with Darkest Era
@ Limelight1, Belfast
August 12th, 2014
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Paul Verner
WHEN agreeing to review Amon Amarth Belfast date I did warn the commissioning editor that I would be opting for the more visceral experience of reviewing it with a pint or two, (ahem!) and probably from the pit.
Undeterred, she gave the okay! Given Amon Amarth are one of my favourite bands, it was inevitable that I’d want to be in the thick of the action when the Swedes came to town!
However, after interviewing the affable, laidback – offstage anyway – Johan Hegg [on here later this week] I settled down to watch Northern Irish Celtic metal act Darkest Era. After having their first full length album, ‘The Last Caress of Light’ out o Metal Blade, the band are now with Sanish label, Cruz Del Sur Music, for their current latest release, ‘Severance’.
Performing to growing numbers coming through the doors for the headliners, Darkest Era showed why they have impressed with festival appearances and support slots – unlike many growing bands they have confidence and aplomb.
Krum’s deeply resonant voice, has a deep under-current of passion and melancholy amidst the noise. Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Wieghall weave intricate guitar parts – always reflecting their influences such as Thin Lizzy, but with a definite stamp of a Celtic signature.
‘An Ancient Fire Burns’ and ‘The Morrigan’ were particular highlights with Daniel O’Toole’s bass and Cameron Ashlund-Glass on drums maintaining a hectic hammering, using the soundm system to its fullest extent.
However, from my perspective new track ‘Sorrow’s Boundless Realm’ showed the real ability of the band. Simply put, it is criminal that Darkest Era are not already in the minds and ears of more fans of metal; their sound is almost unique on the scene.
Amon Amarth – what can I say about their performance that would not spill into superlatives. Always loyal visitors to Ireland, north and south, the band have maintained a steady upwards trajectory since the breakthrough release, ‘With Oden On Our Side’ in terms of sales, audiences and performances.
Coming just two days after their triumphant Bloodstock appearance this was a metal performance par excellence. As the opening tape rolled it was impossible for me to stay back, and I was soon on the edges of the pit as ‘Father of The Wolf’ resounded and Hegg roamed backwards and forwards like a stalking wolf himself.
The cohesion of the band was evident and I couldn’t help but notice the exchanged smiles between the band throughout…especially recognisable as I crowd surfed to the front. (I told you this review was not going to be conventional…)
Sporadic pits thronged and heaved throughout, only interrupted for singing along to choruses. By the time ‘As Loke Falls’ rumbled forth the pattern was well established…pit, shout with Hegg, raise horns, pit, bar for refreshments, then back to the pit.
I only ‘went down’ twice in the pit, a lower than average ‘on the floor’ rating, for me. But full pit etiquette was observed for everyone that went down. The pounding, storm-inspired riff of ‘Guardians of Asgard’ raised the crowd response yet further – on album it’s a great tune, live it is music to accompany when you’re invading countries.
With the likes of ‘Blood Eagle’ from ‘Deceiver of the Gods’ as well received as older tracks such as ‘Cry of the Black Birds’ it is clear the fanbase are as devoted to the progress of Amon Amarth as are the band themselves.
And, damn it they were tight on the night. Hegg beamed at the crowd as Mikkonen and Soderberg spellbound with solos and harmony on their axes. Okay, referring to guitars as axes may be a cliché but come on, it’s Viking Metal after all.
But the emphasis was always more on the metal in this set. Anderson on drums and Lundstrom’s bass kept the whole ensemble nailed down, particularly as ‘For Victory Or Death’ and ‘Embrace of the Endless Ocean’ pummelled all in their path. It would be easy to write off the frippery and nonsense of the viking/norse motiff, but that is to ignore the very essence of what Amon Amarth have carved in runes upon the ‘Swedish Death Metal’ sound. Tales of the past and drinking horns are the adornments, the icing on a very tasty metal meal.
To summarise: Was enough beer consumed to reach the balance between reviewing and blackout? Yes. Did I, as per the warning to the commissioning editor (hi Anna!), indulge in copious headbanging and enter the danger zone of the pit? Yes. Did I, crowd surf? Yes – 47 years of age and still I know no better!
Did Amon Amarth deliver? Don’t be stupid! Of course they did. A truly excellent band, delivering truly excellent songs, and in delivering the crowd into the slab-like hands of these Swedish metal warriors.
Father of the Wolf
Deceiver of Gods
Death in Fire
For Victory Or Death
As Loke Falls
We Shall Destroy
Guardians of Asgard
Cry of the Black Birds
Embrace of the Endless Ocean
Valhall Awaits Me
War of the Gods
Twilight of the Thunder God
Pusuit of Vikings