Stoke-on-Trent’s metal scene has all but diminished in recent years with the majority of metal’s biggest names skipping the Midlands area in favour for cities like Manchester and Birmingham for example. It is why it was such a breath of fresh air when it was announced that Swedish heavyweights Amon Amarth would be conducting an intimate and full length tour across the entirety of the UK. Would an intimate show bring a new experience or would it fall in comparison to the massive stage shows fans have come to expect?
Kicking off the proceedings were Britain’s own new wave thrash act, Savage Messiah. The band have exploded within the British metal scene in recent years and with their latest record, The Fateful Dark, released last year the majority of their setlist was comprised off tracks from that record. Whilst it was unfortunate that the setlist didn’t feature songs from 2012’s Plague of Conscience for example, the band did perform at breakneck speed and ferocity. Opener Iconocaust set in motion what was to be a set jam-packed with legions of fans headbanging ferociously along whilst Scavengers of Mercy showcased the sheer vocal talent of frontman Dave Silver. With Silver’s guitar/amp packing in only several songs into their set, one would expect their performance to dwindle into the territory of mediocrity but, to the surprise of all it only improved. With Dave Silver completely restricted to vocal duties there was an essence of Bruce Dickinson as he held the audience firmly in the palm of his hand. It was a unique aspect to their performance and it was incredibly entertaining to witness. (8)
Unfortunately, Huntress couldn’t follow Savage Messiah’s impact and their entire performance was extremely under-par. There’s no doubt that frontwoman Jill Janus is a unique performer with her influences in witchcraft shaping how she commanded her duties as a vocalist but despite this it fell a little flat. With her vocals not having the impact that was expected, the entire performance slumped as well. Musically, the band did have some highlights; for example the riffs in Eight of Swords did catch the attention and sub-sequentially the appreciation of the crowd and the drumming of Carl Wierzbicky was consistently excellent. However over the course of their entire performance the delivery and quality of Huntress was disappointingly mediocre. (6)
Amon Amarth have steadily built a strong reputation amongst the metal community. Since their inception 23 years ago, the band have gone from strength to strength and that was completely evident in their performance at The Sugarmill. With a back catalogue spanning nine records the 15 song setlist was sprinkled with tracks spanning the band’s career, from opener Father of The Wolf to Death In Fire, Amon Amarth’s performance was varied and brilliant. Perhaps the highlight of the band’s entire performance was the surprise inclusion of Victorious March and The Pursuit of Vikings, the inclusion of these old tracks gave their performance that unique and special feel and it was thoroughly enjoyed by the entirety of the audience. Despite the band not sporting their usual impressive stage effects, from start to finish the band were incredibly impressive from start to finish. Twilight of The Thunder God sent the crowd into a frantic state whilst the melodic yet ferocious Cry Of The Blackbirds was met with thunderous cheers. Musically the band are a tight knit machine and in their performance it was ever more so evident. The combination of riffs by Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg was nothing but pure class and Johan Hegg’s commanding presence on stage was in full force tonight. Amon Amarth are considered to be a heavyweight in the metal scene and judging from their performance at The Sugarmill and the reaction from the crowd this has never reigned more true. (9)