Firstly, when a band re-releases an album, there has to be something in it for the fans. Just re-mastering is often not enough. With this re-release of the band's second album there is certainly value for money: It's a double disc release. The first disc is the original album, re-mastered of course, and it's still as good as ever. Along with that is a bonus track, Thor Arise. This track was originally written and recorded for a 1993 demo that featured other tracks including a cover of Sabbath's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. But that demo was never released until 2002's Versus The World. The band has re-recorded Thor Arise for this new edition of The Avenger and it has to be said that it's one of the stand out tracks on the new album.
The other reason that this release is worth you splashing your cash, is that the second disc is the entire album again (minus the Thor Arise bonus track) -- recorded live. The gig was played on 29 December 2008 in Bochum, Germany, where the band played The Avenger in full and in order. It's a storming live gig with a really solid crowd presence coming through in the recording. It makes you wish you were there.
Amon Amarth have a special place in death metal as far as I'm concerned. They're a band that does it without trying too hard. They're not blistering fast all the time, they don't just shred solos all the time, but they deliver strong, powerful riffage with a relentless menace and malevolence. The guitar sound is always massive and the voice of Johan Vegg, like a festering open wound, just never slacks off. They've been around a while, they had the chops back then and they've still got them now.
One major test of the quality of a band is that they need to make outstanding records, and then blow themselves away when they play live. This re-release of The Avenger showcases exactly that happening. You can listen to the re-mastered studio album and then immediately top that fantastic experience by listening to it again -- live, and better.
And as dark fantasy fiction writer I particularly like that the band's name, Amon Amarth, is taken from an alternative name for Mount Doom in J R R Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings. A pile of this band's albums would indeed be a Mount of Doom. Get this album -- it's worth it for the live disc alone.
The new release of The Avenger is out now on Metal Blade/Riot.