I don't remember the last time that I actually saw Amon Amarth in concert so with their release of the "Twilight of the Thunder God" CD I was definitely looking forward to having the chance of catching them once again. The album itself was a crushing effort and found the band not tired and sitting back on past accomplishments but instead showing that they were still a capable and interesting Death Metal enterprise that was guaranteed to smite any of the non-believers to their cause. The show this evening was at the Fillmore NY and this is a great venue for a band like this as it’s not too small or too big and allows for a full house for bands that come for a visit. The show was a power packed event of interesting openers as well and delivered their record label mates The Absence as the first band up along with Belphegor and Ensiferum – there would truly be a little of something for everyone here tonight. When I arrived it was just at the point when The Absence was set to take the stage and sadly the room was not yet 100% full. It was those members of the audience not yet in place that would lose out on that to be certain and here is how the night went down for those who wanted the inside scoop.
The Absence: I'm sure that they’ve stormed through town before, but tonight would be my very first chance to catch just what Tampa, Florida’s own The Absence was all about. The most recent album that they have released on Metal Blade Records is entitled “Riders Of The Plague” and at first glance it seemed as though that most of their set would be from this album. It’s not odd to find this being the case because the band was only going to play about six numbers for some thirty minutes and then be gone for the next act to come up but I had to say that I really enjoyed their presentation. It was straight forward Death Metal with a dose of Thrash tossed in for good measure. Not all of their tunes would come from this release as “From Your Grave” came at us from an earlier release but the true highlight of their all too short appearance was their energetic rendition of Testament’s “Into The Pit”. It’s never a bad thing to close out one’s set with a rousing number but sometimes I fear that a band loses a little of their own identity when they choose someone else’s song as their finale. I would catch them again and feel that those who lean to the more classic style of Metal should do the same. From beginning to end they kept my interest and their full set ran down like this: “Riders Of The Plague”, “Dead And Gone”, Echoes”, “The Murder”, “From Your Grave” & “Into The Pit”. Belphegor was coming up next and it always seemed that the venues get a little darker when these guys come out.
Belphegor: With Belphegor's latest album "Bondage Goat Zombie" they proved that they are still capable of upping their Black Metal musical game and come off as tight as ever with their sonic assault. They would focus on the new CD which had come out earlier in the year and there is not a whole lot of talking coming out of their hulking front man Helmuth. He is a serious dude who takes his musical compositions all to heart as he conveys his Black Metal message. Fans of the more sacrilegious stuff will find him often sporting an upside down crucifix somewhere on his person and once I thought I caught this as a belt buckle. Clearly this is not a Hot Topic item by any means. They were as tight as all get out but the downside of a Belphegor show is that there is little else involved. It’s just the crushing and pounding of their notes. Of course during one of the final numbers, “Bondage Goat Zombie” we find the singer sporting a leather face mask that resembles the one on the album cover. This part of the set reminded me a little bit of how Behemoth’s Nergal often comes out dressed in character during the final moments of a set by the band. The band would only devastate the audience for about thirty minutes but in the end this seemed to be enough to make their sinister and blasphemous points. There is definitely a growing fan following for the band and from beginning to end their set list was composed of these numbers: “Intro – The Goatchrist”, “Seyn Todt In Schwartz”, “Belphegor – Hells Ambassador”, “Stigma Diabolicum”, “Justine Soaked In Blood”, “Lucifer Incestus”, & “Bondage Goat Zombie”. Including the introduction, they would be afforded one more number than the first band. Ensiferum was up next and I was rather excited to see them again.
Ensiferum: It was back in May that Ensiferum headlined the first-ever USA Paganfest and this incredible show put the talents of Turisas, Tyr and Eluveitie on the stage with them. They performed to a packed house over at B.B. King’s that night and to my knowledge this had been the first time that they had ever come over to these shores. Having them as the direct support for Amon Amarth was a smart move because it was the chance to tie the material together a little better based on the closeness in premise of the two main acts. We got the incredible Death Metal kickoff and a continuing assault by the Black Metal band and now was the chance to enjoy some Viking Battle Metal which really works along well with what the guys in Amon Amarth were doing in their band. The band plays a style of Metal known as “Heroic Metal” and their name is roughly translated into “sword bearing” even though the band doesn’t brandish any weapons on the stage to my knowledge. Well, they have not done so in the two times that I have seen them, but there is always the future right? They hail from Helsinki, Finland and that impresses me since their sound is much different from a lot of the bands from the region that I currently follow. Their set was definitely a high energy one and was led into by the glorious introduction piece entitled “Ad Victoriam” which leads the band and audience into the rousing “Blood Is The Price Of Glory”. The track is one of my favorites from the bands “Victory Songs” CD and as I glanced over the jotted down set list it seemed as though half of the bands set would come from the CD.
All of the members of the band perform in faces marked with war paint and the men do their thing with no shirts on. The lineup for the touring group is Petri Lindroos, Markus Toivonen, Sami Hinkka, Janne Parvianen and Emmi Silvennoinen. I think that I enjoyed them a little more as the opener tonight than I did at the Paganfest and perhaps that was because their material had now sunk into my head just a little bit more. The lights would now go down for a final time and that meant that it was finally time for Amon Amarth to return to their fans and crush their skulls with the hammer of Thor.
Amon Amarth: I am not sure how I missed the last time that Amon Amarth had toured in my region and I am guessing that the headlining spot that they did that night was on the same evening as something else that I attended but that didn’t matter anymore because all was right with the schedules and I was going to enjoy the incredible music from “Twilight Of The Thunder God” in the live sense with about 1100 other fanatical Death Metal fans. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Amon Amarth when the chances have arrived because they are an intensely satisfying live band who seems to know just how to keep the audience in their hands until the night completes. The stage was set up with banners depicting the new CD’s cover art and this same work was also on the double bass drums of the monster skin basher Fredrik Andersson. There were also huge Viking warrior shields positioned above the heads of the audience and their size was only comparable to that of the bands hulking lead singer the one and only Johan Hegg. To define Johan’s stage presence as imposing would be an incredible under statement if there ever was one. He is a giant to behold and he uses his persona to the maximum effect as he roars through the bands material.
As a band tonight they were nothing less than on fire and while the larger portion of their material would hail from the newest CD, they would also manage to deliver some older tunes and some choice trinkets from the “With Odin on Our Side” CD that came out prior to the newest one. I liked that they kept it like this because I am one of those newer fans to the bands style and cannot claim being into them “from the beginning” like some others might be able to. Of course outside of these seven or so numbers from the more recent releases was tempered by their long established classics in their fans eyes and none of it was being anything less than received with a ravenous hunger from the crowd. There were your small groupings of circle pits and of course the crowd surfing was going on and keeping the security people busy. I steered clear of that so I could enjoy the guitar dueling of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg who I felt were impressing me more than they had done in the past this evening. As the night began to get to its close we found Johan sporting his signature horn and drinking a beer from it, or at least from my vantage point I assumed it was a beer. The other band members joined him as well in this slight break and soon it would be into the closing number of “Pursuit Of Vikings” which would be the last we saw of them for the night. The set list was not as long as I had anticipated it to be and only comprised of thirteen tunes but with three other bands and no more energy to be found in my own person I was actually relieved and looking forward to getting some air. No one else seemed to be complaining around me so I am thinking that this was just the perfect amount of tunes to leave the audience with and have them hoping for a quicker return of the band at some future point.
I would have to say that this was probably the best that I had ever seen Amon Amarth perform and I give them credit for keeping it interesting at every gig. They have a killer DVD boxed set out which allows fans to see just how insane a full on European tour can be with its sword fights and battling – one can only hope that we will see something like this over here in the states sometime, but with the costs of such an added adventure I sincerely doubt it. Make sure you check out the bands latest release because it smokes and will leave you as breathless in its studio version as it does in the live sense. Horns and hammers up for Amon Amarth, our true defenders of the Viking Death Metal realm…….
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Official Web Site: www.amonamarth.com
Official Web Site: www.ensiferum.com
Official Web Site: www.belphegor.at
Official Web Site: www.myspace.com/theabsence
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