CONCERT: Amon Amarth @ Orpheum, Graz
Artist: Amon Amarth, supported by As I Lay Dying and Septicflesh
Venue: Orpheum Theater, Graz, AT
Genre: Viking death metal/Metalcore/Symphonic death metal
Marking my second concert abroad, I decided to head along to one of my favorite live acts, Swedish Viking death metal band Amon Amarth, supported by American metalcore with As I Lay Dying and opened with Greek sympho-death Septicflesh. So a fairly international scene, although it was clear from the t-shirts in the crowd that Amon Amarth were by far the dominant favorites. And to top it off, this was performed in a theater, converted for the gig with some hard flooring in the pit.
On this flooring as I walked in, I spied two metalheads dancing to Jet on the PA, which always is a good indication for a fun evening.
Due to poor promotion, Septicflesh walking onstage was a big surprise. Granted, Death Metal Baboon had mentioned them in his report but somehow it didn’t register in my mind. I’d wanted to see them since Communion destroyed my ears a couple of years ago, but was unfortunately disappointed this time round. From a rich symphonic atmosphere with riffs and varied vocals in the studio, the live result was just fast drums from Fotis Benardo and Seth Anton’s deep growls. Sotiris Annunaki was absent, and so his cleans were put to tape along with the symphonic elements, both of which were drowned out. The band also suffered from Horns And Heys syndrome, this occuring several times in each of their 6 songs (4 from The Great Mass, 2 from Communion). The lights show was fairly neurotic and headache-inducing, and it was clear the crowd got a bit bored of the stage presence after a while. It was kind of sad really, as Septicflesh were high on my list to see live. Oh well, onto the next act.
The song title, not listed in the video, is “Anubis”.
As I Lay Dying were a band whose name I’d heard passed around for a few years, but had never got around to checking them out, something I sorely regretted given how much of a tight show they put on. They came out roaring with energy, especially bassist Josh Gilbert and vocalist Tim Lambesis, who both engaged in headbanging and air-punching with gusto. The latter also had a way of screaming and headbanging at the same time, one of the physical advantages of 10 years touring. The music itself was a whirl of melodic leads and breakdowns, with high-pitched clean backing vocals from Gilbert, and Jordan Mancino doing an Amarth tribute of playing drums with his neck whirling. It seemed that those who came for this band knew their material well, given the roar when Lambesis announced that they were playing old material. The setlist covered around 13 or 14 songs, so a fairly strong and diverse range from each record, and no As I Lay Dying gig is complete without a wall of death.
The screams that greeted Amon Amarth as they sauntered onstage gave a fairly good indication of their popularity at this gig, and they tore through 20-odd songs of their trademark Viking-influenced death metal. Most of the material was from their latest, Surtur Rising, but they had a brief nod to their past, most surprisingly when they played “Ride For Vengeance”, a much older song than the rest of their setlist. With so many songs there were a couple of flat moments amidst the epic feeling, particularly on “Slaves Of Fear”. One thing that struck me, which sums up how many see the band, is that between songs the lights would fade and a single spotlight would illuminate frontman Johan Hegg. He is an amusing guy, especially when giving his “Death Metal Speech”*, and stood with a quiet confidence as the crowd screamed the chorus of “The Pursuit Of Vikings”: “Odin, guide our ships/our axes, spears and swords/Guide us through storms that whip and in brutal war”. It may be something about the camaraderie of metal, but whatever it was felt empowering, and only increased during the encore. After taking a short break (while I moved to the seated area upstairs), Amon Amarth returned with the powerful one-two of “Twilight Of The Thunder God” (one of my personal favorites) and closed with “Guardians Of Asgaard”, their heads whirling while the crowd were literally going wild.
3 bands of different styles under one roof, and yet none of them were out of place. The Austrian crowd gave a warm welcome to each of them, and each responded in kind with playing at the top of their game. Despite the slight letdown of Septicflesh, the evening was a very enjoyable one, and I walked away with ears ringing, a large smile on my face and a strange desire for mead.
*”If you know the words to this next one, then scream/grunt along. If you don’t…it’s death metal, you can make it up and nobody will know the difference”.