With the exception of “Once Sent From The Golden Hall”, this album has the greatest title of any in AMON AMARTH’s history. There is nothing more epic and intricate insofar as Norse mythology goes that discussing the final destiny of Urd, Skuld and Verdandi, ergo the three mystical beings who control the destiny of all who live by tending to Yggdrasil, the great tree of life that connects all realms of man, giant and deity alike. Unfortunately, in the quest for a truly epic album that might top everything they’ve done and perhaps be the final word in an already pretty solid musical career, the band got themselves caught in a bit of a rut.
“Fate Of Norns” is a transitional album, moving away from the band’s older style of down tempo anthems to Norse glory and toward something faster and more ferocious. Many fans of this album have alluded to it being more aggressive than previous efforts, while its detractors note a lack of hooks and a sense of plodding in spite of any ratcheted up riffs. Ultimately both sentiments are mostly right, and this album’s fatal flaw is that it short changes the listener on catchiness, while doing both the epic and the harder edged aspects halfway. Too many ideas seem to start off well and then wander off into a halfway decent groove and then things just sort of taper off and become stale and unmemorable.
A classic example of this buildup in anticipation with a few solid ideas that seem to lead somewhere yet don’t is the opening track “An Ancient Sign Of Coming Storm”. The principle riff is a pretty solid MAIDEN influenced one, giving way to a build up in tension that leads to a couple of narration-like verses done by Hegg in his usual demented and guttural manner, and then it just sort of fades into a series of plodding ideas and ends. The title song and “The Beheading Of A King” are pretty much the same story, though they do reach a climactic section that simply goes away too quickly. The only two songs that actually are completely free from this sense of meandering are “Valkyries Ride” and “Once Sealed In Blood”, which listen very close to the style of faster and catchier melodic riffing that became standard on “With Oden On Our Side”.
Although this would definitely be qualified as the worst of AMON AMARTH’s releases, it does have its moments. The material on here sometimes gets a little close to a sort of a Thrash feel, particularly at the beginning of “The Pursuit Of Vikings”, which sounds a little bit like MEGADETH before the old NWOBHM styled melodic material creeps in. There’s not really anything that’s overtly bad on here, but most of these songs just don’t seem to really hit their full potential and just sort of coast to the finish line like a film score composition that is written for the intent of being chopped up and distributed to various parts of a feature. If you love this band and have everything else they’ve done, this would be worth a trip to the local discount store, but it’s definitely not something to sell yourself on the street over.
(Online May 25, 2009)