Amon Amarth Unleash Ragnarok In London With Help From Testament And Grand Magus
Band Photo: Testament (?)
It's becoming more common in the modern age for established bands to tour together, be it as part of a package tour, or as a co-headlining trek. These can create memories for a lifetime, or, as past tours between the likes of Metallica & Guns N Roses and Rob Zombie & Marilyn Manson have shown, an ego clash which could be a disaster. However, the combination of Amon Amarth, Testament and Grand Magus, promised from it's very announcement to be nothing short of a triumph. The concert featured here took place at the Roundhouse in Camden, North London, a respected venue and rightfully so. It's highly impressive inside, particular in the stage area and literally every member of staff I spoke to were very friendly and helpful, making it one of the most welcoming venues in Britain. This tiered rotunda made for an excellent setting for one of the most anticipated European tours of the year.
First to take the stage was Swedish heavy metal outfit, Grand Magus; a trio dedicated to keeping the sound and spirit of traditional heavy metal alive and very successfully too I might add. The three members all possess a great stage which some might say is essential when playing a rather large venue such as the Roundhouse. From the opening notes of, "I, The Jury" from their excellent 2010 album, "Hammer of the North," the band put on a blistering performance, delighting their fans and easily winning over new ones. Despite having a new album, "Sword Songs" to promote, the group only played one song from the record, namely, "Varangian," instead choosing to perform a mix of material from their sixteen year history. All in all, Grand Magus made the very best of their relatively short set and left a lasting impression on all of those who were in attendance.
Up next was one of the greatest bands in thrash metal, Testament. They've forged an amazing legacy (no pun intended) for themselves over the course of their career and much of that comes down to their live shows. The quintet are perhaps one of the most intense live bands in all of metal, led by the tremendous figure of vocalist Chuck Billy, whose voice sounds as ferocious as ever, while Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick both displayed why they are two of the most revered guitarists in metal, performing with expert precision and technique. Their set began with the title track from their new album, "Brotherhood of the Snake," (reviewed here) which went down very well with the crowd, as did another song from the album, "Stronghold," which was dedicated to the Native Americans protesting at Standing Rock.
It was a set made up more of newer material than classics, as "Rise Up" and "Dark Roots of Earth" was brought out, while the group surprisingly concluded their set with the title track from their "comeback" album, "Formation of Damnation." Not that the older albums were ignored however, with "Disciples of the Watch," "The New Order," Into the Pit" and "Over the Wall" performed in Testament's own, titanic way. There could not have been one person in the crowd, fan or not, who would have been disappointed by this metal leviathan, whose phenomenally talented five members each gave their all in a performance that will live long in the memories of those in Camden on this night.
Finally, we come to the evening's headliners, Amon Amarth. The five frost giants from Tumba brought their Viking inspired brand of death metal to London with a burning passion and one of the best stage shows I've seen since Sigh performed at last year's Graspop Metal Meeting festival. Complete with a giant Viking helmet featuring lights in the eyeholes, berserkers taking to the stage to do battle during "The Way of the Vikings" and most impressively, a dragon's heard for frontman Johan Hegg to combat as part of the finale, Amon Amarth put on the kind of show that a heavy metal fan dreams of seeing on a large stage and summing up the fun and spectacle that metal music used to be known for.
More important than the theatrics however, will always be the music and Amon Amarth's unique take on death metal sounds absolutely incredible in a live setting. It's imaginative and intricate, delivered with all the fury of Fenrir and the might of Thor. Songs from their fantastic new album, "Jomsviking," (reviewed here) went down just as well as more established songs, with "First Kill" garnering a fantastic reception. The crowd loved every second of it, singing along to almost every word and even some of the riffs, something which is very rare in the United Kingdom. Speaking of which, London in particular has a (frankly undeserved) reputation for being a little more tame than other cities because the capital is visited more by metal bands than any other British city, but the crowd were spectacular on this evening, in great voice and great spirits throughout the entire show, making a wonderful performance a wonderful evening, on a night which promised to be nothing short of just that. This is a tour that all European metal fans simply must attend while it lasts.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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