After 23 years, Can Amon Amarth Conquer Any More?

Photo: JohnMcMurtrie
Photo: JohnMcMurtrie

Amon Amarth were headliners of a bill at the legendary Commodore Ballroom consisting of some of the more eardrum shattering Swedish metal the planet has ever produced. Conventionally not the most sought after day of the week to either play or attend a show, the Viking metal legends had little problem seeing the Commodore push the BCFC maximum occupancy ordinance laws.

Having two Swedish bands headline a bill in Canada the sole American outfit Exmortus, was placed in a precarious situation as opening act. The California based group started the evening off in fairly pedestrian fashion, looking and sounding like an Amon Amarth opening act from The Arrival of the Fimbul Winter days of 1994. One of these bands was not like the others.

The much repeated, questioned and overheard statement in almost everyone’s conversation that night was  “I wonder what Entombed A.D. is gonna sound like?” A question that fell second only to the subsequent follow up question “Entombed A.D. is f*^king killer, eh?” A byproduct of the Scandinavian death metal pioneers Entombed, Entombed A.D. picked up and continued to progress where the Swedish legends left off.

Formed in 2014 Entombed A.D. largely consists of members of Entombed’s twilight years. The original Entombed was as synonymous with band turnover as it was adaptability of sound. When after 17 mostly successful years saw the last original member of the group Alex Hellid become estranged from the more ambitious “new guard”, the band broke up in fairly dramatic fashion. When the newer members of the band accused Alex of resting on his laurels and taking “a million years to come up with a riff”, the Entombed namesake ironically became a caricature of itself, and unusable. However, out of the proverbial ashes rose the tireless Entombed A.D. birthing an album the same year of its 2014 formation, Back To The Front. The reminiscently Evil Dead-like title Dead Dawn was released this past February resulted in their touring with Amon Amarth. If Monday night was any indication Entombed A.D. is impressively here to stay and may just be ushering in another 17 years of the namesake being common nomenclature in the metalhead lexicon.

What can be said about the undisputed current kings of Viking metal that has not been repeated ad nauseam? Except that maybe due to the fact that traditional Viking culture had little reverence for kings, perhaps crowning them as such would be received with less gratitude than expected. In an evolving genre pioneered by Sweden’s Bathory, brought to prominence (albeit for the wrong reasons) with Burzum, and carried for decades by Emperor, there are few that would argue that Amon Amarth lay claim to the throne of the black metal / Nordic folk hybrid known as Viking metal.

With a painfully long layover between the second and third acts Amon Amarth appeared to have lost not a single beer swilling patron despite commencing well past the scheduled 10pm start time. When the five piece finally hit the stage they did so with such a ferocity and unabandoned ownership that not a single person in the captive sold-out audience harboured an iota of regret for having been kept waiting. To use the cliche these Vikings arrived and conquered is no doubt prevalent in most articles regarding the band’s live performance, but sometimes the need for pinpoint descriptive accuracy outweighs the masturbatory act of linguistic creativity. Combining a deafening sound riddled with milk curdling bass and a stage presence fraught with the confidence of Odin himself, Amon Amarth took not one of the impressive 19 blistering Nordic based numbers off for rest.

Due to the departure of longtime drummer and 17 year veteran of the band Fredrik Andersson, it was October Tide drummer Jocke Wallgren sitting in The Keep of the medieval style castle that fittingly took up much of the Amon Amarth stage. Impressively using every piece of his Pearl drumkit with a relentless attack of Vic Firth sticks on Sabian cymbals Wallgren proved early and often why he was tapped to backline the tour until such time as a full time replacement for Andersson is found. Atop the crenels of the castle flanking the frenetic drummer were cohorts Olavi Mikkonen (guitar), Ted Lundström (Bass), and Johan Söderberg (Guitar), all of which responsible for much hearing loss sustained Monday night.

For a band conceived in 1992 from Olava Mikkonen’s band Scum, Amon Amarth still contains three out of its original five members. Producing albums that are each arguably stronger than their predecessors, slowing down now would take one of the longbow archers (on stage with the group) a gruesome blunder to envision for the unit. Possessing a stage presence that exemplifies what it looks like to be in their respective roles Amon Amarth immediately put the hell-hammer down on a hypnotized Vancouver legion of chieftains, replacing for one night their metal horns for Viking horns.  

 Amon Amarth Setlist:

Pursuit Of Vikings

Loke Falls

First Kill

The Way Of The Vikings

At Dawn’s First Light

Deceiver Of The Gods

Cry Of The Blackbirds

One Against All

Thousand Years Of Oppression

Destroyer Of The Universe

Death In A Fire

Runes To My Memory

One Thousand Burning Arrows

Father Of The Wolf

War Of Gods

Victorious March

Raise Your Horns

Guardians Of Asgaard

Twilight Of The Thundergod