To say that this was one hell of a week in NYC would be an understatement. The spirits of the Big Apple’s residents was still on a high with the news that only a few days ago, that US Armed Forces had located and killed the terrorist leader and hated asshole Osama Bin Laden. Resultant of this historic action, the President of the United States had come to town to make a speech about it all but for those in the Metal Republic, the best place to be tonight would be at The Best Buy Theater where the mighty Swedes of Amon Amarth were going to be performing. It was a little over a year ago when we last saw the band who was at the time continuing their trek around the world in support of the “Twilight Of The Thunder God” album. The show also featured Eluveitie and Holy Grail and was a great experience for all assembled at Irving Plaza for sure. Now after a reasonable breather to record some new material they were back on US Soil and ready to deliver a crushing set of mythically themed and heroic Death Metal.
Interestingly enough, tonight’s show would be one of those “Evening Of” sets and this is something that one normally relates happening with bands like Rush, Dream Theater and even Opeth nowadays. For those who are not “in the know”, this particular kind of show means that no other bands are appearing and instead we get either a gigantic amount of tunes from a band performed back to back, or a couple of sets that each focus on a particular body of work. Amon Amarth would be first presenting their newest CD “Surtur Rising” in full from beginning to end and then doing the equivalent of a greatest hits set during the second portion of the show. Of course the term “hits” never really applies to Metal bands like this but I think you know what I mean. Let’s just leave it as a comprehensive selection of fan favorites. The stage setting was not all that much to describe outside of the bands gear and a massive drum set in front of the backdrop of the new album cover. This of course has the mighty Surtur and his flaming sword laying waste the mortals below him. When the band hit the stage there was a tremendous roar of approval and you know this always pleases singer Johan Hegg when he arrives. He very likely expects nothing less of a city like this considering the show he puts out there. So as mentioned the recently released album was going to be presented first and I had not yet heard it all at the time when I was hitting this gig so it was going to be pleasurable indulgence at the hands of these warriors of Metal.
As the new album thundered past our ears I had to say that I was enjoying what I was hearing and felt that this was the proper successor to the previous release “Twilight Of The Thunder God”. The audience seemed to approve and there were even a couple of Mjolnir style plastic hammers being waived above their heads in the crowd. Amon Amarth is a truly powerful band live and I’ve yet to see them put on a bad show. Sometimes I think it is better to enjoy them in this sense as opposed to the album because the very vibe of the show brings you right into their world. A few numbers had gone by when Johann spoke and said that these were the first few songs of the new release, so how about they play the rest of the album for you. It was too early for me to pick favorites from it and I will reserve that for when I tackle a full on CD review. I hope to get to that soon. Once the album had completed the band left the stage and was gone for about a half an hour or so. The crowd was already rather spent and retreated en masse to the rest rooms for water and to obviously dispense before refueling and then were once more raring to go as the Vikings of Metal returned. The return found them crushing once again with the opener from “Thunder God” and this while still new is a favorite track for me. From here the audience was treated to a cornucopia of band standards and some that are not often played. This set ran for fifteen numbers and clocked at over an hour and a half unless I was mistaken. We had a couple of medleys that sewed tunes together for good measure and literally something for every fan of the band in attendance. Another memorable Johann banter was relating to the upcoming movie “Thor” which they too were excited for, but stressed how they refer to him as “Asator”. Suddenly the fans sporting hammers were all the more cooler for thinking of doing this. My highlights from this part of the show were the aforementioned “Thunder God” and “Asator” in addition to “Victorious March”, “With Odin On Our Side”, “Runes To My Memory” and the closing “Pursuit Of Vikings”. When this one was done, I felt as though I needed oxygen along with a giant horn full of an ice cold beer. I would get one, but drink it out of the standard can like all the rest around me. I guess Johann got his at a specialty shop that I cannot access. The playing this evening was top notch and the guitar work of Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen was excellent. The driving force behind it all came from the monstrous drumming of Fredrik Anderson while Ted Lundstrom held it all together on bass. Clearly it was easy for Johan to command the stage with these musicians by his side.
All in all this was a great time and still there were some who had felt that even though this “Evening With” Amon Amarth was a great idea, that at least one single opener of note or equal intensity would have been an added plus. Of course these same people viewed that we would have likely been saddled with Warbringer, Blackguard, Powerglove or Mutiny Within and while they didn’t mean this as a slight against those bands, each of them had clearly been on far too many opening slots over the past year and a half and were tiring the fans out with the over exposure. Its time to mix it up and I have to agree with them on that even though I enjoy most of those bands from time to time. The venue was packed but they did draw the curtain in front of the seats which I never like since it does not give me a place to flee when the bodies start flying in all directions. Amon Amarth will continue this assault of the US fans for the next few months and be sure to pick up the new album so you are better prepared coming in.
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Official Web Site: www.amonamarth.com
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