On Tuesday night something wicked was in the air. AMON AMARTH and SKELETONWITCH came to Dallas on a mission: to crush skulls and melt faces. I had this night circled on my calendar since the announcement was made last fall for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I saw AMON AMARTH at Mayhem Fest in August and six songs just wasn’t enough, no sir! Second, since SKELETONWITCH put out their latest masterpiece Serpents Unleashed I was determined to experience them live no matter what. P.S. I’m not into ENSLAVED so I didn’t catch their set, you guys will just have to deal. I’ve also never seen House of Blues that packed for the opener before. Amazing!
At 8pm sharp SKELETONWITCH took the stage to the familiar intro of “This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)” from 2011’s Forever Abomination before diving headfirst into it. This was immediately followed by the punch-kick combo of three Serpents Unleashed pummellers, the title track, “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)” and “Burned From Bone”.
When they finished, right on cue the audience roared their approval, me included. Chance Garnette said a quick hello to all us Dallas peeps before taking us back to their landmark Beyond the Permafrost album with “Sacrifice For the Slaughtergod”, and when it was over he quickly yelled “Beyond the Permafrost” before they tore into it, drawing some of the night’s loudest cheers.
More new stuff was to come, however. Soon we were treated to “From a Cloudless Sky” a song that during an earlier interview with guitarist Scott Hedrick I told him reminded me of AMON AMARTH, and he readily accepted my compliment. The live version blows the studio one away, especially on the goddamn solos!! I swear the paint was peeling off the walls during this one.
2009’s Breathing the Fire album made an appearance in the form of “Crushed Beyond Dust” a song that the guy next to me was CLEARLY waiting for as he screamed every word. A brief thank you and then they ripped through new song “Beneath Dead Leaves” and old classic “Within My Blood” from the very first and now out of print At One With the Shadows LP. Ten songs and I felt like I just got my ass kicked! I cannot fucking wait till SKELETONWITCH comes back as a headliner!
Finally, the time had come for the one…the only…AMON AMARTH to lay siege to Dallas as only Vikings can. With the newest album artwork for Deceiver of the Gods as a backdrop the Swedish juggernaut led the attack with “Father of the Wolf” and the title track from the same album, singer Johan Hegg stalking back and forth pointing to the faithful in the balcony and the maniacs up front with everyone in attendance going apeshit!
For the next ninety minutes we would be treated to one of the most balanced setlists I have ever been privy to. “Death In Fire” from Versus the World was up next before giving way to my 100% ALL-TIME FAVORITE FUCKING AMON AMARTH SONG: “A Freewill Sacrifice” off of 2008’s Twilight Of the Thunder God, the album that served as my introduction to this amazing band. “We’re outnumbered ten to one here, still I love the odds!” is such a killer lyric that I was growling right along with Johan, hence me not having much of a voice as I write this.
New songs “As Loke Falls” and “We Shall Destroy” came back-to-back, and you could tell that everyone in the room owns this record by the reactions. You know how some bands play a new song and the energy level in the room dips a bit? Not the case with AMON AMARTH. This is one fanatical fan base, again, me included.
Drummer Fredrik Andersson had the ground shaking for “Runes to My Memory” and the twin guitars of “Varyags of Miklagaard” were like the soundtrack to the field of battle, courtesy of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen. Hell, even I was ready to take up arms at this point! “The Last Stand Of Frej” from Surter Rising, and my other favorite, “Guardians of Asgaard” only served to strengthen my resolve and I found myself ready to fight off an advancing army should the need arise. Plus, Johan’s “Guardians of ASGAAAAAAARD!” is just fucking awesome! I’ve often said that “Blood Eagle” is one of my favorites from this Deceiver album and live it was like a sledgehammer to the skull. This set the stage for an eight-minute epic, also from this album, “Warriors of the North”. You really need to hear this one to get it, but suffice to say it’s like the before, during, and aftermath of a great battle; as if a movie is unfolding before your very eyes, truly magical.
Another fine selection from Surtur Rising soon followed in “Destroyer of the Universe”, Ted Lundström’s bass in lockstep with Andersson’s double kick drum thunder. And yet another stellar moment came in the form of not one but two more classics from the Oden album. Johan said, “Is it the Cry…of the Black Birds”? with the audience screaming it back at him and then the marching beat of “Gods of War Arise” took over to close out the main set. But we weren’t done yet, not by a long shot. “Twilight of the Thunder God” started and mayhem (pun intended) ensued!
Some guy I didn’t even know just put his arm around me as we screamed ourselves hoarse on the choruses. All we needed was an innkeeper and a flagon of mead. “Tonight, Dallas…you are all VIKINGS!!” was how Johan introduced final song “The Pursuit of Vikings”, the lone cut off of 2004’s Fate of Norns, which turned into a crowd roar-along:
“Oden! Guide our ships
Our axes, spears and swords
Guide us through storms that whip
And in brutal war”
When it was all over, the signs of siege were evident. Spent bodies and tired faces slowly filed out of the House of Blues one by one, skulls crushed and faces melted by the lethal combo of Blackened Thrash and Viking Metal. AMON AMARTH and SKELETONWITCH came here on a mission and I am happy to report that they accomplished it and then some.
There is absolutely no excuse for missing this show when it hits your city, NONE!
THE GODS COMMAND YOU, SO GO!!photo credit: Darkhouse Image