GIG REVIEW: Amon Amarth, Entombed A.D. & Exmortus Live at Rochester, NY
The weather was typical of April in Rochester NY, which is to say, cool, rainy, and grey, as a large gathering of metal heads formed the long snail-paced line in front of Water Street Music Hall to see Viking metal royalty Amon Amarth. The fact that the show was happening at all was a good sign however, as less than three weeks prior the venue was denied its renewal of its entertainment center license for its repeated inability to prove it can keep patrons safe. Given the history of fights and occasional gunshots, such concerns were not unwarranted. But the venue was open and a cheerful crowd of kilt and Viking armor-clad fans waited anxiously to get inside.
The opening band was California’s Exmortus, who started their set to a half empty room, as the majority of the line was still outside in the cold waiting to get in. The room eventually filled, and the thrash/death metal warmed up the crowd who broke into the first of uncountable pits during the speed and fury of “Death to Tyrants.” Rochester may not have a major metal scene, but the crowd was on point, and gave them fitting ovation as they left the stage.
The second band of the evening was Entombed A.D., who are formerly known as Entombed, but breakups have left them as they are now. They came onto the stage to riotous applause, which is to say players came onto the stage and singer LG Petrov stumbled onto and around the stage in a manner that suggested he was either more than a little intoxicated, or suffering from late stage Parkinson’s disease. Given the cans of beer he was chugging, and spitting over himself and the stage, and my lack of a medical degree, I’ll conclude it was the former. Despite his incoherent rambling, Petrov’s energy and enthusiasm could not be denied, and he soon had the crowd whipped into a moshing and crowd surfing frenzy. The crowd surfing came to an abrupt end when Waterstreet’s security made themselves known and firmly put an end to it. The band played for a brisk 45 minutes before saluting the cheering throng.
At precisely 9:30 pm, the crew of Amon Amarth pulled the curtains from the massive Viking helmet that held and framed the drum kit, and the thunderous chords opening “The Pursuit of Vikings” swept over the crowd. The response was overwhelming as the crowd head banged along with the band. Until Johan Hegg encouraging the crowd to sing along during the chorus, reminding us that; “It doesn’t matter if you know the words, its death metal and no one will know the difference!” The band unsurprisingly played no less than five tracks from their new album ‘Jomsviking’. The crowd response to “The Way of Vikings” was utter mayhem, as fans sought to find a true glorious Viking death in the pits and become worthy of the Valkyries attentions; it is destined to be a live staple and favorite for years to come. Amon continued to enthrall the crowd during the entire show, stopping only briefly to introduce new drummer Tobias Gustafsson, who handled not only his own parts from the recent album, but also the lengthy back catalogue with equal ease and precision.
Amon gave the adoring crowd a full hour and forty five minutes of Viking metal glory and by the time they gave a love letter salute to beer, and fallen friends with “Raise Your Horns,” the crowd was in a state of pure elation. In the smoky mist during the final notes I thought for a moment I caught a fleeting, shadowy glimpse of Brünnhilde coming to raise the fallen and take them to Valhalla. But perhaps I was only seeing things. They culminated with “Twilight of the Thunder God” and finished a perfect evening of Viking metal. I have never, in all the concerts I’ve seen, seen such joy on stage as Amon Amarth had while they performed, nor a band have as much, if not more, fun than the audience. And that is what this form of metal is about. Well, that and wading through the blood of your enemies of course.
To sum up, it was a brilliant performance by arguably the most beloved of all Viking metal bands, and it behooves any self-respecting metal fan to see them on this, or any other tour. From gloriously absurd stagehands in Viking garb wielding swords, shields, battles axes, and more, to the unadulterated joy and energy pouring from the stage, Amon Amarth puts on a show you don’t want to miss.