Live at the House of Blues in
Los Angeles, CA
April 24th, 2011
The event was specially presented as “An Evening With Amon Amarth” and it most definitely lived up to the expectations that such a statement would induce.
There were no opening acts on this tour; only the headlining masters of Viking inspired Melodic Black Metal hailing from Sweden, granting us a double set of material. This tour is in support of their newest musical endeavor, “Surtur Rising” which offers ten tracks of exemplary extreme metal and puts forth the signature talent of the mighty Amon Amarth.
Amon Amarth base their lyrics and imagery around the Epic tapestry of tales woven in and about the blood of the gods from their homeland. Oden and Asator figure prominently in their sagas, Asator more commonly known as Thor, the Thunder God and Oden is of course his father, the lord of Asgard.
With their tales come all of their friends, families and enemies, Surtur being the latter and the oldest being in the Nine Realms. He is a focal energy point in the new album, culminating with the awesome track “Destroyer of the Universe”.
Amon Amarth gave us the opportunity to hear the new album in its entirety for the first half of the evening’s festivities. Having seen these guys before, I was really excited about an entire set of new material so this was an awesome way to set up the show.
With a sold out show they seemed to fill the venue beyond capacity, I have never seen the main floor of the House of Blues this packed. There was no need for warm up acts, the crowd was ready to party with Amon Amarth from the get go and within the first few riffs of “War of the Gods” people were crowd surfing over the barrier on top of those of us in the photo pit.
One of the things I love about Amon Amarth is their dual guitar layers that are intricate and melodic in comparison to many of their Scandinavian genre mates but still retain a driving, head banging force.
Many of their songs begin with a signature hook or riff and then build upon that into a great song that is recognizable from those initial three or four notes. You know when “Guardians of Asgard” is coming or “Cry of the Black Birds” as if the crows and ravens were literally calling.
The other thing I love about Amon Amarth is the vocals and lyrics. You can thank Johan Hegg for this side of their sound. The imposing figure, dressed all in black with black leather gauntlets adorning his forearms and a beard that would make Oden envious, growls out songs of war and the gods that herd their human followers to spill each others’ blood in their name, all with an appropriate air of power and aggression. Legends and Myths are given their just due with epic storytelling and also a force of strength worthy of the battle-ready pantheon that the Northern Lands have spilled upon the earth.
Behind the band was a gigantic banner sporting the artwork from “Surtur Rising” The color palette is in line with all their awesome artwork over the years and they used some reflective material in the fire surrounding Surtur’s sword so when the stage lighting flashed, the sword looked to be magically illuminated, it was a neat play of imagery and as usual the lighting was top notch all around, building a lush atmosphere of reds, blues and greens which added intent to the already intense songs.
The new album is a powerhouse from start to finish and often when the last track “Doom Over Dead Men” finishes its final note, I will instantly hit it back to the beginning for another go around. Unfortunately in a live situation this is not possible but thankfully Johan announced, with perhaps as much excitement as we in the audience felt, that there was another full set coming.
As if the first set in itself wasn’t a concert outright, we then were treated to a whole lot more after a short intermission. As they re-emerged the signature notes rang out heralding the champion of Asgaard.
They blasted into “Twilight of the Thunder God” right out of the gate which is an awesome song and still one of my favorites of any band, any genre. The second set consisted of another ten songs spanning their back catalog and mining out the best songs over their extensive career.
I really love “With Oden on Our Side”, “Guardians of Asgaard”, “Asator” and “Gods of War Arise” which ended the set. Having heard twenty songs now, it was an amazing experience but I knew they would come back for an encore as there were a few songs they had not performed yet and the audience would not leave the venue without hearing them.
I pretty much called the encore and not because they are predictable but because they hadn’t done three of their all time best tracks yet, so I could guess what was ahead. They started out with “Cry of the Black Birds” with its aggressive cry to attack. This whipped the crowd up into a frenzy in preparation for the final songs of the night.
They went into “Runes to My Memory” next which is an epic tale of death and leaving an epitaph carved in runes by which to be remembered, a tradition we carry on today with our cenotaphs and cemetery stones albeit in our own language and not the symbolic mystical alphabet of ancient days.
Finally, they fittingly ended the night with their signature sing along hit, “Pursuit of Vikings” which always gets the audience belting out the chorus without prompting. This song is pretty much a battle hymn to be sung as warriors venture out to battle across the waves and has a powerful effect even to this day, especially with hundreds of voices joined in unison.
Amon Amarth is one of the best extreme metal bands in the world and they certainly are one of the best live acts to experience. There is an intense energy but also a sense of fun and enjoyment that comes from the band and audience even though the songs and lyrics are of an aggressive nature, that energy builds a happy communal experience.
I had a great time (and it landed on my birthday as an added bonus). I highly recommend seeing these guys live, if you aren’t a fan when you walk in the venue, you will be when you leave. They provide a great performance making it impossible not to get swept up in the wave of their battle ready mayhem.
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