Holy crap! Our first upset! I would have sworn that the Amon Amarth was a lock today, as they're the only "trüe" metal act competing in this battle.
But the interesting thing is that, even without the superficial trappings that make Jomsviking so obviously metal (it says "viking" right in the title, y'all), Polar Similar has got so much more attitude and swagger. Norma Jean's post-metal flavor has mutated into a Tool-meets-Thrice-meets-a-hot-poker-to-the-face amalgam, and that sound resonates with its unbridled emotionality. There's something familiar here, but not too familiar. The album's pacing fits the music's brooding tone, too: unhurried, but not overlong, and interesting throughout.
If only I could say the same for the latest Amon Amarth. There's nothing horrible about Jomsviking, other than the vitality present in the band's last few albums seems diminshed here. This is most evident in Johan Hegg's vocals from the start, but there's also a tiredness in the music. I'm not generally one to penalize a band for dialing down the BPMs, as seems to have been AA's plan on this album, and when it works (notably on Raise Your Horns), it's satisfying. Alas, there are too many misses and missteps here to keep the blood at a consistent boil, a weakness that ultimately rules Amon Amarth out of the competition far earlier than I'd predicted. Congrats to Norma Jean!
Tomorrow we'll listen to a nasty EP from Gorguts and the latest album from Fates Warning (the first full-on metal band I ever really listened to). Ahh, memories.