WASHINGTON, May 13, 2011 – Stockholm’s Amon Amarth stormed Jaxx’s Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia the night of May 2. Much like the Vikings they emulate, the quintet ventured across the ocean hungry for new shores to conquer. Unlike the Norsemen of yore, the group was greeted as returning heroes, rather than unwanted invaders. What followed were not one, but two intense performances, which left the sold-out crowd awestruck by Amon Amarth’s mastery of melodic death metal.
Entitled “An Evening with Amon Amarth,” the dual gigs marked a major milestone for the band. Formed in 1992, Amon Amarth has spent nearly two decades crafting a mix of harmonic death metal and Viking imagery drawn from their personal heritage. This devastating one-two punch earned the band a rabid following, a fact readily apparent during their recent show at Jaxx’s. Besides the fact there wasn’t an inch of standing room, some fans came decked in bear skins or wielding war hammers. It was thus an evening of escapism punctuated by tunes from one of extreme music’s most consistent acts.
The first wave of Amon Amarth’s assault was the entirety of their latest album, “Surtur Rising.”
Mere songs into the set, it was readily apparent the band remains a force worth reckoning with, even after seven previous records.
“War of the Gods” instantly set the evening’s tone, its relentless guitar riffs charging full-force out of speakers, with all the subtlety of a battering ram. “Tock’s Taunt – Loke’s Revenge Pt. II” – easily one of the album’s best anthems – proved equally majestic live, its mammoth grooves washing over concert-goers like tidal waves.
“The Last Stand of Frej” let somber melodies hang like smoke in the air, only to erupt into a slow-paced march comprised of double-bass drums and thick, bludgeoning guitars. “Wrath of the Norsemen,”
meanwhile, was just that, slamming down huge guitar riffs, only to cut and slice with sharp melodies later on.
Last but not least, “Doom over Dead Man” proved to be a much-needed reprieve, closing out the set with a mix of big, but beautiful riffs and elegant cellos.
After a brief intermission, Amon Amarth returned with a vengeance. With the venue more crowded than ever, the temperature steadily rose as the poignant opening notes of “Twilight of the Thunder God” drifted like heat lightning over the proceedings. Bursting like a thunderclap into a display of manic energy, the song showed that the band wouldn’t rest on its laurels for round two.
Digging deep into their storied past, Amon Amarth unearthed an army of classics which would keep even the staunchest detractors at bay. “Death in Fire,” for example, delivered a short but savage chest-beaters’ anthem, while “Thousand Years of Oppression” mesmerized with its grim melodies and militant percussion. “Valhall Awaits Me” amped up the aggression with its brawny, clubbing guitars, only to let “Cry of the Black Birds” unleash a whole flock of somber guitar notes, which soared above the room only to come crashing down as furious metal. “Guardians of Asgaard,” for its part, proved a raucous sing-along rife with booming rhythms and searing melodies, while the night’s undisputed highlight was “The Pursuit of Vikings.”
Galloping through walls of stark, melodic riffs, it drew in the audience for a raucous encore, replete with every set of lungs in the club howling along. As the last notes faded, only a horde of people united in a singular, roaring chorus remained.
It was a brilliant performance that left blood pumping through the veins of every single concert-goer, suddenly gone berserk.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
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