A Night with Amon Amarth A.K.A One Concert to Rule them All
August 12th, 2011 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Hall
Part 1: Surtur Rising
It’s been a very long year since the Viking Death Metal titans, Amon Amarth, pillaged the heavy metal ears of Toronto. Amon Amarth’s show this year would be unlike anything they played before. This concert contained an entire evening with Amon Amarth; three hours of pure Viking Death Metal. The first set would consist of them playing every song from their latest album, taking a beer break, and then returning with a second set list full of their greatest hits. Needless to say it was a concert for the ages.
Surtur Rising, like all Amon Amarth albums, is an amazing album. But until you hear the band perform it live you really haven’t heard the album at all. Amon Amarth is one of those few bands that sounds, and plays better live than they do on record. The entire experience and atmosphere that is created when these Swedish Metal Vikings take the stage is truly unprecedented. It was only a brief second that they stood in front of their loyal Toronto fans before they ripped into the first song of the night and the album “War of the Gods”. The moment they did, a mosh pit came to life. The mosh pit would see no amount of rest throughout the entire show, especially during “Destroyer of the Universe”. Your narrator would find himself out of air for much of the concert due to the endless carnage that could be found in the pit. All I can say is this...it was worth the sore neck, bruises and sprains that I woke to in the very unforgiving sober Saturday morning.
I could mention the performance song by song, but I’d be wasting your time. All I need to say is this: they played a perfect show. I know I am only supposed to be reviewing the first half of the show, but I can guarantee that John more than agrees with me. Furthermore I know that all of Toronto agrees with me. If I were wrong, the several hundred metalheads would not have chanted “Thank You” at the top of their lungs after the song “Live Without Regrets.” This endless chanting of the words “Thank You” combined with the word for word singing done by the crowd is not only a testament to the love Toronto has for great Heavy Metal but a testament to Amon Amarth. For a band that is able to call upon such a reaction from the audience was truly a sight I had not seen in this city and I doubt there are many bands that will match it.
After going to “An Evening with Amon Amarth” I fear for every future concert I go to. To spend three hours in the equivalent of a Heavy Metal Valhalla, for only the price of $35 per ticket has set the bar nearly impossibly high for future concerts for me. This has been my fourth concert with Amon Amarth, and it will certainly not be my last.
I now pass the torch to John, who reviewed the second set...lucky bastard.
Amon Amarth is the reason that I'm still on cloud 9 after experiencing what I did a few days ago. The first set was their latest album in its entirety from start to finish. I hung back to grab a few beers and enjoy the tunes with a friend of mine and after the jaw dropping, flawless first set we had to make our way to the front for the second. I'm going to be focusing more on this second set while Mr. Metal head MacDonald talks about the first.
I went with my friend up to the front as close as we could possibly get to the stage and await the Swedish Vikings to come back from their break. The smoke machines and lights set the mood for the song that is, to me, one of their iconic and most powerful songs. "Twilight of the Thunder God" got the mosh pit going at full force and every single person was singing along word for word to this battle hymn. The amount of raw power and strength this music creates is unbelievable and amplified in the heart of the pit. You feel a unity with everyone around you and what makes that even stronger is the perfection that Amon Amarth brings to the stage in presence and in sound. I say “perfect” even though some sour notes were played mostly during solos but after two full sets I'd be a little sour, too. It didn't take away from the experience at all!
Johan Hegg would talk every few songs to address the need for beer and the encouragement to be louder than Montreal. I don't know what that show was like but to whatever city they play after Toronto, we delivered a hard score to beat. I know I could barely talk after the show! The bass that Hegg has when he’s talking, along with his ability to control the room, really leaves me to believe that he could rally the fans and get them to attack a nearby village. Their stage presence was spot on with the expected trademark windmill head banging. The drums where tight the entire show, guitars where strong together along with the bass, and vocals didn't whimper or weaken one bit. From the start of the show till the last song of the night, they gave “an evening with Amon Amarth” a real weight and truth. The endurance and ability to deliver to the last second is incredible and speaks a lot for the band and their musicianship. If anything Amon Amarth is power in every way, shape, and form.
During the second set they went all over the place playing songs like “Runes to My Memory”, “The Last With Pagan Blood”, and “For the Stabwounds in Our Backs”. After they had finished and said goodnight to Toronto I stood and chanted with the crowed "Thank You" to the Norsemen until they came back for a three song encore! The song that got me into Amon Amarth was what they opened with which gave me chills to no end. “Cry of the Black Birds” solidifies my entry into metal from when I was in grade 10 and just the history and emotion I have tied with that song carried over in how I wind milled my head off. Following that they played “Valhall Awaits Me” and I have to say you can see the enjoyment they get from hearing and seeing the crowd’s reaction to their material. How they all look at the fans and rock out for as long as they did. How they play with such freedom and lived in the moment. I mentioned earlier about some sour notes which didn’t make it “perfect” but looking back it made the show more real. The energy from the fans is conveyed in the band and vice versa. It’s all about the music and you could feel it in the room. The final song of the night is one that I know everyone, even those who aren't fans, have seen the music video to. Olavi Mikkonen stepped up on the monitor and started to play the intro to “The Pursuit of Vikings” and the place went wild. Everyone singing along with all the volume they could muster. Hegg encouraged the singing by saying "Sing along even if you don't know the words. It's DEATH METAL! No one will know the difference", and I got a huge kick out of that.
The show left me feeling empowered and fulfilled. With all the shit life chucks at us, it's refreshing to go to a show and be blown away and taken to another realm. To witness a magic between the fans and the band as we share a roof and are one for the night. The show was flawless and an evening with Amon Amarth is well worth your money. If you can see them on this tour then I urge you to go. You will not be disappointed! Keep this in mind; I only talked about half the show!