The Showbox at the Market-Seattle, Washington-4/20/11
Before I talk about the show, I’d like to apologize for the lack of pictures. This was probably the biggest metal show that has come to Seattle this year, so it was at the Showbox, a slightly larger venue than El Corazon or Studio 7, the clubs that usually book metal bands. I had a photo pass and a camera, but when I tried to get into the photo pit, I was stopped by the venue security. Their reasoning? My camera was a camcorder. So they confiscated it. Nevermind the fact that most compact digital cameras nowadays can capture video. At one of the more typical metal venues in my homeland of Seattle, Washington, I’m pretty sure no one would have complained. Way to go Showbox.
Fortunately, I was able to let that unsavory incident go, and have my face melted properly. Amon Amarth were absolutely fantastic. I am not a huge fan of melodic death metal, but everyone’s favorite Swedish vikings are a fun live band. They opened with Surtur Rising from front to back. I was more excited for the second half of the set, but Surtur was obviously a hit with the VERY enthusiastic crowd, 80% of whom were already wearing some kind of Amon Amarth merch coming into the show. The energy was infectious. Vocalist Johan Hegg (who is the bigget human being I have ever seen) bantered with the crowd in between sets, dropping the same lines about the upcoming Thor movie as at the Portland show, as well as a few 4/20 quips directed at the smell of pot drifting through the air, and then pumped his fist along with the crowd as he roared his way through the remainder of the first set.
Unlike the Portland show attended by Funeral Rain’s own Typhon, the sound was perfectly balanced and crystal clear. I could hear every riff, every solo, and even the thudding of the bass. The varying levels of flanger and reverb on the guitars were audible as well; that’s how killer the sound was.
The band were in top shape. A friend of mine who was on the opposite side of the stage from me claims he heard mistakes, but I have no idea what he’s talking about. All I heard was a tight, tight live band. I would say that this was one of the best live shows I have ever been too, even though I am not a fanatical Amon Amarth fan, purely for the utterly next level performance and flawless sound. It was essentially an album quality experience, plus 500 metal fans on backing vocals and a sweet stage show.
Oh yes, the stage show. Fog galore, and a high quality light show underscoring and emphasizing key points in the music. Behing the drumset was a huge banner emblazoned with the Surtur Rising cover art. In a ridiculous display of endurance, the entire band minus the drummer windmilled and headbanged for the majority of the show. That may not sound impressive, but you go ahead and bang your head for 3 hours and let me know where you end up.
The first set closed with “Doom Over Dead Man”, and the guys went offstage, presumably to drink mead from horns and pillage the monastery down the street before their second set. I have to compliment whoever picked the house music broadcast over the P.A. after Amon Amarth went off. It was almost all classic death metal, including the fitting swedeath anthem “Left Hand Path”. Perhaps it was Amon Amarth’s choice, as they are a Swedish Death Metal band, even if they are far removed from the Stockholm sound of Grave, Dismember, and Carnage.
During the half hour or so between sets, I made rounds through the crowd. Besides numerous people clandestinely cradling small pipes and bubblers in the crows, I noticed the familiar faces I always see at metal shows around here (including Herb Burke of local death metal gods Drawn and Quartered), but just as many people who didn’t look particularly metal at all. Anyone and everyone, from 13 year olds who were probably at their first metal show to middle aged men in Surtur Rising t-shirts; this is a testament to how immensely popular Amon Amarth has become in the last decade.
Without warning, geysers of fog erupted from the stage, and Amon Amarth came on to begin the second set, this one comprised of various material from throughout ther discography. I cannot describe how cool the opening riff to “Twilight of the Thunder God” is when played from a blue lit stage as Amon Amarth literally emerge from a wall of fog. There was even more audience participation during this set than the first. Most of the audience knew the lyrics to the quintet’s career defining anthems, including “Guardians of Asgaard”, “Without Fear”, and a lengthy medley of other songs. I agree with Typhon that a couple more seperate songs would have been a superior choice to, but the encore more than made up for it.
After exiting the stage a second time, the viking troop responded to the crowd’s chants of “Encore! Encore!” and marched onto the stage a final time, again shrouded in fog but accompanied by the cawwing sounds effects that began “Cry of the Black Birds”. That was the first Amon Amarth song I ever heard, so I was glad to hear it live. But next was the highlight of the night for me: “Runes to My Memory”. EVERYONE knew the lyrics and raised their fists or horns with Johan and chanted the tearjerking chorus of “Raise a stone for all to see, RUNES CARVED TO MY MEMORY!”. I typed that last bit in caps, because you can’t fucking type that lowercase. Try it, your keyboard will break.
The final song of the night was one which had been conspicuously absent from the set prior to this point, and possibly the band’s most well known song. “Runes to My Memory” couldn’t be topped for me, but everyone else went frantically berserk when Johan Söderberg put his foot on the monitor and played the iconic opening riff to “The Pursuit of Vikings”. Johan closed the show by thanking the fans and promising to return soon. Then we all went home to nurse bruised ribs, sore necks, and other symptoms of heavy metal hangover.
Overall, this was a great, great show. If I could have changed one thing, I would have really liked to hear “Friends of the Suncross, my favorite Amon Amarth track next to the aforementioned “Runes…”. If you have the oppurtunity to see Amon Amarth live, I strongly advise you to take it. Even if you’re not a fan, these Swedish heavyweights are something to behold.