The first thing I saw upon entering the main room of House of Blues last night was two guys wearing full chain mail armor. Slightly later, I spied someone with a drinking horn fastened to his belt. Yes, Viking metal has arrived in town. For those not in the know, Tumba-based Amon Amarth is a leading proponent of the genre, a death metal-based approach to music but with all imagery and lyrics focused squarely on the ancient warriors of Scandinavia. And they have a great time doing it, with the audience full in on the angle. Beards, flying hair, and downtuned chugga-chugga riffs are de rigeur at most metal shows, but how many times have you seen two knights duel on stage? I can now tick that box. Another first was seeing someone in a wheelchair crowd surf right over the barrier (safely, I might add – good job to all on both sides of the barricade). It was a team effort from all angles, and if you felt joining the team, you could buy an actual Amon Amarth hockey jersey at the merch table. Alas, no chain mail was available.
Fellow Swedes Entombed A.D. (the latter suffix a legal requirement due to a split with founding member Alex Hellid) came along for the ride, and fit right in to tonight’s mix like grape jelly nestles closely to peanut butter. Double kick drums, a relentless buzzsaw guitar attack and sturdy bass lines were the perfect foundation for singer Lars-Göran Petrov’s gravelly vocals, as he endlessly paced all available real estate of the stage and worked the room like the seasoned pro he (and the rest of the band, for that matter) is. Of course they couldn’t ignore the material from Hellid’s era, and the hard-charging title track to Wolverine Blues had a descending guitar blues riff somewhat reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, a visible mark as they swerved into the so-called ‘death ‘n’ roll’ genre. A powerful reading of “Left Hand Path” yanked the crowd back to the raw, primal sound of their debut, claws outstretched into the air.
California-based Exmortus was the slight odd man out, an American thrash band instead of a Swedish death metal band. That didn’t bother anyone at all though, and their adrenaline-charged attack was the perfect primer.
Photo gallery of all bands: