AMON AMARTH Gig Review
Support: Septicflesh & As I Lay Dying
London / The Forum, Sunday 23rd October 2011
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Earlier in the year Swedish Death Metal legends Amon Amarth visited the United Kingdom in support of the much more commercially orientated Finnish outfit Children Of Bodom and during my interview with the band’s drummer Fredrik Andersson, the question as to why the Viking-inspired quintet hasn’t yet invaded London as a headlining act was posed. The much skilled skinsman was fast to explain that it might take some time before his band could fill a venue like the London Forum, so I gather that their latest opus “Surtur Rising” must have done pretty damn well in terms of sales here in the UK as, only six months after the interview took place, Amon Amarth are headlining this very venue, bringing a very interesting bill which consisted of Athenian Symphonic Deathsters Septicflesh and popular US Metalcore outfit As I Lay Dying.
Even though I have been living in the UK for almost a decade now, one thing that I still haven’t quite managed to come to terms with is queuing, but after having conducted a very interesting interview with guitarist Olavi Mikkonen and spending a few minutes chatting with the remaining members of the band I found that I was pretty much ready to face anything that was thrown at me. My only concern now was to ensure that I was inside the venue at 19:30 – the time that the Athenian mob Septicflesh was due on stage. The quartet came on stage bang on time and was greeted by a truly enthusiastic crowd – a crowd who banged their heads and raised their fists throughout the band’s forty minute set, the vast majority of which consisting of material from the latest highly-acclaimed opus “The Great Mass”. Sotiris Vayenas proved once again that he is a truly charismatic frontman being in total command of his audience throughout the set while guitarists Spiros “Seth” Antoniou and Christos Antoniou worked miracles on their six strings in combination with the various programmed orchestrations that were audible throughout the band’s set. Once again I was particularly impressed by Fotis Giannakopoulos, the band’s drummer, who, for once, was graced by a good quality sound, especially when classics such as “We, The Gods” and “Anubis” were performed. Sadly my personal favourite “Persepolis” was not part of tonight’s performance but, based on the truly positive reaction from the crowd, I trust that it will not be long before the Athenian noisemakers will return to London, hopefully to stage their own headline show!
I never realised how many people were at the Forum in support of the Metalcore outfit As I Lay Dying that very night until the lights went down and a huge roar filled the room. At this point I need to clarify that I am not at all attracted to the style of music that these guys are performing as I find it, among other things, lacking in imagination. Luckily for the Californian quintet there seems to have been only a few people that shared my views, as a huge number of people were either participating in the mosh pit, banging their heads or singing along to the band’s tunes, most of which seem to have been taken from the band’s 2010 release “The Powerless Rise”. Tim Lambesis has a very strong presence on stage, bassist Josh Gilbert’s contributions were both vocal and instrumental and while Jordan Mancino was pounding his skins with great strength and determination, the guitar duet Phil Sgrosso/Nick Hipa were constantly moving from one side to another. The good quality sound that was enjoyed by Septicflesh was sadly not provided to these guys and, to be truly honest, I was much relieved when they finally decided to leave the stage an hour after performing the first note of their set.
I have seen Amon Amarth quite a few times so far in my life and I always felt that there were certain things lacking in their past appearances on UK soil, whether that be a good quality sound or certain tracks that I am truly fond of. Well, tonight, Amon Amarth not only enjoyed one of the best sounds ever but also their set list was close to being the most comprehensive and all-inclusive of all, as it was only really lacking, in my opinion, one very important composition, namely “Cry Of The Black Birds”. The crowd was truly enthusiastic, with most people singing along to the catchy tunes of songs like “Runes To My Memory”, “Destroyer Of Universe” and “Pursuit Of Vikings” while others released their energy in the few mosh pits that were mainly dominated by people in their early 20s. I am not sure that the members of Amon Amarth really expected such a warm reaction by this London crowd as frontman Johan Hegg spent quite a lot of time thanking the audience for its participation during almost every single song that was performed. I cannot recall the exact point during the show that Johan decided to dedicate a song to Brian Slagel, owner of Metal Blade records and the man who first signed, among others, legends such as Metallica and Slayer, but I believe that I was every much as baffled as he was by the fact that most people didn’t seem to realise who the singer was dedicating that particular song to…how times have changed… Anyway, the second half of the show was as exciting as the first, as more guitar-driven belters such as “Slaves Of Fear” and “A Beast Am I” were performed and, even though I promised myself to take things easy following a bad cold, I forgot everything and began head banging the moment the first tunes of “Death In Fire” filled the room. Sadly, this was to be the last song of the band’s main set, however the noisy Swedes returned to perform two more crowd pleasers, namely “Twilight Of The Thunder God” and “Guardians Of Asgaard” before they left the stage in total respect of the venue’s 23:00 curfew.
Amon Amarth are a group of guys who, though having reached a certain level of success during the last few years, have their feet firmly on the ground and that is the reason, apart from the fact that they know how to come up with killer riffs and melodies, that I feel inclined to support them. Tonight’s performance has proven that the band’s appeal to UK Metal fans is on the increase as there are not many Death Metal bands nowadays that are capable of filling a venue of such a large capacity as the London Forum. If, for whatever reason, you missed that show you might still manage to get an idea of what took place on the night of the 23rd of October 2011, as the band’s performance was being recorded. Having said that, if tonight’s show is an indication of the standards that the members of Amon Amarth have reached with regards their live performances then missing one of their shows in the future is simply not an option! A night to remember!
Amon Amarth Set List
War Of The Gods
Runes To My Memory
Destroyer Of The Universe
Live Without Regrets
Pursuit Of Vikings
For Victory Of Death
Varyags Of Miklagaard
Slaves Of Fear
Ride For Vengeance
A Beast Am I
Embrace Of The Endless Ocean
Free Will Sacrifice
Death In Fire
Twilight Of The Thunder God
Guardians Of Asgaard
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