Amon Amarth has a reliable set of hits, and most of their setlists stick to a formula. But with such a deep (if not necessarily varied) catalog to pull from, I expect most fans have a handful of songs they cross their fingers for with each new tour.
For the “deep cut” criteria, a song had to have fewer than 50 live plays according to Setlist.fm. This dq’d some some gems like Live for the Kill, but left a representative universe of killer viking melodeath worth celebrating and rediscovering.
5. Beheading of a King–Fate of Norns
AA has plenty of songs with great intros, but while Twilight of the Thunder God and Death in Fire are firmly at the helm of their most beloved songs, the vicious drum/guitar lockstep syncopation that kicks Beheading of a King off remains criminally underappreciated. Sitting between Pursuit of Vikings and the Arson/Once Sealed in Blood closer on Fate of Norns probably doesn’t help. Next time you spin Fate, though, put this one on first and see if you don’t start just beating your chest, or the floor, or the wall, or whatever the fuck you can find, to that fearsome rhythm.
4. Bastards of a Lying Breed–The Crusher
AA albums typically start with a big hit of aggression as a mission statement for the album. Bastards of a Lying Breed fits this mold, but like The Crusher itself, Bastards is lost to time. I’m not sure The Crusher as a whole deserves a better fate; it is up there with Surtur Rising and Jomsviking in terms of disposability. But Bastards of a Lying Breed sounds right at home with any of the strongest material from the Once Sent and Avenger-era of AA, with the epic and mournful elements and more traditional melodeath riffs at front and center.
3. Dragon’s Flight Across the Waves–Once Sent from the Golden Hall
The Dragon’s Flight Across the Waves is the bridge between the forceful introduction of Ride for Vengeance and the inseparable live staples Without Fear and Victorious March. But Once Sent, more so than any AA album, is a cohesive whole, and Dragon’s flight is indispensable to this conception.
2. Gods of War Arise–With Oden on Our Side
Gods of War Arise has a distinct structure, so whole the first half sets the table, the song elevates to Valhalla with the second half, as triumphant and galvanizing a passage as the band has ever composed. It is such a fucking triumph that when we are lucky enough to get ears on this live, it is usually only the back half attached to the front of a more well-known song–that’s right, the old Pantera Domination/Hollow treatment from Official Live! And here’s a heater–Gods of War Arise is better than both of those songs, and that’s no knock on Pantera–that’s a tribute to the sheer inspiration the best AA songs tap into, channeled perfectly here.
1. The Hero–Twilight of the Thunder God
The Hero is Johan Hegg’s best work lyrically, and the rare subversion of AA’s archetypes where it’s not inspiring or mournful, but resigned. The Hero is a companion piece to Iron Maiden’s Trooper, but Johan is not putting on a redcoat and waving a flag for this one. The “Hero” is actually anything but, a self-declared mercenary who is there only to kill, knows his fellow combatants are too, and accepts this as the way of the world. Hegg paints The Hero’s funeral so starkly you can almost see the breath in the air of those gathered around, and maybe also feel the unease that is the pure contempt the Hero has for the proceedings he witnesses as his spirit lingers before heading to Valhalla. This is a charade. There is no honor, no victory–just the life of killing, which only ends one way.
Black as his soulless heart.
Sometimes the only comfort we have is to look inward and finally admit:
I KNOW WHO I AM–I AM AN EVIL MAN
AA songs can be stories, laments, battle cries, but rarely are they introspective and insightful to human nature while still compelling you to bang your head.
Rarely, but not never.