Amon Amarth

Once Sent from the Golden Hall

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When a band is named after the Mountain of Doom in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, you're pretty much guaranteed epic metal at its most extravagant. But despite their lyrical bent (including Dungeons & Dragons titles like "Ride for Vengeance," "Victorious March," and "The Dragons' Flight Across the Waves"), Sweden's Amon Amarth eschews the expected Germanic power metal usually associated with such subject matter for brutally intense Scandinavian death metal. Firmly rooted in the At the Gates school, the band doesn't really break any new ground here. But they get the job done with plenty of spirit, more than competent songwriting, and excellent musicianship -- most notably from future Opeth drummer Martin Lopez. The song that bears the group's namesake is probably the most memorable, as it contains the chaotic noises of battle, the screams of the dying, and much sword-clashing to boot. Cool! Ultimately, Amon Amarth's war hymns often take themselves a bit too seriously and are bound to provoke either delirious head-banging or irresistible laughter, but what else would you expect from good heavy metal?

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