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December 2, 2023

Last Week Live: Amon Amarth

August 28, 2011

Metal comes with a certain reputation. Angry. Hateful. Loud. Noisy. Luckily, Amon Amarth does everything they can to refute claims like that. The strongest emotion, strangely enough, permeating through the band, the audience and the music, is love. They love their music, love their fans, love their bandmates and love performing. The concert itself, though, was not typical. There were no opening acts, no long set switches, no headliners stepping on stage. This was, literally, an Evening with Amon Amarth.

They played two full sets: their entire new album, Surtur Rising, and a collection of more well known songs and sounds from their seven previous studio albums. In way of criticisms, there wasn't much. Surtur Rising is good, but not great. It has one or two songs that really stick out,  (“A Beast Am I” and “Doom over Dead Man”), but the rest blend together as repetitious. For a band that epitomizes the melodic death metal scene, there wasn’t all that much melody to be found. On the flip side, their performance was just as strong and brutal as the Vikings they sing about.

Lighting and sound was also considerably well done at the show. A massive red-orange banner of their new album cover was used ingeniously. Lit with black lights, the red was washed out to highlight the lava and the yellow was washed out to highlight Surtur himself. Backlights created eerie glowing rays through the fog machines.

The second set, however, was the exact opposite. The music, a “best of” compilation, was much stronger and much more rewarding, but the tech dropped the ball. The lighting designer couldn't help but shower the audience with epileptic colored rotoscope lights, forcing everyone to cover their eyes.  Sound design also fouled up, not catching up their levels with Johann Hegg's vocals, which were beginning to be drowned out by the guitars. But that's not the band's fault, and their performance grew stronger throughout the night. If anything, the good tech in the first act kept the crowd involved through the lackluster music while the great music made the bad tech a minor inconvenience.

In fact, Amon Amarth’s ability to just keep playing was the most shocking. Metal is probably one of the most grueling musical performances and yet the band's strength and energy was unwavering. Ted Lundström, the band’s bassist, explained. “[Metal is] not anger. A lot of time it might be anger, but it's really about energy. A lot of the time it's just energy. And it looks like anger but it's really just energy.” That's the core of what makes Amon Amarth great. They love to play with each other, acting as a band rather than a robot collection of artists playing on opposite corners of the stage, and they love to play for their fans. During the encore, Hegg called the audience Vikings and ran through the entirety of their most famous song, “The Pursuit of Vikings,” pausing in places just to teach newcomers the lyrics.

“We’ve been really really lucky for fans that will travel so far and follow the band and buy every album,” Lundström said. “I’m really glad to be in a metal band and not some pop band.” The fans can see that Amon Amarth loves metal and cares about where it has gone and where it’s going. “Hopefully our music can show where we come from. Since usually the age…when you're between 15-25…[is] pretty much [when] you form your musical style and influence. Probably for the rest of your life you'll come back to that. We just do death metal versions of what we listened to and perhaps kids who listen to us today will form their own style based on our band,” Lundström said. In the end, Amon Amarth delivered an incredible show. Live, their music is new, refreshing and crisp, forcing your heart to beat with its rhythm. But the band itself—with its love for their fans, its love for their music, and its love for metal—is the real show.

-Buddy Sola, for The News-Letter

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