April 12, 2016
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Justin Press
Amaon Amarth - Amaon Amarth, Entombed
While Valhalla Sleeps Marauders Will Dance
The mere idea of a sub-genre called Viking Metal shows you how far the entire musical style has become where splinter groups have splintered from other groups. Tales of Norse battles, the nine Gods of the Skies and Earth and Ragnorak unknowingly pay high dividends if done with conviction and a slow build. And that is just what Sweden's Amon Amarth have done over the course of (10) albums and 16+ years hitting the boards. Their latest album Jomsviking landed in the US Charts Top 20, an unimaginable feat for a band that combines Viking fables with death metal vocals and guitars that split hairs between Slayer and Thin Lizzy, melodic but sharp enough to cut flesh from bone. As a living breathing touring act, the band itself shows no signs of wear or tear and certainly the endless well of Nordic tales to pull inspiration from. Tuesday night at House of Blues along with legendary countrymen Entombed (AD), Amon laid down its shield and brandished its musical sword running thru a very packed room.
Part of Amon Amarth's success is built upon the theater of the mind, as the stage set-up was a massive horned helmet that carried the drum kit on top of it. Theater indeed since its noted that Vikings never had horned helmets but Shakespearian theater took liberties with the legends and gave it a more identifiable appeal. Amon plays right into those liberties. Amid smoke and glowing lights the brand all adorned in simple black launched into the anthemic "The Pursuit Of Vikings" a mid-paced arena riff monster with a chorus custom built for "beer hall" sing alongs, "Odin! Guide our ships." you can sense where this is going and lead singer Johan Hegg, a mountain of a man replete with long blonde hair, wooded heard and a drinking horn strapped to his hip, is the picture perfect front man for a band that sings praises of "wolves, kings, mead and thunder Gods". The opening track from Jomsviking, a conceptual record based on the actual raiding and powerful legion of Vikings that factually existed, a fighting and labor-intensive horde, "First Kill" slices the air and from here on out the band is fire and brimstone who are committed to the cause of their woven tales with nary a wink and smile. And there is where the band succeeds because it sells the sound and characters so well, no different than Iron Maiden's WWII fighter aces or Slayer's demonic choirs, Amon Amarth are dug in and along other "Norse" influenced bands like TYR and Enslaved, are students of the culture.
Fury and flames are just part of their arsenal but what helps Amon deviate from a good number of bands from the death metal end of things besides their themes is their actual musical ability which is careful to not let the chariot veer too far from the path of a melodic foundation. No doubt they are fans of Maiden, Judas Priest and other bands that realize that a tune sells itself better if it has some hummable impact. Velocity might excite a younger "mosh pit" fanatic but its melodic guitars and rampaging backbeat that endears the songs to the greater masses. "Father of the Wolf" with its almost poetic guitar riffs nestles up easily with the breakneck "Destroyer of the Universe" due to this application of thinking: make it heavy and crushing, but make sure the riff floats above the carnage. Moving thru their vast catalog from their debut Once Sent From The Golden Hall on thru to 2013's Deceiver Of the Gods and the aforementioned Jomsviking (2016), Amon Amarth served up near 20 tracks ripping pages from Saga of the Icelanders in the process. They closed with the Thor's Hammer inspired "Twilight Of The Thunder Gods," an epic and sweeping tale of long ships, ravaging seas and the protection of man by Odin's chosen son.
Openers for this Jomsviking trek was Swedish death metal icons Entombed AD (the AD came after the usual legal wrangling) nonetheless the band along with At The Gates are gatekeepers for the Swedish brand of full-contact melodic death metal. Without them, who knows where the genre may have gone. Albums like Left Hand Path, Clandestine and Wolverine Blues are engrained in the minds of the truest metal heads. And the band delivered some outright classics including "Revel In Flesh" and "Living Dead" along with "Midas In Reverse" from their new AD record Dead Dawn. Is it equal to the legend? Most certainly, a bit more polished but still full of brain-hammering power and grit. Vocalist Lars Petrov still gargles with molten lava and his lungs were exceptional, (26) years and the he still peels the lead paint from the walls. This may well be Amon's tour but night after night Entombed AD must drive them to have to perform the best performances in years.