söderberg, Olavi Mikkonen (guitar); Tobias Gustafsson (drums).
Audio Mixer: Andy Sneap.
Photographer: Garip Jensen.
After nine albums spent plundering, pillaging, and hoisting their horns of mead against the backdrop of a smoke-filled, viscera-stained battlefield, it's a wonder that Amon Amarth took so long to deliver a proper concept album. The term Jomsviking refers to a tenth century order of Viking mercenaries, and the narrative that runs through the Swedish pith and pike enthusiasts' tenth studio LP follows the journey of one such bearded brigand, and his quest to win back his one true love after being forced to flee her village -- having "accidentally" disposed of the man to whom she was to be married. Like all good Norse campfire stories, it's filled with copious amounts of bloodshed and ultimately ends in misery. Luckily, the brave men of Amon Amarth are more than up to the task of delivering the grim news, and they utilize every weapon in their arsenal to punctuate the tale. Relentlessly brutish, yet never bereft of melody, Jomsviking doesn't deviate from the veteran metal horde's tried-and-true foundation of punishing double-kick drums, Iron Maiden-esque guitarmonies, and gutter-scooped vocals, but it does toss in some cinematic flair to help frame the story -- they even brought in Warlock's Doro Pesch to play the Lagertha to Johan Hegg's Ragnar on the penultimate neck-snapper "A Dream That Cannot Be." With ten albums bobbing in the red wake behind them, there's little reason to think that Amon Amarth will ever change their stripes -- and why should they? Jomsviking effectively distills all of the band's predilections into one big, dragon-headed longship of an album, sails aflame and headed straight into the mouth of Valhalla. Skål! ~ James Christopher Monger