AMON MARTH, METAL CHURCH - End Of The Road In New Jersey

October 19, 2016, a year ago

By Mark Gromen

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Last night of the Megadeth tour sees the Swedes outdoors, at the BB&T Bank Pavilion, in Camden, NJ. Actually, the back end of the venue (separated from the lawn seats) has been closed since the end of summer. Strong set, with trio of backdrops and a dragon head (with electric eye) Viking longboat, center stage, drummer perched on the stern. A set of stairs either side, allows Johan Hegg to criss-cross the stage. He also sings from the bow, the bassist and guitarists making less frequent forays onto the vessel. "Twilight Of The Thunder God" is a powerful opener. Look in the dictionary under "roar" and/or "bellow" and surely an image of the burly bearded Swede will be underneath. The pomp of "The Pursuit Of Vikings" (typically reserved for the end of the set) allows Hegg to headbang maniacally.

Following "As Loki Falls" the backdrop which features a sail and ocean view (so those in the seats get the illusion the ship is under sail) is switched to the artwork for the new Jomsviking, complete with icy blue lights, for "First Kill". A pounding "On A Sea Of Blood" is appropriately lit in red, plenty of hair shaking as twin guitar leads are the rule. Eight overhead green lights focus on the head of the boat as Hegg recites a line from old favorite "Runes To My Memory" before it even starts. However, is it in the Viking ethos to bow, after the song concludes? The infectious, headbang inducing "Deceiver Of The Gods" is more lethal than anything in the Megadeth canon these days, although some of the (sadly out-of-touch) seated old-timers, staring at their cellphones, obviously felt otherwise. "Raise Your Horns" has a dual meaning: the drinking horn belted to Hegg's side throughout, as well as the iconic metal hand signal popularized by Ronnie James Dio. All five members raise an ale horn, "Skoal!" Last night of the tour hijinks, during the song, here's also a visit from the swashbuckling Butcher Babies (opening act with faux weaponry in hand), storming the ship as Hegg shouts, "Pirates!" "This is headbanging music", booms the vocalist, "Let's see some action." A third backdrop, featuring a battle scene, warriors armed with shields and lances, is unfurled. Hegg sips his drink throughout the chorus and looks disheartened when it's finished, dumping it upside down, to signify its emptiness. A fist thrusting "Guardians of Asgaard" sees the majority of the crowd thrusting fists skyward, as much a salute to the band onstage, as the mythic gods. Today, only the musicians deserve hallowed status, even in heathen North America.

On surface, a set comprised of just five songs from Metal Church (not even one per album) would seem pointless. However, ran into several 30 to 40-something guys who all said the same thing, "This is the first chance I've had to see them." The free signing session, in the lobby, after the fact, would prove just a bonus, for both young & old alike. Scrims with the cross/guitar either side of drummer Jeff Platte (TSO), they open with "Fake Healer", expressive, bug-eyed singer (in burgundy stretch pants) Mike Howe bouncing around the stage. The rest were fairly stoic (fair to them, there wasn't that much room, playing in front of two other band's equipment. "start The Fire" was another nod to yesteryear, before selling the new, reunion CD with "No Tomorrow". "Badlands" begins with the trio of stringed musicos across the front of the stage. Bassist Steve Unger adds backing vocals. For the "Beyond The Black" finale, they're joined by Amon Amarth's Hegg, who offers the spoken word intro. Howe handles the rest of the song, nailing the concluding sustained high note. Here's hoping for continued success.

Strange seeing Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer) behind the mini drum kit for Suicidal Tendencies, who, after kicking off with a frenetic "You Can't Bring Me Down" (frontman Mike Muir a perpetual motion machine, skanking across the stage). Advice of the moment: "If you're expecting politicians to save you, you're already dead!"

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