Amon Amarth - The Crusher Reissue (Metal Blade/Riot)

Eight years after it's first release, The Crusher Reissue further proves that Amon Amarth are one of the most brutal, unforgiving forces on the metal scene today.

Want to know what really pisses me off? I can't grow a beard. I can't grow sideburns. In fact, the best I can muster is a whispy moustache that makes me look like a Mexican paedophile. Having left my mid-twenties behind, I hoped to be a late bloomer but alas, leaving my face to sprout for a week results in mockery not just from close friends, but random people on the street, train, etc.

For this reason, I hate Amon Amarth. Johan Hegg's beard is quite frankly handed down from the Thunder Gods themselves.

But savage face-warmers aside, Amon Amarth are possibly one of the most accesible, technically able death/melodic death metal bands around at the moment. My first experience of the giant Swedes was pretty late in the day, at Download 2008 in the UK. I'd heard some of their tracks and was keen to check them, out but when I arrived in front of the stage, I was't so much blown away as fucking clubbed by Thor's hammer through a big bastard croquet hoop. The perfectly synchronised insane windmilling of guitarists Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen, and bassman Ted Lundstrom was a sight to behold. And the brutal, gutteral noise coming out of Hegg was like nothing I'd ever experienced.

The Crusher is the third studio album from Amon Amarth and was originaly released in 2001. This nine-track assault is a great album but still saw Hegg's voice yet to find its groove. Remastered, The Crusher Reissue is still a solid metal outing; but for those like me, who got into these guys a bit later on, you might be left wanting. Wanting, that is, until disc two, which features the entire first album performed live in Germany in December 2008.

And by the hallowed gates of Valhalla, it's punishingly good. I'd go so far as to recommend skipping CD one and digging straight into the live affair. Songs such as Risen From The Sea and Releasing Surtur's Fire are fucking fantastic at the best of times, but live, there are extra layers, more unbridled passion, and the rare occasions on which you can hear the Teutonic crowd only adds to the experience.

I've no idea how big Club Zeche in Bochum, Germany, is but the fist-punching chants of the crowd wouldn't be out of place on a Viking longboat. I say that on absolutely no authority at all, as I have neither been on, nor indeed ever actually seen a Viking longboat. You know what I mean though.

As with all good reissues, there's an extensive booklet with The Crusher Reissue which gives the Great Bearded Ones the opportunity to talk about the conception of the album, their first experience of Wacken in 1999, and how cussing out a preacher's missus can nearly fuck things up royally for you and your mates. It also includes a song-by-song breakdown, including inspiration behind the lyrics and concepts, with the exception of Risen From The Sea, described by Hegg as 'perhaps the worst lyrics I have written and something I definitely do not stand for'. The big man states he'll never reveal the lyrics so if anyone knows them, answer on a postcard please!

The excellent booklet is also littered with images of Amon Amarth playing live, most of the time capturing their neck-breaking prowess in full flight. If I had long hair I may very well have caused myself massive brain injuries by now as it's physically impossible to listen to songs such as Bastards Of A Lying Breed and A Fury Divine without spinning your melon like a mentalist.

What more can I say? The Crusher Reissue is rape-and-pillagingly good. If you've got the 2001 pressing, keep it safe and warm but go and buy this fucker. The original album is good, the booklet is awesome but the live show is phenomenal.

I'm off to drink some mead. And draw a beard on.

The Crusher Reissue is out now on Metal Blade/Riot.