1. Death in Fire
2. For The Stabwounds in our Backs
3. Where Silent Gods Stand Guard
4. Vs the World
5. Across the Rainbow Bridge
6. Down the Slopes of Death
7. Thousand Years of Oppression
9. ...And Soon the World Will Cease to be
2003 Metal Blade Records
by Graham Landers
Amon Amarth are neither a band that is breaking new ground, nor a band that I could give a shit about. After three releases of below-average "viking" death metal from these Swedish has-beens, their opus "Once Sent From the Golden Hall" being the only noteworthy of their releases, I guess one could say I was not anticipating this latest release even in least bit. On their latest record "Versus the World," they have not only slowed down their already terribly boring pace, but have also put forth one of the worst produced albums of this genre that I have heard in recent years.
This is one of those bands that owe what little success they have, to the legendary production of longtime producer Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy) and his Abyss Studios. "Versus the World" is the band's first release without Tagtgren engineering and goddamn does it ever show. Being a huge drum fan, the "popcornin" of the double-bass in some parts of this record really kills any aspiration I might to ever have to listen to this band again, let alone this album. "Versus the World" downright sucks if for this reason alone. I always did consider these guys as a less-talented clone of Hypocrisy, with Amon Amarth falling lightyears short of this crushing trios sound in every aspect. That being said, if you stripped down Hypocrisy and removed all the good found therein (which is aplenty), you would most likely find Amon Amarth miles behind.
I find myself skipping through this record without any motivation to actually give it the time of day. I'm actually seething at the fact that I had to sit through its duration six times to make sure I actually heard what I thought I heard the first time. If you've heard one Amon Amarth song, please just leave it at that. There hasn't been a difference in direction between their last three albums. Do not by any means, venture into the horrid pagan/Viking lands that these fellows call home in Sweden. One could easily get away with saying that Amon Amarth are the biggest disgrace not only to Swedish metal, but to metal in general. Only Dismember can be seen as less with their label severing ties with them because of poor album sales (due to writing the same riff over and over again and never actually developing their sound). Yes, I compare Amon Amarth's "Versus the World" blunder to any Dismember album that has come out since their debut. Exactly the same route, a different style of music is their only separation.
But in the same breath, I must admit that Amon Amarth's "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" was a killer album for its time. I remember headbanging more than a few times when at first I heard, but even now there are way too many bands playing this style and doing it better than these guys have ever done it. My main problem is that these guys fail to offer anything new, let alone a production that is worthy of even the least critical. Imagine a 10-year career writing the same material over and over again. For most of us, it's a hard image to create in your head with all the bands out there today expanding their senses (no pun intended), to reinvent themselves on every release. Just look at how bands; Darkane, Soilwork, and In Flames use of clean singing has helped them mature and reinvent themselves on each release. Clean vocals add an element to their otherwise similar metal to create an illustrious wall of sound, one that Amon Amarth fails to demonstrate on "Versus the World."
Bottom Line: This is a perfect case of a band having a lot of talent, just no direction. There is absolutely no reason to hear this album unless you feel the need to hear a band gone bad or the fact that there is a song with the word "rainbow" in it. Since when did Vikings even have the word rainbow in their vocabulary let alone one of their songs
There is only so long that you can listen to the same song/album before you get bored and retire it to its spot on your CD shelf. Perhaps it's time for these Swedes to retire from metal all together, if we could only be half as lucky we'd all be lottery winners by now. Unfortunately for Amon Amarth, they have been stuck in the grave of irrelevancy for six years now since their wonderfully composed "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" release in 1998. Everything from the pagan/Viking sound and lyrics, to the cheesy artwork displayed on every one of their releases, is being done now and done far better than on any Amon Amarth record. For example, Behemoth's "Zos Kia Cultus" is a prime example of a band with a similar style that has developed their sound into something amazing on their latest release. All of their records have been great and now they have crafted their masterpiece. Amon Amarth has had more than their fair chance to create something new and fresh. They have failed.