I was pleasantly surprised when I got no notification last week that the vinyl release has been delayed. And I was even more surprised when the records were delivered to me on the actual release date. So I am finally able to write a vinyl review on time and not years after the release of a record. Amon Amarth accompanied me through my teenage years from “Avenger” through “Versus the world” to “With Oden on our Side” and now “Jomsviking”. Although I am a huge fan, there are two major questions which come with this record. Does the international release via Sony change anything? And more importantly – will Amon Amarth deliver in terms of Jomsviking being their first concept album? Let’s find out.

Quick Facts:
Artist: Amon Amarth – website
Album: Jomsviking
Version: 2 LP, black + CD  – Discogs Link
Label: Sony
Found at: Amazon

“Jomsviking” is the thenth album of swedish melodic death metal legends Amon Amarth and their first in nearly three years after “Deceiver of the Gods”. This version is the double LP version (180g) in black. The Vinyl gatefold is advertised with including a pop-up viking boat and the album as CD (in a papersleeve). The vinyl version also includes the bonus track “Vengeance is my Name”. The CD is apparently only part of the european release via Sony.

Quality and artwork:
The gatefold is thicker then the usual double LP releases and that’s a big plus. The thickness comes from the pop out viking ship and the rather thick records which are 180g black vinyl. The aforementioned viking ship is propably the biggest let-down. I don’t know what I expected but this adds nothing to the gatefold. The record itself is perfect, heavy, pitch black, perfectly shaped and no blemishes whatsoever. The quality is simply great.

They have gone all out on the artwork this time with five different artists contributing to the additional artwork. Two artists nearly exclusively worked with other bands before (John Lorenzi – Megadeth, Samwise Didier – Hammerfall) whilte other’s seem to be pretty unknown in the field of album art. You should definitely check out the work of Indonesian Illustrator Adi Kalingga on www.silencer8.com. The impressive cover art was designed by Tom Thiel a german illustrator known for his work on various board games (Labyrinth), video games (The Settlers III) and album art (Amon Amarth, Brainstorm). He is also known for his artwork for the german tabletop RPG “Das Schwarze Auge”).

Sound Quality:
The sound quality is okay but worse than I expected from a Metalblade record (which it still is, despite the Sony release outside of the US). Listening to the album with turned down volume sounds crappy. The sound is washed up when you listen to the album on lower volume. The FDR Rating of the album is mediocre at best and a perfect example for the loudness wars. The differences between high quality spotify streaming and the vinyl version fortunately noticeable. But there are only little audible differences compared to the CD version which comes with the record. The album was produced, recorded and mixed by grammy winning producer (for Opeth – Deliverance) Andy Sneap who worked with legends like Accept, Saxon or Arch Enemy in the past. His mastering is usually near perfect, so I can’t quite put my finger on where the sound issues come from. On higher volume, the record sounds great fortunately.

The Music:
Die hard old Amon Amarth stuff fans might need some time for this album. It’s more melodic and less heavy/brutal than their past releases. Although this should be no surprise considering the direction of the past albums. To answer my intitial question – they did deliver. This is a great concept album with a variety of different styles and tells an interesting story. Only the part of Doro Pesch on the Song “A Dream that cannot be” sounds a bit odd. In my opinion, there could have been better choices for the female vocals but that’s just critique on a very high level. The album gets better and better with each time you listen to it. So if you are undecided to buy, give it a try on Spotify or YouTube first.

Conclusion:
While the quality of gatefold, the vinyl record itself and even the added CD is great, the record has surprising flaws in terms of sound quality. Higher volume is needed for the record to sound clear and good. On lower volume it’s really hard to distinguish the different instruments and sometimes even the vocals. I am used to better releases by Metalblade to be honest. I’d still recommend it if you are a vinyl enthusiast. If you are all in on sound quality I’d recommend buying the losless version.

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