Amon Amarth + Testament + Grand Magus
@ Roundhouse, London
4th November 2016
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Inty Malcolm
Swedish Vikings Amon Amarth returned to the shores of Britannia the first Friday of November in the year of 2016. Having finished plundering and burning all relevant villages and settlements about a millennium earlier, the Swedes arrived that day with gifts rather than trouble: gifts in the form of a behemoth of a metal show, including old school thrash from the New World, rocking heavy metal from their homeland, and a good dose of hard hitting melodic death metal centered around themselves. This was of course Amon Amarth’s stop at the Roundhouse in London, as part of their headlining tour promoting Jomsviking together with Testament and Grand Magus. An eager London audience greeted all bands with what was probably more enthusiasm than the villagers of the isle a millennium earlier, when they saw the armada of longboats approaching their shores.
Metal-Rules also had the chance to interview Amon Amarth’s guitarist and founding member Olavi Mikkonen before the show, and the interview can be read here: http://www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2016/11/06/amon-amarth-interview-with-olavi-mikkonen/
Kicking off the night were Swedish heavy metallers Grand Magus. Taking the stage at 7pm, the three-piece enter to a dramatic orchestral intro tape and don’t waste a second before presenting their melodic mash of metal.
There was double bass drumming pounding from the very start, galloping riffs all over, and some obvious inspiration taken from the masters of metal from years earlier. “Varangian” features Maiden-esque guitar melodies, and the main riff to “Steel Versus Steel” would make the axemen of both Judas Priest and Accept proud.
The ground floor is quickly filling up at this point, and it is obvious that the audience is loving what they are hearing. Frontman JB Christoffersson ask the crowd if they are read to sing with them, and continues to dedicate the following song (“Iron Will”) to the “lovely London weather, it makes us feel at home!”
Their set is finished after a chanting singalong worthy of Rob Halford himself ends “Hammer Of The North”, leaving us all hungrily awaiting the legendary veteran’s coming up next.
1. I, The Jury
2. Sword Of The Ocean
4. Steel Versus Steel
5. Like The Oar Strikes The Water
6. Iron Will
7. Hammer Of The North
Bay Area thrash icons Testament released their newest studio effort Brotherhood Of The Snake a week prior to the show, and brought along a fair amount of new material to an audience of young and old fans. Amon Amarth guitarist Olavi Mikkonen commented prior to the show on tour lineups consisting of bands with different fanbases, saying he enjoys a ‘package’ like this, where the maybe more old school Testament audience is introduced to Amon Amarth’s music, and vice versa. Judging from band shirts among show attenders, there were a fair few
Testament fans in the audience, something reflected in the massive response the thrashers received when taking the stage. As tight as always, the Bay Area legends performed classic songs long established as thrash metal staple songs alongside just as potent newer material with flawless perfection.
Admittedly, the Brotherhood-material isn’t quite as pleasing as hearing the timeless classics like “Disciples Of The Watch”, “Over The Wall”, and “Into The Pit”, but it is satisfactory nonetheless, and the crowd seems to agree.
Frontman Chuck Billy hits us with a soaring “are you ready?”, before ripping into the title track of the new album. In the beginning, the mixing makes the vocals way too dominant, drowning out much of the other impeccable musical craftsmanship on stage.
There’s a tiny moshpit going already, and one could wonder whether Chuck Billy should have picked up the guitar himself, judging from how much he pretends his mic stand to be one.
Billy sounds a little hesitant and not as powerful during parts of “The Pale King”, but being a new song and all, he is quickly forgiven.
The stage seems at times a little small for a band of their stature, but there is also a peculiar satisfactory sensation about seeing a band I last saw perform on the mainstage at Graspop, on the small stage in the Roundhouse.
The intro to “The New Order” has to be one of the most intense live moments of the night, and the electrifying performance of their older material only serves to show that Testament is still very much a driving force in the thrash scene. “Stronghold” off the new album is dedicated in support of the Native Americans facing a pipeline through their reservation at Standing Rock in North and South Dakota, US.
The moshpit is getting bigger by now, and (not surprisingly) reaches its climax during “Into The Pit” (duh). “Over The Wall” becomes my personal highlight of their set; being close to the perfect live song, there isn’t much that can beat a guitar solo singalong in an enduring staple song known to everyone calling themselves a thrash metal fan. The ground floor of the venue is just about packed now, and “The Formation Of Damnation” ends the show in a worthy way.
1. Brotherhood Of The Snake
2. Rise Up
3. The Pale King
4. Disciples Of The Watch
5. The New Order
6. Dark Roots Of The Earth
8. Into The Pit
9. Over The Wall
10. The Formation Of Damnation
As soon as the lights go out roughly half an hour later, the crowd explodes into a sound wall of cheering. The Vikings enter the stage and guitarist Mikkonen commences the feast with the iconic and unmistakable opening riff to “The Pursuit Of Vikings”. It is crazy loud, the crowd is jumping from the very start and sings along to the distinct and beloved riffs. The always smiling and friendly Johan Hegg takes the stage to the delight of the audience. The synchronized head banging of the band members is already on point. It doesn’t take long before the crowd is moving in a mosh pit-like manner, and the first crowd surfer soon emerges.
The backdrop for Jomsviking is revealed and father Hegg stands mighty tall in the center of the stage and announces “We missed you guys!” He tells us to prepare for some “Norsemen fun, to rumble like Vikings, and party like berserkers”. “First Kill”, the first single of the new album sees a band genuinely enjoying themselves on stage, Hegg often stopping to gaze out over the crowd, smiling.
“The Way Of the Vikings” introduces two real time Vikings entering from each side of the stage and fighting till death, until one remains victorious and drags the other off stage. The line “fight until your dying breath” has gotten a semi-literal meaning tonight it seems. We are served three songs off the new album before being taken back to 2006s With Odin On Our Side for the goosebumps-producing “Cry Of The Blackbirds”.
Hegg wants the crowd to scream and the crowd willfully obeys! “Cry of The Blackbirds” goes straight into the distinct intro to the title track off 2013s Deceiver Of The Gods, and the two Vikings enter the stage again, holding banners raised high. They are staring threateningly out onto the crowd, stamping their banners to the beats of the drums. It is always a pleasure when Mikkonen takes on the role of lead guitarist, and it’s even better when second guitarist Johan Söderberg joins in for enchanting guitar harmonies. The crowd on the floor is in constant movement by now, and there’s a steady flow of crowdsurfers.
Hegg returns to take a sip of his drinking horn, proclaiming “skål!” before telling the story of Ragnarök, the apocalypse in Norse mythology. The new backdrop has already revealed what album the next song is going to be from, and when Hegg proceeds to say: “Behold the mighty Surtur rising, he is the destroyer of the universe!” there is no doubt. The crowd goes wild to the insanely fast paced and energetic favorite off 2009s Surtur Rising, and even the people around me in the seated areas are highly engaged by now.
“Tomorrow we play Birmingham”, Hegg announces, and receives a giant outcry of boing from the crowd. Taking advantage of this response, he proceeds to call Londoners the “meanest, motherfucking metalheads in the whole of UK!” before announcing “Death In Fire” as the next song. Unfortunately without pyro techniques this time, a feature that really tends to bring this song to the next level, based on my previous experiencing seeing it played live.
“One Thousand Burning Arrows” sees the return of the real time Vikings, this time armed with bows. This slower paced and rather emotional song works great live and is a nice break from the constant blast beats, which is probably nice for the people in the front who will suffer whiplash tomorrow anyways. Loki himself enters the stage for “Father Of The Wolf”, and the introduction of actors in their live show is really adding a nice theatrical touch to the powerhouse that is Amon Amarth at this point.
There is a fair amount of shirtless guys in the audience as the regular set ends with “War Of The Gods”. The band leaves the stage, but quickly returns carrying drinking horns, making it obvious what the next song will be. “Raise Your Horns” was quoted by Mikkonen as his favorite song to play live before the show, and it’s easy to see why. This melodic masterpiece is the ultimate sing along song, and the crowd is loving it. “This is head banging music,” Hegg says, smiling. The hard hitting “Guardians Of Asgaard” brings out a similar reaction from the crowd, and the band leaves the stage once again.
Everyone is left wondering what song will end the show… or not really, as they still haven’t played their most well-known song. The sounds of raging seas and longboats struggling in the waves confirms that it is indeed time for the already endless classic from their 2008 album off the same name, “Twilight Of The Thunder God”. Hegg returns with a giant hammer and holds it high as the iconic riff kicks in. An inflatable serpent rises from the waves behind the band, and there could honestly not have been a better way to end this night of raging Viking shenanigans.
1. The Pursuit Of Vikings
2. As Loke Falls
3. First Kill
4. The Way Of The Vikings
5. At Dawn’s First Light
6. Cry Of The Black Birds
7. Deceiver Of The Gods
8. On A Sea Of Blood
9. Destroyer Of The Universe
10. Death In Fire
11. One Thousand Burning Arrows
12. Father Of The Wolf
13. Runes To My Memory
14. War Of Gods
15. Raise Your Horns
16. Guardians Of Asgaard
17. Twilight Of The Thunder God