Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Concert Review - Iced Earth, Sabaton, Revamp, A Sound of Thunder - 4/21/14 at Empire, Springfield, VA

Sabaton is one of my top bands to see live - the energy is just amazing, everyone gets so pumped. And to see them touring with the mighty Iced Earth, with Floor Jansen's band Revamp and my local favorite A Sound of Thunder in support, was a lineup hard to beat. Most amazing of all, before the show I interviewed Joakim of Sabaton for Shockwave Magazine! :D (I'll post links and/or info once the interview is published :) )

Needless to say I was not missing any of this lineup (besides, I had to be there early for the interview). So I was there when A Sound of Thunder came out to the chant "Hail, Queen of Hell." They were loud, thundering, just how I like my heavy metal. The drums seemed a bit too loud at times, though, but the vocals were clearer than usual. They played a lot from their newer releases, Time's Arrow ("Time's Arrow," "I Will Not Break," "Power Play") and the Queen of Hell EP ("Queen of Hell"), not necessarily my favorite songs to hear live, but the songs were all upbeat and energetic. We got to hear them play a new song, "Udoroth," from their upcoming album for the first time ever live. It was a charging heavy metal song, with some shouted vocals thrown in. They closed with my fave song of theirs, their anthem, "A Sound of Thunder." The other songs were good but this one was great - it was much more intense, really bringing the thunder. Overall, they sounded nice, but I wish they'd played more older songs ;) This show had the biggest crowd I've ever seen for A Sound of Thunder - the floor was pretty full and people on the sides and at the bar seemed to be paying attention, too. Nina's guerilla marketing seems to be working ;) Anyway, good for the band, the crowd seemed very pleased with them.

Next up was the Netherlands' Revamp, which features Floor Jansen (now the singer of Nightwish, too). I don't think I'd heard anything of theirs before the show. They were heavier than I expected, and I know I keep saying that about gothic-symphonic bands, but these guys really were astoundingly heavy. Most of the songs started with rampaging heavy metal riffs - the last song with churning riffs you'd expect from a much more brutal band. Then they'd launch into a melodic segment that melded perfectly with Floor's soaring vocals. I was surprised to hear her doing harsh vocals as well. My friends were disgruntled by this band - there seemed to be something wrong with the sound. I guess the melodic parts could have been a bit clearer, but I was pleased and entertained. And Floor announced that she will be back with Nightwish, although when was unclear - it sounded like she said "this time of year."

Next up were Sweden's power metal warriors, Sabaton, which was the band I came to see. They sounded great, and from what I could see, the band was as amped as the crowd and having the time of their lives. Great to see, considering 2/3 of the lineup left two years ago, and a new drummer (Hannes Van Dahl of Evergrey) was just added last fall. Although they have a new album coming out next month, they only played one song from it, the single "To Hell and Back" (catchy song - it was stuck in my head earlier today). I was surprised but not displeased since of course, I wanted to jump around to the Sabaton songs I knew. They played a set of classic after classic, closing with the amazingly fun "Metal Crue." The only song I thought a little weak was "Poltava," which is a good song, but I thought a better choice from Carolus Rex would have been "Lifetime of War." (They had a little extra time, so I think they played some three extra songs, one of which was the Swedish version of "Poltava.") The crowd was ecstatic - the floor was full, easily twice as many people on the floor as for Sabaton's headline shows, a furious pit for most songs, and so much Sabaton name-chanting between songs that Joakim had to tell us to shut up so he could talk.

After that, seeing Iced Earth was just icing. In fact, they seemed a bit lacking in energy after Sabaton, and it took me a while to get into them. They did sound good - Stu can really scream and the guitars were clear - but perhaps the song selection was a little lackluster. I enjoyed "V," "Burning Times" and a couple other songs, but the rest of the songs didn't really grab me and I didn't really get into it until the encore of "Dystopia," "Watching Over Me," and "Iced Earth." Those two fast songs brought the energy finally, and "Watching Over Me" was touching. I did enjoy that they played "A Question of Heaven" since that was in the soundtrack of a novel I wrote last year :) It was not a bad way to end the night, but Sabaton was definitely the highlight of the show for me.

Next show: Paganfest! Planning to attend both Friday and Saturday :D

Monday, April 7, 2014

Concert Review - Combichrist, William Control, New Year's Day - 4/4/14 at Empire, Springfield, VA

Combichrist first introduced me to industrial music almost ten years ago - my first time at (DC goth club) Midnight in my senior year of college, the DJ played "This Shit Will Fuck You Up," and my friend J and I turned to each other like, "That was amazing! What was that?!" Back then youtube wasn't what it is now, and the only version I found of that track was a video someone had made of their friends running around in the woods (possibly with swords) to part of that song. But I was hooked - Combichrist instantly became my favorite band to dance to at goth/industrial clubs.

Somehow, though, my bumpy journey through metal and industrial since then never managed to put me at a Combichrist live show. So you could say I'd been waiting ten years for this show.

I was less than excited about the opening bands, having seen William Control opening for The Birthday Massacre and not being impressed, and never having heard of the other one. So I wasn't terribly concerned when I wasn't able to leave until after my daughter's bedtime and arrived at Empire around 10pm. Besides, I walked into the venue about five steps behind Combichrist, so it was worth it, even if being in line prevented me from actually interacting with them. (And also met up with my pal L in line, what a surprise!)

When I got inside, it was the middle of William Control's set. They sounded much better this time than last time, and the singer seemed like less of a jerk as well (he actually thanked the audience at the end of the set!). There were more heavy driving beats and danceable synthpop melodies, most noticeably in the songs from their new album (which came out that day). I felt their sound, especially in the new songs, was rather similar to Terminal Choice, although the vocals were a little less gritty and in English, of course. I actually enjoyed the set this time and moved a little bit.

Between sets I found out a bit about New Year's Day from S. He compared them to Stitched Up Heart but said they were not as good - they were energetic, but the songs were missing something. (Read his review for more on them.)

Finally, after teasing us with a seemingly interminable and unusally movie-soundtrack-epic-sounding intro, Combichrist at last came out to the title track of their new album, "We Were Made to Love You." This track, while nice and heavy, and rather discordant, in the ear-drowningly harsh vein of Psyclon Nine (my fave industrial act), was also hard to dance to in limited space, due to its unusual, drawn out rhythm. So I didn't move much for that first song, but as they moved on into other songs with those signature danceable Combichrist riffs, I danced to pretty much every song, and finally rushed into the moshpit, I think for "What the Fuck is Wrong With You," as well as "Get Your Body Beat." I tried to start the pit during "Sent to Destroy," but the guys just looked at me like I was crazy. That was the last song; I (and others) expected "This Shit Will Fuck You Up" as the closer, but we were disappointed :( I had an excellent time, dancing and moshing for most of the show, or headbanging for the songs that had more of a groovy or racing metal vibe (such as "Maggots at the Party" and "Love is a Razorblade," respectively). They did play a slow song ("The Evil in Me"?) which was not really danceable, but maybe it was good to have a break. Certainly, I'm used to having to put up with a lot of slow songs whenever I go out for goth/industrial music and dancing ;) The vocals sounded a little different - perhaps a little more natural and less like some evil electronic overlord, but that didn't affect my enjoyment much - I was mostly there for the rad harsh-industrial dance beats anyway.

Andy LaPlegua (vocalist, band mainman) made some interesting comments about the band "not belonging to a scene anymore" and fans being afraid to like the new album because it's not in their usual scene, but he was met with cheers when he proclaimed the crowd to be the band's scene. Although the new album strays quite a bit from the charging, harsh energy of Combichrist's dancefloor standards, with some VNV Nation-like flowing waves of synth in one track, Daft Punk-like electronic noise in another, and some songs with more a metal than dance vibe to them, it's good music, and there are floorkillers like "Every Day is War" (which sounds quite similar to "This Shit Will Fuck You Up," down to the electronic squeals). I'm definitely not disappointed; I mean, a song of dancefloor hits in the all the same style would be boring, honestly. The album makes an interesting, varied listen; I only need one or two songs from it to request on the dance floor.

So anyway, after my ten years' wait, I was very satisfied with live Combichrist. (Only dancing to "This Shit Will Fuck You Up" could have made it better, but at least they played my other favorite songs!) Considering I couldn't get there till late, and one hour of nonstop industrial dance party was probably the most my body could handle anyway, I wasn't bothered by the less than stellar support. Really I just wanted to see (and dance to) Combichrist, and they delivered.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Concert Review - The Ocean, Scale the Summit, The Atlas Moth, Silver Snakes - 3/27/14 at DC9, Washington, DC

I was looking forward to this show all month. The Ocean is one of my favorite bands; no one matches them in mixing together heavy and beautiful to explore the transcendental aspects of the universe. A month or two ago I also fell in love with Scale the Summit (and with their album artwork). I checked out The Atlas Moth a few days before the show and was looking forward to them, too. Silver Snakes didn't really do it for me, though - I couldn't take the metalcore vocals.

I headed out a bit late, driving through DC was slow, and it took a while to find parking (and to walk the 5 blocks from where I parked to the venue), so by the time I got there it was after The Atlas Moth's originally slated set time and I thought I had missed them. A few sort of metal looking people were hanging out in the downstairs bar. I headed upstairs to find that The Atlas Moth was actually just about to go on - everything had been pushed back about 40 minutes.

It was already very crowded (the show was sold out) so I ended up standing way in the back, by the merch table in the corridor from the stairs to the floor, and with lots of tall people in front of me, I couldn't see much. As awesome as it was that a band like The Ocean was playing this little venue, the sucky thing about the little stage in the corner set-up is that when it's crowded, you can't see anything unless you're right at the front. There was a TV screen right by where I was standing, so at least I was able to see the band in miniature.

The Atlas Moth launched into their churning, atmospheric riffs, and I found them surprisingly loud and clear for such a small venue. The guitar melodies and vocals were clearly discernible (even if the screamed vocals were indecipherable anyway). The loveliest atmospheric parts had a trance-inducing effect similar to Alcest's music, although much of the music was just layers of slow and heavy - a sludge band that took it into their heads to make music of beauty and whimsy. They didn't blow me away but were certainly as enjoyable as I expected.

After The Atlas Moth finished, I gave The Ocean a bunch of money (they were selling CD's at 2 for $20, which seemed like a pretty good deal). I had intended to give into the hipster vibe and get a shirt from Scale the Summit if they had one with (last year's album) The Migration artwork - but the ones they had didn't use the green and blue colors that I love so much on that album cover.

It was definitely a very hipster evening, with plenty of bearded dudes and barely a 5% score on the Long Haired Dudes Scale of Metalness (inspired by my friend S, who was not there - he wouldn't have been able to handle the hipsters). The short-haired headbanging for The Ocean was an interesting sight - it made it look a lot more like some kind of cult religious experience. I'm not even sure any members of any of the bands had long hair; a bit disappointing, as I love to stare at guys with long hair holding guitars.

I claimed a spot in the center of the floor, and eventually the instrumental band Scale the Summit came on. They started out a bit thin and quiet, and also the lights were still turned on above the stage, making them look rather sterile. But as soon as they launched into the faster section of the song - I think it was "Dark Horse" - they got much heavier, and the lights went out. Considering their very melodic sound, I was surprised by the way they thundered. There were actually relatively few slow, quiet segments, and quite a bit of fast, furious playing. I also hadn't realized that they were apparently co-headlining with The Ocean, because they must have played for about an hour. I felt like they played a lot from The Migration, but I'm not great at naming their songs, so it may just be that I listened to that album too much :P

Finally Germany's massive progressive metal project The Ocean took the stage, under blue lighting that did give them a rather underwater look. They played (their 2013 album) Pelagial in its entirety, which was a pretty epic experience. I knew (thanks to their comments last summer about the Summer Slaughter tour) that The Ocean considers themselves a very extreme extreme metal band, but considering how profound and often beautiful their music is, I couldn't really see them as extreme - until this show. When the crowd suddenly got going at the start of "Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams" and the whole front half of the floor turned into a furious pit, I was like, oh shit - they were right, this is ****king extreme! It was pretty amazing, and the bouncy pit for the fast part of "Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated" looked like so much fun, I wished I didn't have so much stuff with me so I could join in, even though I'd probably get broken in half. The crowd kind of calmed down after that and there wasn't much moshing for the rest of the show, but still, it set the tone. The other highlight was probably the singer crowd-surfing - while singing - during the encore. As far as sound, it was also amazing. The quieter parts, which evoke the ocean with sounds of bubbles, flowing melodies or long floating tones, sounded even more watery due to the resonance of the live playing, and the heavy parts were crushing. There was something odd about the screamed vocals at times - they seemed perhaps higher and rawer than on the album - and there was one segment where the drums seemed out of sync with the guitars and it was very jarring, but now I can't remember which song it was in. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience. I only regret I was so tired by the end I was practically passing out, awesome music notwithstanding :/

So the show was about as awesome as I expected. I am so glad that not only did I get to see The Ocean, but got to see them up close and personal, and got to see them really tear the place up, at a venue that small. Wow.

Next show: Combichrist on Apr 4.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Face-Melting Friday Melodic Metal Edition - Cassandra Syndrome, Iris Divine, Dogs and Day Drinkers, Fair Skies - 2/28/14 at Sidebar, Baltimore, MD

I'm on a quest to make my kid into a little metalhead :) As part of that, I took her to a show organized by my friend Bobbie at the Sidebar in Baltimore: Face-Melting Friday, Melodic Metal Edition. The lineup changed a couple times before the show, but I was still excited to see the bands. I'd heard good things about Iris Divine and Cassandra Syndrome, and heard that Dogs And Day Drinkers were folk metal, so I figured they'd be fun.

We got there before they were even ready to start selling tickets, although there were already people milling about inside. Shortly we were asked to form a line, inside. We met up with S and some other friends, and staked out a spot near the front, since besides being rather short and needing to be close up to see, Iz also just plain likes to rock out at the front of the crowd :D Unfortunately, this meant I had to wear earplugs, which I felt seriously dulled the sound. (I never wear earplugs. Why bother going to live shows if you can't hear the thunder of it being played live?) Partly for this reason, I don't feel like I got a very in-depth impression of any of the bands.

Not too long after we got in, the first band, Fair Skies, took the stage. I didn't know much about them besides a friend's comment that they were "power metal but not really." They did have soaring power metal vocals; I got some serious Stratovarius vibes from the vocalist during their second to last song, "More Than a Memory." The music had a bit of an oompah beat in the beginning (something that seems to happen occasionally in power metal) but settled into more of a NWOBHM sound as the set went on.

Next up were Dogs And Day Drinkers, all the way from Chestertown, MD (home of the schooner Sultana :D ). They were supposed to be folk metal, but they didn't actually seem to have much in the way of folk melodies. They perhaps had more of a Viking metal sound, with songs about drinking and war and science fiction. The vocals were average, rather like I think I'd sound if I tried to sing. Their take on Priest's "Breaking the Law" was decent. The crowd was pretty excited for them and there was a bit of moshing.

After that was Iris Divine. They were very proggy, but not in annoying way. The guitarist seemed to have a bunch of pedals that gave his guitar a synth-like sound, and they might have had some synth piped in, too, I couldn't tell. Unfortunately some drama happened during their set so I zoned out a bit and even had to go outside to deal with things :(

Finally, Cassandra Syndrome ended the night. I don't know how I never got into these guys earlier! I think I heard a song or two several years ago but somehow didn't get interested. I definitely should have seen them earlier. They featured lovely soprano vocals - I didn't know we even had a band around here with vocals like that! Their music was pretty straightforward heavy metal, with nice solos, but it was the vocals that really made it for me. So beautiful.

I enjoyed all the bands, although I would have preferred to hear them without earplugs. But Iz had a great time up at the front, dancing for Fair Skies and Dogs And Day Drinkers (and also taking some photos with her Leapster, which I should try to retrieve before she draws all over them :) ). Even though she got pretty tired and cranky by the end, it was still a great night, and everyone was telling her what an awesome little kid she is :D I'm not sure if I'll be able to make the next Face-Melting Friday since it's the day after The Ocean, but I can definitely see these face melting shows becoming a regular social fixture for me and Iz :D

Next show: Hoping to go to a locals show on March 8. After that, Children of Bodom, Death Angel and Týr on March 21. (The Fillmore's website seems to have the wrong date for this show, saying it was Feb. 28 O.o)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Between The Buried And Me, Deafheaven, Intronaut, Kindred - 2/20/14 at Empire, Springfield, VA

A little while ago I discovered Deafheaven, crazily enough, through hearing their song "Dream House" on XM radio. Wtf? I thought. No way are they playing something this atmospheric and lovely! But they were, and when I got to work I had to check out Deafheaven more, and fell even more in love. They're up there with Alcest for harshly beautiful, trance-inducing music. So when I found they were touring, I had to go. Even if it meant buying a ticket to Between The Buried And Me.

Deafheaven was the only band I really cared to see, so I didn't bother taking time off work, which meant I got to Empire around 8. Somehow, there was still a line to get in (doors were at 6:30, I think). The show was sold out. By the time I got in, Intronaut had started, and I had my dinner of black bean burger with them as background music. They made good background music - not very distracting, as they were far too slow to hold my interest. I woulda just preferred eating my dinner somewhere with less people. The place was packed.

I met a fellow Alcest fan and we talked for a bit before Deafheaven. Then, the San Francisco-based black metal band took the stage with "Dream House." (It's the only song I can recognize, since they play it on the radio; the rest of the songs blend together into one long cascade of loveliness.) They sounded amazing, and transfixed the crowd. Being near the back, I decided I should kneel on a stool in order to see, and I was a bit distracted trying to keep my balance, so I couldn't quite go into a trance like when I saw Alcest, but there were still parts that carried me away. I had just gone through a rather difficult personal episode, but hearing Deafheaven live purged all the negativity and made me feel so uplifted and alive. I could even forgive their, erm, not very metal appearance with short hair and random shirts (not even black..what sort of black metal is this) by how into it they were. Headbanging (sans hair), the singer and one guitarist dancing around to one melodic part, and the singer getting up close and personal with the crowd. At one point it looked like he was hugging people in the crowd, and he definitely threw himself onto the crowd briefly near the end of the set. It was intense. I only wish I had been able to get a better spot so I could have gotten more into the feel of it, but at least I got to see the band clearly from my precarious perch.

I stayed for a few songs of Between The Buried And Me. I owed it to a friend who really likes them. For her sake, I had tried a couple times to listen to them, but just could not get into them because of the chaotic segments in their music. They'd be doing something lovely or heandbangable with the guitars, and then suddenly go crazy and sound like a mess. Unfortunately, it was even worse live. During the discordant segments, I was almost in physical pain; it was like my soul was being destroyed. It quite possibly wiped away all the good vibes I got from Deafheaven. The ending of the second song was decent and I decided, that's it, gonna leave on a good note. Walked back to the car wishing I had brought my Deafheaven cd so I could get the good vibes back.

I was still glad I went, though. Seeing Deafheaven was worth it.

Next concert: Face-Melting Friday Melodic Metal Edition at the Sidebar, 2/28

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Exmortus - 2/2/14 at Soundstage, Baltimore, MD

Ok, another late one. Maybe I've been overloading myself with writing commitments lately, or maybe I need to get better about making time for my writing...

Anyway, so this was actually one of my most anticipated concerts this spring. Dark Tranquillity is pretty great, though they're one of those bands, like Iron Maiden and some others, that I just sort of like by default, without actually listening to them very much. But Omnium Gatherum is one of my favorite melodic death metal bands, simply because they are so, so overwhelmingly melodic. They had been on my short list of "bands I really hope will tour the US soon" ever since I found out about them, so I was pretty stoked to find out that they were coming over, and supporting Dark Tranquillity to boot.

We originally planned to get to the show early to see local death metal band March to Victory with their new singer, but due to a gap in babysitting we couldn't head out early enough - and then it turned out March to Victory didn't play anyway. Even though the two European bands had a bus breakdown and were running late. I talked to Bronson of (local blackened death metal band) Demiz and he said March to Victory was there, but didn't play; he didn't know why.

By the time we got there, Exmortus had just finished. I don't know much about them, and since S described them as thrashy, haven't really bothered to check them out. I'm digging melancholy, atmospheric stuff lately and don't have much use for pushing people around in the pit music most days.

Omnium Gatherum and Dark Tranquillity were delayed by a bus breakdown (the bands described it as being stuck in the middle of nowhere in Virginia for hours, drinking beer to pass the time and not knowing if they would make it to the show). There had been some doubt over whether they'd make it, but I think they finally arrived right around the time we did.

Fun people were there to chat with, so it didn't seem like too long before Omnium Gatherum took the stage. They came out to the intro from their latest album, Beyond, and they were actually playing, not just having the intro piped in. As they launched into "The New Dynamic," though I was a little disappointed to find the drums were too loud. Some parts sounded like just vocals and drums, the amazing melodies barely audible. The next song, "New World Shadows," sounded better, and I thought I might actually enjoy this thundering version of Omnium Gatherum, but then in "The Sonic Sign," again it seemed the melodies were being drowned out. That was unfortunate since that song has some pretty awesome melodies. By the end, though, they seemed to have fixed things, because the last song, "The Unknowing," my favorite from Beyond, sounded amazing. Although it has its harsh vocals and the some of the typical melancholy vibe of Finnish metal, Omnium Gatherum's music usually feels more like a ray of sunlight piercing clouds than a somber veil of darkness, and the impression was supported by the singer's appearance - he was so happy, with a huge grin on his face for the whole set. I shook hands with him after show and he was still smiling.

After that, Dark Tranquillity was just icing on the cake. They sounded great, with a perfect mix of melodic guitars and death metal heaviness, and Mikael Stanne's vocals charging through it all. He also seemed to be quite happy to be there, saying how glad he was they made it, thanking the crowd for supporting Gothenburg metal and shaking hands with pretty much everyone in the front rows. There was a decent turnout - about half of the parqueted "floor" area full - in spite of the fact that this was the night of the Superb Owl. (It had seemed like slightly more people during OG's set, but maybe they were just more spread out.) One of the most amusing parts of the night was Mikael Stanne's moonwalking, which he did constantly from one side of the stage to the other. In general, he moved very quickly about the stage. They played a sort of short set, about an hour, and no encore, even though it was still early (about 11 when they finished). Perhaps they were just tired from their traveling ordeal.

It was a pretty solid show. OG's sound and DT's short set perhaps made it less awesome than it could have been, but really, it was great to see two of my favorite bands from my favorite genre, especially considering they almost didn't make it.

Next show: Deafheaven (with Between the Buried And Me) on Feb 20.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Amon Amarth, Enslaved, Skeletonwitch - 1/31/14 at Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD

First show of the year, and I don't even get to it until a week later. That's just my life.

Well, so we went to see Amon Amarth. They were one of the first metal bands I got into, so I think they'll always be one of my top bands :) Besides, Johan Hegg is one of my idols as far as vocals go. I wish I could growl like him. (But since I'm a girl, I don't think my voice will ever be able to go that low.) I was actually looking forward to Enslaved more, though, because they were amazing last time we saw them. I didn't care much about Skeletonwitch; they're better than decent, but I wondered why they couldn't find another Viking-themed band for this tour.

When we got to the venue, they were screening the video for "Father of the Wolf." We were with S's brother and niece, and I tried to convince them to go in and watch the video, but they were hesitant for a while, so the video was almost over by the time we actually went into the stage area.

Not soon after, Ohio's blackened thrash outfit Skeletonwitch took the stage. The Fillmore's stellar sound system did them justice - they sounded better and clearer than I've ever heard them. I got a sort of death metal vibe from them this time, although that may have just been the thundering sound. They definitely did have an Amon Amarthy vibe to some of the leads though, with an epic or rolling sound. I noticed some thrashy and black metal moments, too, but my overall impression was much more groovy and melodic than I remembered them being. So it was a pretty entertaining set.

The experience of seeing Norway's progressive black band Enslaved was also different from the last time we saw them. Then, we saw them at the rather small Ottobar in Baltimore. We were probably less than twenty feet away from them, and they clearly towered over everyone in the venue (they're all incredibly tall, either that or they wear tall shoes). This time they were just distant figures, dwarfed by a large stage. They got off to a slow start with newer songs from Riitiir, but things intensified with "Ethica Odini." And two songs after that, I was very glad to find that they're still playing one of their oldest songs, "Allfáðr Oðinn," which is one of their best - it's my favorite, anyway. "Riitiir" also sounded surprisingly good. With the bigger venue and shorter set, their performance was not as intense as when we saw them at Ottobar, but I still enjoyed it.

We wondered what props Amon Amarth, Sweden's death metal Vikings, would have, considering that last time we saw them, they brought along a whole Viking ship. They turned out not to have much, just some banners of Viking warriors in front of their huge banner of the cover of Deceiver of the Gods. They also started out a little weak with two new songs. But as they thundered into the third song, "Death by Fire," I felt like the show really got started, and the intensity didn't let up till the end. Johan Hegg complained of a cold, but it didn't seem to affect his vocals, just making his speaking voice rough like his vocals. I felt like "Destroyer of the Universe" and a couple songs right after it were a little off, as though they were trying to play faster and not everyone could keep up. They finished up with "War of the Gods," which sounded much more epic than when they played it at Jaxx a couple years ago. But they weren't done - soon, thunder rumbled through the hall, introducing "Twilight of the Thunder God." The crowd was invited to sing along for the chorus. Then the band launched into "Pursuit of Vikings" and everyone went crazy - the whole floor seemed to be jumping, and I hear the middle of the floor was wild (we were at the very back).

Before leaving the stage, Johan Hegg invited everyone to stay and watch the video for "Father of the Wolf" (perhaps not knowing it had already been shown) but it didn't actually play and pretty soon the staff began encouraging us to leave.

Considering I was rather, um, unamped for this show, I had a great time. We got solid performances from all three bands, but Amon Amarth obviously ruled the night.