As with most genre-blending acts, purveyors of melodic death metal usually lean toward one camp or the other. This tendency has odd results, frequently leaving such bands stranded between scenes, with neither the New Wave of British Heavy Metal revivalists nor the die-hard Death dealers willing to fully embrace them. Of course, this has become increasingly immaterial, with a scene coalescing around the sound's roots in Gothenburg, Sweden, and branching out to encompass much of the frigid north. For those keeping score, though, Amon Amarth owes a bit more fealty to Ozzy Osbourne than to Chuck Schuldiner. With a stripped-down approach to songcraft and arrangement, the five Swedes manage a focused assault without being punishing — it's about as lovely as Viking war songs and cookie-monster vocals can be. The band's most direct connection to death metal is, well, most of its songs are about death and violence. Even there, though, Amarth serves as a side-step from genre fixation; as Pitchfork reviewer Cosmo Lee said last year, "Even its songs about death are stirring — think Valhalla, not hell."
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