Amon Amarth 4/22/11

Posted on April 28, 2011

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When onstage, Johan Hegg sports a pair of leather wrist guards wide enough for most men to wear as leg warmers, and his voice booms over the PA like Thor himself. So when the Amon Amarth frontman calls bullshit on the forthcoming film about the Scandinavian deity turned superhero, the sold out crowd crammed into the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco shuts the hell up and listens. “It’s a bit weird for us, being Swedish, seeing a movie called Thor,” Hegg muses in a gravelly tone identical to his singing voice. “Because we do not know him by that name. We know him as Aaaaasaaaaatorrrrr!

Predictably, Hegg’s bandmates kick into the rollicking song bearing the thunder god’s name as the now sweat-drenched masses respond with headbanging and circlepits. That’s what’s so much fun about Amon Amarth. The predictability is not only welcome, but praised. We know what we’re getting with every new album. We can probably guess what the cover art will look like (a Viking dude with a sword, some sort of fire blazing across the landscape and maybe a mythical beast? You don’t say!). Hell, we even knew what we were going to see on this particular tour: the quintet’s new album, Surtur Rising, played in its entirety, followed by a second set of older stuff. Which is coincidental, considering the new stuff sounds just like the old stuff. Call ‘em the AC/DC of death metal. Whatever. Just don’t ever call them boring. Two hours and change of windmilling, mid-paced melodic death metal may be torture on the neck and arms (from air guitaring, of course). You may even wake up feeling like you chugged one two many horns of mead. But damned if you won’t be rarin’ to ransack the closest residence for cash, an iPad…maybe a nice Sony widescreen.

Except our boys from the North insist that Vikings were largely misunderstood; that they were a generally peaceful, diplomatic people whose tales of eating mysterious fungus, plundering in the buff and beheading anyone unfortunate enough to inhabit the besieged township have been exaggerated. Fine, we’ll just take inspirational epics like “Runes to My Memory,” “Death in Fire” and “Cry of the Black Birds” as works of literary nonfiction. No amount of artistic license can weaken Hegg’s message when he bellows, “We came under attack / I received a deadly wound / A spear was forced into my back / Still I fought on.” It’s a call to arms against the everyday horrors that strive to break our spirits; the people and chance occurrences and general bullshit that urge us to permanently hit the snooze button on our alarm clocks and never get out of bed again. But as Hegg himself commands before the song of the same name, we must plant our feet on the floor and rise to the challenge, to fight “For Victory or Death.”

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Posted in: Live Reviews, Reviews