AMON AMARTH - Viking Masters Of War: Philly Surrenders!

May 9, 2017, 2 years ago

Mark Gromen

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With more than two decades as a recording act, Amon Amarth certainly have ample weaponry from which to plan each attack. Glad to say that our perspectives match, the Swedes opting, after an initial foray to plug last year's Jomsviking album, to stick with the biggest albums of their career (personally could have used a few more off With Oden On Our Side) and all but avoiding missteps like Surtur Rising.

Crammed the hull of their bowed neck longboat onto the tiny TLA stage, right to the edge and effectively cutting things in half, one guitarist either side of the bow, bearded singer Johan Hegg traversing from side-to-side each song. Between the boat and hulking frontman, not much space onstage, so the six-stringers remain fairly stationary, only their hair moving to & fro. A pair of shield, each with four black sectors and equal, matching whites, also flanked drummer, Jocke Wallgren, seated in the stern. On the other side of the barrier, a rabid crowd (probably should have been held in a bigger theater), were shoehorned into the standing room only venue. The opening salvo, an old school, red lit "The Pursuit Of Vikings" (Oden, guide our ships...) brought the anticipation energy to a boil, right away. Backed with "As Loke Falls", it set the table for Amon Amarth to then sneak in a trio of Jomsviking material (the last of it until the encore) before concentrating on the "hits" for the rest of the evening. Masterful craftsmanship!

When not bellowing into his mic, Hegg headbangs, or wags his tongue, a demonic glint in his eye. Have met the man several times, belying his stage presence, he's a soft-spoken, gentle giant. A green lit "First Kill" gives way to ambitiously presented "The Way Of Vikings", in yellow/purple and white hues, with flashing strobes. Compressed carbon dioxide cannons, lined across the front edge, shoot skyward, the thick fog obscuring even the burly singer! Stage bathed in blue, with white and pink spotlights highlighting drummer Wallgren, to introduce "Cry Of The Black Birds". When the band reappears (following the quick drum solo), Hegg is standing silhouetted in pink /blue illumination, arm outstretched, "raising the horns" overhead. A solitary white light punctuates the words of the first verse. For that one, the crowd is particularly active, singing, throwing horns, even a few crowd surfers. Apparently more recognized (appreciated?) than the Jomsviking material. Perhaps picking up on the energy surge, Hegg repeatedly taunts the audience, "I want to hear you scream!" as headlights stream right into the faces down front, while pink stage lights sweep the stage.

Almost seamlessly (no gaps), the Swedes segue into a more intense "Deceiver Of The Gods", with a steady barrage of strobes and flailing hair. The crowd sings along to the "whoa whoa" section, as yellow dominates the onstage landscape. A bouncy "Free Will Sacrifice" is greeted by pulsating red lights, before becoming a colorfully lit menagerie. Aptly, a pummel of drums, as if Thor himself was hammering the skins, introduces "Destroyer Of The Universe". Guess the lighting scheme for "Death In Fire". Surprise, there's some yellow within the crimson shade and more smoke plumes. At 15 years, it's the oldest tune offered. While Hegg departs, there's a brief Battle Royale between guitars. 

It's straight into the slower, more emotive "Under the Northern Star". The lone lull in the set, it began with the singer in crucifix pose. With crowd thrusting fists aloft, pink once more is the dominate color, these Vikings surely secure in their manhood. Stage barren and black, then green, while still empty, to intro "Father Of The Wolf", complete with lightning flash. It's persistent strobes on "Live For The Kill", so much so it's as if daylight is breaking. Proper set ending "War Of The Gods" is enveloped in lavender, with non-stop strobes.

Following a brief break, Hegg is back and talks to the crowd. The alehorn that's been strapped to his side all night, has now been freed, and filled, leading the "congregation" in a toast ("skoal!") while joking about the size of his drinking vessel, "Bigger is better!" Cue "Raise Your Horns", with the crowd singing the chorus. "Guardians of Asgaard" is up next, before a bruising "Twilight Of The Thunder God" brings the hammer down, one last time, for the evening. Like their ancestors, Amon Amarth are destined to rule the world, their sphere of influence is ever expanding. After dominating the Old World, it's on to Vinland. Better late than never!

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