"Oden! Guide our ships
Our axes, spears and swords
Guide us through storms that whip
And in brutal war"
These lines from Amon Amarth's "The Pursuit Of Vikings" were chanted so loudly by a packed house at the Granada on Sunday night that people passing by the venue outside might have mistaken it for a Viking rally from Valhalla itself.
The Swedish melodic death metal band may just be the most popular and recognizable foreign death metal band right now, and the passionate crowd attests to that. From the second they took the stage to the last note of the final song, Amon Amarth had everyone at the Granada in the palm of their hand. Whether it was their punishing opening song "Father Of The Wolf," the subdued "Cry Of The Blackbirds," or the absolutely punishing "Destroyer Of The Universe," the five Norsemen on stage were greeted with plenty of headbanging, crowdsurfing and singalongs to whichever song they performed. It's a rare thing for a metal band to get such a raucous reception to both old songs and new. One of the biggest crowd reactions was from the title track of the band's 2008 album "Twilight Of The Thunder God" - the crowd just about sang half the song on their own.
Frontman Johan Hegg had a giant smile on his face every time a crowd surfer went over the barrier. At one point, a little kid came over the barrier and Johan just grinned and gave him a thumbs up. The guys in Amon Amarth might look like terrifying Vikings, but they just wanted everyone to have a good time. The band performed for over an hour and a half and hit songs from six of their eight albums and sounded perfect the entire time. One of the best pure death metal performances the Granada has seen in a long time.
For most people when this tour was announced, the support band Enslaved was the main reason to get excited. Norway's Enslaved doesn't tour the United States nearly as much as Amon Amarth, but it's a mystery why not. Starting off as one of the main bands of the second wave of black metal out of Norway (along the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, etc.), Enslaved now injects a healthy dose of progressive and psychedelic music into their music. It was evident on songs like "Death In The Eyes Of Dawn" and "Ruun" that the band has evolved so far from their beginning black metal stage. However, when the band played "Allfağr Oğinn" off their 1992 demo Yggdrasil - older than many of the fans in attendance that night, they showed that they can still belt out fast, evil black metal with the best of them. Enslaved's performance was just magic. Maybe it was the inclusion of some clean vocals and keyboards or maybe it was frontman Grutle Kjellson's drawing of runes in the air during songs that just made them so fascinating to watch, but they were the best band of the night. Truly a sight to behold!
The lone American band on the tour was none other than Ohio's Skeletonwitch. Their brand of blackened thrash metal (with just about every other type of metal mixed in) served as the perfect combination to get the show kicked off at maximum speed. Their first album is a landmark of recent American thrash metal, but more recent songs like "Beneath Dead Leaves" and "Crushed Beyond Dust" show that Skeletonwitch only gets faster and heavier with time. Their set closer "Within My Blood" is also quite possibly the greatest closing song in live music history. A swirling torrent of riffs and headbanging - the type of metal to throw some beer to!
The sound was nearly perfect the entire night - everything was mixed great and was loud, as metal should be! All three bands put on amazing performances and left the crazy crowd satisfied. The town of Jayhawks left that night as true viking warriors!
1/11 - Skull Fist
1/16 - Reel Big Fish?
1/18 - Mayhem
2/12 - You Blew It
2/19 - 1349