Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Amon Amarth / Behemoth / Revenge
L'amours, Brooklyn, NY
April 5, 2003

Review By Los Muertos
Pictures and Commentary by Ice Maiden

This may be sort of an unconventional review; but then again this was a bit of an unconventional show. The performance itself was comfortingly traditional, but how Ice Maiden and I came to be here certainly was not--mainly because the performance occurred in a neighborhood of New York City you may have heard of known as Brooklyn, which is an entire continent away from our usual base of reporting! At the risk of turning in a "stream of consciousness" review, I feel constrained to report the events of the evening as they occurred, however different this review might have turned out under other circumstances.

Long story short: by hook or by crook we West Coasters, Ice Maiden and I, wound up in the Big Apple, terrorist target number one, during the middle of Gulf War II. Fortunately, despite the world turmoil going on around us the most frightening event that occurred on our voyage was the inexplicable deployment of the oxygen masks on our aircraft, for no apparent reason whatsoever, which turned out to be nothing more than a photo opportunity. 

After seeing such sights as Greenwich Village, SoHo, Times Square (and its resident "naked cowboy"), and the Museum of Natural History, on our final evening in New York we set our sights on L'amours Club in Brooklyn, where we hoped to see some metal New York-style and imbibe the crushing tunes of Amon Amarth and Deicide, the headliner for the evening. The show also presented the opportunity to meet with two longtime denizens of the Metal-Rules Disgruntled Metalheads message board, Ultra Boris and Arhar.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Totally unrelated to metal, but I have to say that it was pretty amazing to see the WTC site. Through a seminar for work, we were able to go walk through Ground Zero with the man from the New York Port Authority in charge of the rebuilding. For those of us who live far from New York, I think it was hard to really conceptualize the extent of the devastation from 9/11. In addition to the actual WTC buildings and church that we all heard about, there are many surrounding buildings that are now shrouded and mold-ridden as the owners and insurance companies battle about whether to tear them down completely or strip them to their steel cores. Truly, it was an emotional moment to witness the devastation and site of such loss.)

Boris and Arhar, looking a bit out of their element, met us at our hotel--the Helmsley, no less!--for the requisite bite-to-eat and pre-show drink. While on the big-screen TV behind us CNN broadcast the latest from the so-called "Battle of Baghdad," the four of us slurped down Heinekens, Diet Cokes and a couple of burgers served up Manhattan-style (whatever that is) at a bar called Harry's, named for the semi-comatose gazillionaire husband of Leona "Only-The-Little-People-Pay-Taxes" Helmsley, who despite her much-ballyhooed personal touch never seemed to appear in person.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: By this point, I was missing the Waldorf Astoria, which is where we were originally put up for our seminar that brought us to the City. The Waldorf has lost some of its former glory from its days as one of JFK's haunts, but it was still kinda fun hanging out and drinking in their dark, wood-paneled bar. It has an amazing rare book store with loads of interesting first editions, including a SIGNED first edition of Watson & Crick's book in which they explained their findings about the double-helix structure of DNA. Much to geek out about. I'm pretty sure we were the only folks at that hotel who were planning to see Amon Amarth the next day!)

After an interesting cab ride across the Brooklyn Bridge we found ourselves shivering outside L'amours in a long line of New York-accented metalheads, many intoxicated and others desperately desiring to be so. Ice Maiden, of course, got in right away without any trouble, but Boris, Arhar and myself endured the interminable 45-minute wait whilst being entertained by a ragtag band of 15-year-old kids in Metallica and Slipknot T-shirts, accusing each other of infidelity and various ninth-grade backstabbings. Thankfully the whole crowd wasn't quite so bad, and once we got inside at least there was alcohol to warm us up.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I'm not sure how cold it was, but I was FREEZING. I decided to make my way into the club to pick up my photo pass and skip the line. Shockingly, I just walked right in-no one bothered to stop me, apparently thinking I was supposed to be there. Thank the gods-heaters! I hung out and had a drink while watching the bands set up. Classic-there were two guys at the front, apparently the manager and perhaps the owner(?). We chit chatted, and I was highly amused to see that as all the beefy security guys came in, they kissed the manager-dude and owner-dude on both cheeks. Mafia? Friendly Italians? You tell me….

Finally, they were almost ready to open the doors, so I went to stand by the front. "Ice Maiden, is that you?" I turned around to find some of the guys from another webzine that I had met at ProgPower! I had no idea they lived on the East Coast, and it was fun to catch up and realize that we had all booked rooms at the same hotel for Wacken 2003! The small world of Metal…)

L'amour's is actually two clubs side-by-side, and each has a bar. When we discovered that one bar did not have Jägermeister, we quickly hot-footed it to the other, and Arhar and I guzzled the last of the Nectar of the Gods to be had in the entire place while waiting what seemed an interminably long time for the music to start. As the crowd packed in I noticed several of the guys from Amon Amarth milling about, manning the merchandise booth or just having a drink at the bar, including the bassist, who if you're a regular reader of my reviews you'll know did me a little injustice at Wacken by using me as a human paper towel to wipe off his picnic table! Arhar, Boris and I seriously debated whether the three of us could take the Amon Amarth bassist and give him a taste of his own medicine, but we decided to let bygones be bygones, namely because we didn't want to get thrown out of the club before the show even started.

 

There were several bands on this bill, some of whom played on the stage next door, but I do believe REVENGE was the first band we saw on the stage where we were stationed. This band played fairly standard Americanized black metal, mosh-worthy, but not particularly groundbreaking. The beginning of their set, which was full of aggression and some reasonably technical guitar-playing, was the highlight, for all of us found our attention wandering as the songs wore on. While this was not a bad band by any stretch of the imagination, they were a pretty standard opener and nothing they did was particularly noteworthy. I wouldn't go out of my way to see them again and probably would not buy a CD from them on the strength of their performance here, but neither did anyone in the crowd seem particularly disappointed in them. Overall they were all right but not memorable.

 

The next band to take the stage was BEHEMOTH. I've heard a little of this band here and there and although I don't own any of their albums, I was interested to hear them. By now the Jägermeister had definitely given out and I was beginning to feel the effects of having spent the entire day up until the show tooling around Manhattan on foot. Somehow I ended up right at the front of the stage for Behemoth, a place I don't often go at metal shows, but I got an exceptional view of this band. From the opening second they were a freight train out of control. Blistering, eerily melodic black metal, angry vocals and ass-kicking guitars violently thrashed the audience and elicited a high-energy crowd response that I think the band picked up on quite well. I confess I don't know this band well enough to be able to list the songs they played or what albums they came from, so I apologize immediately to any die-hard Behemoth fans out there who won't get a blow-by-blow from this review. Nonetheless I greatly enjoyed this set, and I have to say that except for the crowned heads of the black metal scene (Immortal, Marduk, etc.) it's not that common for me to really enjoy a black metal or heavily black metal-influenced band in a live setting. But Behemoth was certainly great, and the energy they got (and received) in this small setting suited them well.

 

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Behemoth were a big surprise for me. I had never listened to any of their albums, and I really wasn't expecting much. I don't know if I'd call them black metal, corpse paint aside-they seemed more like thrash to me, with some great guitar-work and head-bang-worthy riffs. These guys were great! They really hyped up the crowd, which was jam-PACKED for this event. The ProgPower guys told me that they had never seen L'amours so full and, indeed, there was little room anywhere.)

I probably shouldn't have gotten so far up in the thick of things for Behemoth, because when their set was over I found myself suddenly careening into an almost surreal exhaustion. I'm a three-time Wacken veteran and I've been on my feet for long hours during many a metal show, but I confess as soon as Behemoth left the stage I was really starting to lose the energy to go on. I abandoned the front of the stage and my friends--which now included Deathracer999, another Disgruntled Metalheads message board fixture--and went back to the bar area in search of a place to sit down. I found none, but I was at least able to prop myself up against the bar and thus avoid collapsing which I almost certainly would have done otherwise. It's damnable I was in that kind of shape because I was really looking forward to AMON AMARTH. Their set was one of the crown jewels of Wacken in 2002 and I couldn't wait to see them in a small club setting.

They certainly didn't disappoint! Vocalist Johan Hegg was a brash Viking madman from the opening bars, and Amon Amarth rained geysers of ruin down on the ever-thickening crowd with no breathers at all between the songs. The Swedish destroyers brought out a number of crowd-pleasing songs including "Bleed for Ancient Gods" (a definite highlight), "Versus the World" (title track from their newest album), "Bloodshed" and "Last With Pagan Blood." All of it was angry, assaulting, and completely ass-kicking. The sound quality at L'amour's isn't great, and Amon Amarth's usually crunchy-sounding guitars sounded a little too crunchy to me through this soundboard mix, but with the raw power and relentless energy the band put forth I can't say it detracted from the experience. The band had the crowd going quite early on. Brooklyn metalheads definitely know how to welcome a foreign band! Amon Amarth's final song, "Victorious March," had almost all the heads in the stage area thrashing furiously. I really wish I could have taken a more active role in the proceedings and to a certain extent I feel like I missed this fantastic band--but I was literally holding myself up to keep from crumpling into a heap on the floor. I can't even recall being so tired at the end of Wacken, and although I was sorry to hear Amon Amarth's final number die off into cheers and applause, I was also relieved that the show was effectively over. None in our party were that interested in staying for Deicide, the ostensible headliner, but there's certainly no way I could have made it.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Amon Amarth SLAY live. I like their albums, but I love to see them live. Consummate performers, these guys are FUN! They love to interact with the crowd, and anyone who wanted to had a chance to chit chat with Johan and the gang both before and after the set as they milled about and drank with their fans. The set list (courtesy of Boris):

  • Death in Fire

  • Bleed for Ancient Gods

  • Versus the World

  • Annihilation

  • Friends of the Sun

  • Bloodshed

  • Last with Pagan Blood

  • Stabwounds In Our Backs

  • Victorious March

I think a highlight for me was Bloodshed, which had everyone singing along at the tops of their lungs. Excellent set, even with the slightly poor sound.

Even after walking around the city for about 12 hours, I was so pumped by this show that I was ready to stay up all night, but I felt compelled to care for Los Muertos, whose look fit his pseudonym just a little too well at that moment.)

Unlike Manhattan, cabs don't run quite so swiftly in Brooklyn, and we had gotten painfully used to walking out the door and effortlessly hailing a canary-colored chariot. Ultra Boris and Arhar told us that we either had to take the subway or find a car service. Luckily there was a car service right across the street from the club, and there I collapsed and nearly fell asleep while waiting for our transportation back to Manhattan. On a street that looked like nothing so much as the set for the movie The French Connection, we bade Ultra Boris and Arhar goodbye. I was probably asleep two minutes after falling into bed back at our hotel. Another show was successfully concluded.

I'm not particularly chagrined that we didn't stay for Deicide, for I heard they were mediocre at best--which is largely what they were when we saw them at the Pine Street Theater in Portland in 2001. On the whole, though, this show was terrific. Amon Amarth gave a fantastic performance, Behemoth was also very good, and Revenge was solid. The crowd was lively and good-spirited, and composed mainly of true metalheads, although we did see the occasional trendy teeny-bopper or overweight goth chick. About the only thing I can take the club to task for is not having enough Jägermeister on hand! All things considered our show was a rousing and enjoyable ending to a terrific first trip to New York. Hopefully we'll be back someday, and I've got to believe that in a city of ten million people, there'll be some good old-fashioned metal to greet us when we return.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Many hails to the awesome folks in New York-we'll be back!)