AMON AMARTH‘s explosion in popularity these last several years is no coincidence. Consistently solid studio records, eye-catching live performances and an air of accessibility has led to the Swedish vikings becoming one of the most prominent bands in the modern metal scene. On the back of this year’s Jomsviking, the band are ready to bring their Viking invasion to the British Isles.
Before the main invasion begins GRAND MAGUS served as the opening skirmish. The Swedish three piece’s approach to the classic heavy metal formula basks in what makes heavy metal so enjoyable; hard hitting riffs and a soaring and emphatic vocal performance. In the live environment, GRAND MAGUS unleashed riff after riff throughout their short opening set. The combination and bass tones of JB Christoffersson and Fox Skinner packed a powerful punch, from the slick riffing of I, The Jury to the emphatic anthem of Hammer of the North, GRAND MAGUS were utterly impressive. Christoffersson‘s vocals held their own too; with soaring highs and rumbling lows serenading the audience throughout. Never compromising their morals, approach and style, GRAND MAGUS stuck to their guns and provided a set of pure heavy metal glory.
TESTAMENT have been one of thrash metal’s biggest names for decades now. Since 1983, the thrash metal outfit have dominated heavy metal and even in the modern age, the band still have the ability to hold their own in both the live environment and on their studio records. With album number 11, Brotherhood of the Snake, just hitting stores by the time of the tour, it made no surprise that several new tracks were a focus point of the band’s set. Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold were all performed formidably, holding their own to the band’s established and well-celebrated back catalogue. Yet, where TESTAMENT truly shined was when the band kicked up a gear into their classic material. The slick riffing of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson on Disciples of the Watch incited legions of banging heads, Chuck Billy‘s razor-sharp vocal lines on Into The Pit still sound as good in 2016 and Gene Hoglan‘s drumming was precise and on-point. Despite several sound issues dampening the overall impact of TESTAMENT‘s sound, overall the band still more than proved that they have what it takes to pack a punch, 32 years after their explosive origins.
AMON AMARTH‘s live shows are as much a visual spectacle these days as they are an audio experience, and tonight was no different. An enormous viking helmet backed the stage, of course it did, holding Jocke Wallgren‘s drum-kit; an impressive site indeed. With Jomsviking released earlier this year, it made sense that a large portion of the band’s set contained new material and the new tracks impressively held their own against the established ‘classic’ hits. Johan Hegg‘s vocal deliveries on First Kill were utterly impressive, At Dawn’s First Light incited chaos and Raise Your Horns‘ enormous chorus served as a fitting anthem.
That said, there wasn’t really a moment where AMON AMARTH didn’t shine. The guitar play of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg on Twilight of the Thunder God was as impressive as ever, Jocke Wallgren‘s drumming on Death In Fire was as menacing as it was emphatic and Runes To My Memory is still as hard-hitting as ever. Jocke Wallgren was only made a permanent member of the band in September but his performance on the drums was nothing short of magnificent. Never missing a beat, Wallgren‘s playing was as professional as ever and helped surge AMON AMARTH‘s enormous sound. Johan Hegg‘s vocal deliveries were as loud and powerful as expected and his confidence and humour on stage demonstrates that he is becoming one of the best frontmen in modern metal. There’s a feeling amongst many in the metal scene that AMON AMARTH will soon be headlining big festivals across the globe, and if anything, their performance in Manchester only reinforced this. Emphatic, visually pleasing and thoroughly entertaining, AMON AMARTH capture the over-the-top, powerful and downright fun nature of heavy metal and brought a performance that was absolute quality.
Check out our photo gallery of the night’s action in Manchester from Sabrina Ramdoyal Photography: