A little over a millennium ago, the first Viking longboats pulled up on Erin’s shores… once the initial raiding parties had departed, a few of us settled down while others returned several centuries later – this time in peace, merely seeking to make new lives. A further few hundred years down the timeline, the raiders keep on coming, with Sweden’s finest musical export descending once again upon the one part of the island to which their ancestors made it only fleetingly so many generations afore…
Leading the Celtic resistance, openers Darkest Era are making one of their rare forays out of the wilds of County Fermanagh. It’s been quite a while – by my reckoning, more than two years – since the band last graced a Belfast stage, but they show absolutely no signs of ring rust as they enthusiastically bound onto the stage to an equally positive reaction from the growing number of early comers.
With new drummer Cameron Åhslund-Glass (well, he’s ‘new’ to Belfast audiences at least) proving a real powerhouse behind the kit, and bassist Daniel O’Toole holding down the bottom end with laconic aplomb, frontman Krum leads his DE troops into the fray with the fiery enthusiasm of a true Celtic warlord, whipping the audience up with his easy manner as the band premiere tracks from their new album ‘Severance’ in a way which reminds of a less-overblown Primordial. The star of the show, however, is guitarist Sarah Wieghell, who whirls around the stage like a dervish on acid, wielding her Flying V with the dexterity of a warrior princess cleaving skulls with a battleaxe…
On the last two occasions one which Amon Amarth had visited Belfast, substantial numbers of fans had been disappointed by what can best be described as the sparseness of their stage shows – ie they were non-existent: this time, however, they have gone someway towards rectifying that feeling and have brought as much of their set with them as they can physically squeeze onto the club’s stage. OK, they were never going to be able to use the massive longboat prows which had dominated the Bloodstock stage just 48 hours earlier, but the backlit rune stones were a nevertheless impressive sight…
What follows is a slightly elongated version of their BOA set, with, somewhat surprisingly (especially given guitarist Johan Söderberg’s comments in our pre-gig interview – see below), less emphasis on the current ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ opus and more of an emphasis on ploughing their back catalogue.
Frontman Johan Hegg towers like a colossus over the tiny stage, which in turn is dominated by Fredrik Andersson’s double bass kit, and has the audience beaten into submission within seconds of the opening assault of ‘Father Of The Wolf’; equally quickly, the entire venue is a mass of flying hair and flailing, sweat-soaked bodies.
The band do look somewhat cramped on the (comparatively) small stage but still put their all into the performance, with Hegg, Söderberg, Olavi Mikkonen and Ted Lundström making use of every millimetre available to them, with the colossal vocalist pausing only for the occasional swig from his drinking horn as he leads the returning conquerors through another triumphant invasion – the success of which he acknowledges when he smiles and seems content that the gods themselves have heard the titanic ‘Odin’ chant and graciously recognizes that “without you we are nothing” as he repays the adulation of the fans.
No matter the circumstances – be it playing to many thousands at an outdoor festival or several hundred in a sweaty club – Amon Amarth always put their all into their shows, and always leave their fans more than satisfied that they have enjoyed an evening with one of the best live bands on the planet… and tonight was no exception as, to paraphrase Julius Caesar, they came, they saw and they well and truly conquered!
Father Of The Wolf / As Loke Falls / Death In Fire / For Victory Or Death / Deceiver Of The Gods / Guardians Of Asgard / War Of The Gods / Cry Of The Black Birds / Valhall Awaits Me / Victorious March
Twilight Of The Thunder God / The Pursuit Of Vikings
Photographs by Marc Leach.
Read our interview with guitarist Johan Söderberg at http://planetmosh.com/amon-amarth-johan-soderberg-interview-belfast-12082014/
Amon Amarth’s most recent album, ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’, is available on Metal Blade Records.
Darkest Era’s new album, ‘Severance’, is available on Morrigan Music / Cruz Del Sur.
Thursday September 25 – Birmingham, Scruffy Murphys
Friday September 26 – Manchester, Sound Control
Saturday September 27 – Glasgow, Classic Grand
Sunday September 28 – Leeds, Library
Monday September 29 – Sheffield, South Sea live
Tuesday September 30 – Bristol, Exchange
Wednesday October 1 – London, The Garage
Support on all dates comes from Ancient Ascendant, Farseer and Hundred.