Amon Amarth - April 28, 2010 - Mr. Smalls Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
By: David E. Gehlke
When they were no one (read: everything before With Oden On Our Side), Amon Amarth couldn't have drawn a fraction of the crowd they had on hand for this particular night. Remembering the state of disrepair the Swedes were in prior to With Oden..., perspective was easy to come by, for things like this just don't happen to Viking metal bands from Sweden. And it's looking like the band's unsurpassed success isn't a fluke either.
Starting the evening off was LA's Holy Grail, who were an odd match when pinned up against Amon Amarth and Tyr. Championing the soon-to-be beaten to death retro metal style, the quintet put forth their best attempt at posing and hamming it up for the crowd, to mixed results. Singer James Paul Luna was in full Paul Dianno mode, right down to his stage gear, and the synchronized stage moments were a bit...well, contrived. In fact, the whole thing is totally contrived on stage. Thinking that people are still into re-creating the past is fine, but the band's otherwise pedestrian and generic songs ("For All Eternity," really guys, that's all you got?) proves that some things are better left in the decades of yore. Plus, maybe three people in attendance knew of their cover of Accept's "Fast As A Shark."
Faroese Island epic metallers Tyr, on the other hand, are a fascinating prospect. Led by the vocal acrobatics of singer/guitarist Heri Joesen (who is this style's version of Freddy Mercury), the band relied heavily upon their latest, By the Light of the Northern Star, busting out the always-fun "Hold the Heathen Hammer High," "Northern Gate," and "By the Light of the Northern Star." All three frontline members of Tyr handle mic duties, adding a defined layer to their vocal-heavy approach. There's this instant blend of mead hall romp-meets back forest swindle that propels Tyr in the live arena, even if they omitted "Brother's Bane" and "The Ride To Hel," two songs near and dear to this scribe's heart. Nevertheless, a raucous, beer-clanking set from a band that only threatens to get better.
Speaking of getter better, Amon Amarth have managed to virtually re-write the same album over the course of 15 years and improve. The Swedes have done nothing different from the early battle cries of Once Sent To A Golden Hall to their latest, Twilight of the Thunder God, yet here they were, with a virtual smorgasbord of killer songs to cull from. The opening one-two punch of "Twilight of the Thunder God" and "Freewill Sacrifice" (perhaps the best song on Twilight...), kicked the set off in momentous fashion. Singer Johan Hegg stalked the stage, oftentimes towering over the crowd, only to peel back for the guitar tandem of Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen to shine.
Set highlights included "Death In Fire," the totally underrated "Dragon's Flight Across the Waves," "Under the Northern Start" and "Runes To My Memory," which could very well be the band's best song. Encore treatment ensued, with "Cry of the Blackbirds" and "The Pursuit of Vikings," two "singles" that helped propel AA in North America. Right there is the proof of Amon Amarth's success: they've stuck to their guns, become the Motorhead of melodic death metal, and continue to expand. Who would have thunk it 10 years ago...