On Tues., Jan. 21 Swedish metal band Amon Amarth descended onto Dallas to play a headlining show at the House of Blues in support of their newest album, 2013’s Deceiver of the Gods. With Skeletonwitch and Enslaved along for support, the night promised to be a brutal tribute to all things black metal.
Despite the cold temperatures, fans (most wearing t-shirts donning the name of their favorite metal bands) began lining up hours before the doors opened for a chance to be front and center in the pit.
Ohio-based Skeletonwitch was up first, followed by Enslaved from Norway. It was refreshing to see the production value given to both opening bands. Too often, I’ve covered shows where the lead-in acts had terrible sound, no lights, and were confined to one corner of the stage to make room for the main band’s equipment. This wasn’t the case here. Both Skeletonwitch and Enslaved had excellent light and sound, which made for a more immersive and visually rich experience. One of the highlights of the night was watching Skeletonwitch vocalist Chance Garnette take charge of the stage with the energy of a wild man.
The Amon Amarth set consisted of 15 songs, with another 2 played during the encore. The first 3 of the night were "Father of the Wolf" and "Deceiver of the Gods" from the album of the same name, and "Death in Fire" from 2002’s Versus the World. Next was "Free Will Sacrifice" from Twilight of the Thunder God. At this point of the show, I was finally able to take in the full effect of the theatrical elements. Between the well-designed set depicting Thor and Loki in battle, the smoke machines set up at the front of the stage, and the flashing lights, watching the performance was like watching a play. I love going to metal shows because of the showmanship, and Amon Amarth has taken their production to another level. Lead vocalist Johan Hegg even plays the part. On stage, he is a large and imposing force. If someone told me he was actually a time traveling Viking raider, I’d have a hard time calling their bluff.
The next two songs were off Deceiver of the Gods- "As Loke Falls" and "We Shall Destroy." "As Loke Falls" started with Hegg giving a hearty ‘cheers’ to the crowd with a beer in hand, and ended with the audience pumping their fists in unison.
"Runes To My Memory" from With Oden On Our Side (2006) was next. If there is such a thing as a black metal ballad, this would be it- a thrash ballad, if you will. With lyrics that recall the honor of dying in battle and the desire to be remembered long after you die, it’s about as sentimental as a metal song is going to get.
For "Varyags of Miklagaard," Hegg told the crowd to jump like they’ve “never jumped before.” This preceded a group of heavier selections- "The Last Stand of Frej" (driving and relentless), "Guardians of Asgaard" (with the absolute best guitar solo of the night), "Shape Shifter," and "Warriors of the North," which lasted for over 8 minutes. After that Hegg said that they were done playing ballads (ha!), and they closed out the set with "Destroyer of the Universe," "Cry of the Black Birds," and "War of the Gods."
Any good rock show isn’t complete without a powerful encore. After finishing "War of the Gods," Amon Amarth left the stage to thunderous cheers and applause from the audience. Then, the lights went down, the fog came out, and thunder sounded throughout the venue while lighting flashed across the stage. Only a band that plays Viking-inspired metal would seek to recreate Ragnarök on stage.
Appropriately, after the stormy intro, the first song of the encore was "Twilight of the Thunder God." For the final song, "The Pursuit of Vikings" from 2004’s Fate of Norns, Hegg told everyone to sing along with the chorus, telling the audience “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the lyrics. It’s death metal. No one can tell the difference!”
Throughout the set, Amon Amarth didn’t shy away from playing new tracks- 6 in total. However, they did a good job of appealing to older fans by interspersing new songs throughout the set in sets of two, and always sandwiched the new song with 2 or 3 older favorites.
Hegg best summed up the night by saying “What better way to spend a Tuesday evening than going a [expletive] metal concert and drinking some booze?” Johan, we couldn’t agree more.
For the full album of Amon Amarth's set, head over to The Audio Altar's Facebook page.