The tour that had been long awaited since the news of its tour date release, had hit The House of Blues in Chicago, IL featuring one of the best band line-ups of the year: the mighty vikings Amon Amarth, heroic folk metal’s very own Ensiferum, Austria’s Belphegor, and Tampa, FL’s The Absence.
Fans lined up at least two hours before the show, in the windy cold (hey, their fans have to be Vikings too, don’t they?) waiting for the doors to open at 5 PM. This gave them somewhat enough time to rush down to the merch area, where Amon Amarth was doing a signing. Many of the people waiting out in line didn’t realize that the band was doing a signing, so few people were actually in-line waiting for an autograph. Excited fans took a poster and watched Amon Amarth sign it while having one of those great 5-second conversations.
The show started a little late, at about 6:10 PM. First up was The Absence. The band seemed to have definitely sparked the show up, even from the first song, “Riders of the Plague,” fueling the fans for Amon Amarth. The second song they played definitely was a favorite for The Absence fans, “Dead and Gone.” Shortly thereafterward, lead singer Jaime Stewart was announced that their next song was from their latest album, Riders of the Plague. The fans started to become very impatient and excited to hear what the next song was, all hoping for the most notorious and popular song on Riders of the Plague, “The Murder.”
After it was announced that the next song would be “Echoes”, the faces of many fans turned disappointed, and others excited. After “Echoes”, the next song announced was “From Your Grave.” This song didn’t receive much attention due to the face that “Echoes” had drained all the fans’ energy and excitement. Their last song, “Into the Pit”, a Testament cover on their latest album, Riders of the Plague, gave quite a quick ‘kick’ the audience right before Belphegor. A 30-minute set gone great!
At about 7 PM ,Belphegor conquered the stage with their dark and ‘tactical’-looking style. It was about time the fans got a little taste of Satan. Austria’s Satan. They opened up with “The Goatchrist”, trying to "awaken" the fans from their comedown of The Absence. Unfortunately, the song didn’t “awaken” the fans enough. The next two songs, “Lucifer Incestus” and “Belphegor-Hell’s Ambassador,” however, brought up a couple hundred circle head banging heads. Next up was “Bondage Goat Zombie” from their latest album. This was given the best response compared to the last three songs-put together. After “Stigma Diabolicum,” Belphegor had a quick 30-second break to cool off a take a drink. Soon after that, Helmuth returned wearing a black leather bondage mask that had a Mohawk made of metal spikes announcing their last song, “Bondage Goat Zombie.” The band delivered a great set, and got a better response then the last time they were in the U.S. (with Rotting Christ).
Right after Belphegor got done playing, a flock of bare-chested, kilt-wearing “folkheads” pushed their way to the front, impatiently waiting for Ensiferum to get on. A 10-minute set-up time was just enough time for some of the fellow “Bravehearts” to run back to the bar and get a beer. The stage slowly opens up to the song “Ad Victoriam.” The fans wait impatiently and stomp their feet, bob their heads, and raise their fists in the air to this nerve-teasing intro. Alas, one-by-one, the face-painted warriors in white and blue kilts joined the stage, followed by the keyboardist, Emmi Silvennoinen. Silence takes place for a couple seconds, and then “Blood is the Price of Glory” starts playing. Within a couple seconds, the whole floor became a jig-pit. The barricade rails in the front weren’t even visible due to the fact of constant head banging.
“Token of Time” was next, giving the jiggers a break. Instead, the pit was filled drunken folk dancing and stomping. For “Ahti,” a lot of people went towards the back. It wasn’t one of Chicago’s favorites. ”Tale of Revenge” had everyone headbanging and singing along. One of the best sing-along’s of the night actually. After “Tale of Revenge,” Ensiferum took a quick break to refill their warrior epic-ness with some beer. When they return to the front of the stage, Lead singer/guitarist Petri Lindroos stares at his beer for a quick second, raises it in the air and yells to the crowd, “ONE!...MORE!...MAGIC POTION!” The crowd goes nuts and all the people that were in the far back, even by the bars, ran the floor as quick as possible to catch the beginning of the song.
The people in the pit hold hands tight as they dance and run around in circles for the whole song straight. For next songs, “Iron” and “Hero in a Dream,” the fans calmed down a bit. In this case, “calmed down” means just constant head banging. After the last song, the band went off-stage for a bit, waiting for the crowd to cheer and yell “ENSIFERUM!” for an encore. Alas, their last song was “Treacherous Gods.” One of the best closing songs ever created.
The song was followed by crazy fist-raising, stomping , and crazy sing-alongers, so energized that it overpowered Petri’s vocals! One of the best live bands by far, the Finns received a better response than their spring Paganfest set. Ensiferum also got such a better response than when they were at Paganfest. Too much fun and energy for only a 40-minute set. Many people were disappointed.
At about 8:40 PM, the Swede melodeath metal Vikings Amon Amarth came up. As fans in the back heard the symphonic, tensing intro, they rushed and pushed their way to the front. Amon Amarth broke in with “Twilight of the Thunder God” and got the real show rolling, preparing the fans for even greater songs with more energy. After the song, singer Johan Hegg broke out with “Raise a stone for all to see….”,and right when Johan was going to finish, the crowd yelled “RUNES CARVED TO MY MEMORY!” and thus, the legendary circle-headbang song begins.
After the song, Johan asks, “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME METAL CHICAGO!”, and the crowd was so loud that Johan didn’t need to ask us to repeat. After that, Johan introduces the next song, “Asator.” Following that up were “North Sea Storm,” “Free Will Sacrifice,” “Valhalla Awaits Me,” and “Guardians of Asgaard.”
After the last song, Johan takes a quick drinking break, refills his drinking horn, and drinks a little more than half of it in one huge gulp. After that, he passes it on to a lucky fan in the front (coincidentally looking EXACTLY like Johan) to drink out of and yells “CHEERS!” He introduces the next song, “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard”. For this song, there really was no change in the energy of the crowd until the next song “Death in Fire”, another one of Amon Amarth’s epic circle-head bang-triggering tactics. Believe me, seeing easily more than a thousand heads circle bang is astonishing, especially from an aerial view. Hah. Talk about windmill energy… THAT’S the way to save the environment!
After this harsh wind-milling adventure, the band finished off the show with “Where is your God?” and “Victorious March.” The fans were very energetic and tense, but something was wrong. After the last song, fans were left clueless as Amon Amarth walked off the stage, not giving any sign of an encore. A minute or so passes and Amon Amarth comes back with “Cry of the Blackbirds” and “Pursuit of Vikings.” Fans sing along crazily as Johan begins “ODIN! GUARD OUR SHIPS! OUR AXES,SPEARS,AND SWORDS!” That’s what was missing. The fans just couldn’t leave without asking Odin to guard their ships and weaponry. You know metal heads don’t want to pay 6 bucks for coat check! Just ask Odin to do it. A 1 hour and 40 minute set gone phenomenal.