An Awesome But Imperfect Monday Outing...
Amon Amarth, Obituary, Legion of the Damned and Keep of Kalessin
@ London Forum 9th March, 2009

by: ZZ Frost
Don't you just hate when a) a champion gig falls on a Monday and b) you learn that had 'business' not got in the way of things, the package you got bored to tears watching for its first half could have been a hundred times better? We got Keep of Kalessin and Legion of the Damned. A little birdie says that could have been Primordial and Immolation. Now we don't believe the latter, but fuck, Primordial! Okay, so it would have been three, maybe four songs. But it would have been worth the price of entry alone, mon beatscakes. DUB says she would have snapped up a ticket for twenty quid on the door and gone home before Obituary even took the stage. "Work is work and Primordial is Primordial", say she. Bearing in mind she loves the "Doom" (and speaks 'Mordor' or some shit, with that red cloak and white wig she is prone to put on...) and you get why this equals 'the public got cheated'.

Also, there is this other birdie, not so little, who pointed out that had this gig fallen on a Saturday, you would have had people from all over the continent or world, let alone the rest of the UK, turning up to pay their respects to Floridians and Swedes alike. Only pity then would have been that it would have been harder to expose KoK and LotD for the insomnia inducers they are: big crowds can easily hide bad bands. Simple verdict from the easily navicable pit? Don't bother with either -- one sounds like Fear Factory played with blastbeats by bigger wankers, the other is only fun if you like spotting stray Death, Slayer and other seminal 'extreme metal act' riffs laced into thrash-beat snore-fests that make Dew-Scented look like the best thing that happened to continental Euro-thrash in the '90s. Something like that -- you edit the bits that don't make sense.

Had not some cunt's boss told us we needed to get in early to catch the 'stellar' openers to this one-night-only package, I would have arrived about the time it is now, here in review land. 20:20 equals time for Obituary to bust heads open. "Dying" followed by "Cause of Death" is about the best introduction anyone could wish for -- as we heard some stray highlander remark, 'Children, this is death metal...' Yes, brother! Santolla shreds and makes you want to take his hands and see what the devil will give you to get them back. The supporting cast members (Perez and Watkins) riff it up with swagger. Donald represents the discipline of the whole. He is the taskmaster, the whip-cracker. You can tell that he made sure "The End Complete"'s first airing in over a decade came off like a dream of riff-and-stop genius. It's a team effort, but one that required someone to crack that whip -- seven years dead is nothing to sniff at -- and you don't get the feeling that Santolla has the authority. At least, not yet. Plus in death metal, drummers set the pace, if not always the tone. But despite all the work the well-oiled instrumental machine does, it is John Tardy above all who stuns. Today a better frontman than ever, he is a silhouette of the Swamp Witch from "Tales From the Crypt"; snarling into his tilted mikestand like death metal's answer to Bon Scott appropriately re-dressed for convincing shotgun-toting, he much more importantly packs lungs that modulate incomprehensible vocal brutality into rousing, rock god worthy shapes. And yet, still, as brutal, efficient and professional as Obituary's performance is, they don't show up Bochum's dearest Swedes...

Though some see its music as awe-inspring and others deem it merely 'very good', few argue that the cover to Amon Amarth's latest album isn't striking. Seeing that oh-so-metal Nordic-Conan-meets-the-sea-monster image billboard-sized -- filling the space behind the Swedish five-piece without any amps or ramps or even an imposing drum riser to detract from its simple power -- you can't help but feel there is also a cheeky message inlaid into it. That hard hairy bastard with the axe, that's the tongue of the music business (the dragon-sea-monster thing) he has got ahold of -- and you can see where his Mjolnir is headed. Next stop thereafter might be to put it beyond the light... Creatively lit via a half-dozen computer-controlled lights, this mega-banner is effectively Amon Amarth's only 'gimmick'. In fact, stripped of drinking horns, AA's wardrobe could almost have been stolen from Metallica, just post-'Black Album'. Even the leather gauntlets (simple, black, classic) that grinning howler Johan Hegg sports (mirrored by a few audience members) wouldn't have looked out of place on Hetfield when he was still metal. But times change: beards and beerguts are in, it seems. Good news for some, but considering how much AA are a testament to the Swedish nation's obsession with Iron Maiden (not Nifelheim-level, perhaps, but up there) it actually seems more surprising, now that AA are becoming huge here in the dreary U of K, that the British (who have something of an impressive love affair with Iron Maiden themselves, as if you hadn't noticed) did not take to these Swedes like ducks to water earlier. They had to go through tons of shit to find the real deal, it seems. Well, there are obviously no hard feelings -- I hear the old faithful who came to see Amon Amarth back when they couldn't fill the Underworld are kicking about here somewhere, and the rest are rapt anyway. Hegg plays with the audience early on when they fail to automatically shout their loudest -- narrowing his eyes in silence before leading the cheer like the self-taught pro he is -- but ultimately it is the punters who end up surprising AA's formidable front-dude; as a melodious cheer catches him off guard, Hegg exclaims, 'Wow! That was fuckin' cool!' totally out of character. Those aforementioned non-lovers of that latest disc had by this point got to the best part of the gig, as you'll see from the setlist provided below.

"Twilight of the Thunder God" (2008)
[short pause to encourage crowd]
"Free Will Sacrifice" (2008)
"With Oden on Our Side" (2006)
"Varyages of Mikkelgard" (2008)
"Fate of Norns" (2004)
"Under the Northern Star" (2006)
"Guardians of Asgard" (2008)
[Hegg is caught off-guard]
"Ride for Vengeance" (1997)
"North Sea Storm" (1999)
"Tattered Banner and Bloody Flags" (2008)
[break -- stupid people might think it's over...]
"Death in Fire" (2002)
"Victorious March" (1997)
[encore break]
"Cry of the Blackbirds" (2006)
"Pursuit of Vikings" (2004)

It was the track that told the world this Swedish band was brutal to the bone, however many nice melodies you might find in their stuff. "Ride for Vengeance": what a 'chune', as you pommes like to say. Played to near-perfection. Sadly, we had to duck out, get home and then go to work at -home- the morning after -- we'd never have made it had we left any later. It's a long journey... But having been through the Amarth's magic wringer many times in the past, we know how all the important bits went down. A night to remember, perhaps something historic. If they're not bigger than that wanker kind of monster some day, it will make no sense. But to you UK guys out there reading, I have to add one thing: why the hell do you and your mags expend so much energy thinking of Trivial American matters and Swedish sweethearts when metal mammoths like these are staring you right in the Bruce Dickinson from Germany? You guys gotta get out more or something! We will never understand your market, but we love your moshers. SA want you to keep rockin!

(article submitted 30/3/2009)

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