fri 06/12/2019

Amon Amarth, O2 Academy Brixton review – London welcomes its new Viking overlords | reviews, news & interviews

Amon Amarth, O2 Academy Brixton review – London welcomes its new Viking overlords

Amon Amarth, O2 Academy Brixton review – London welcomes its new Viking overlords

Swedish metal behemoths entertain with irresistible tales of myth and mayhem

Just your average berserkers

“Are you ready to do battle with us?” bellows Johan Hegg, Amon Amarth’s imposing yet cheery frontman, immediately prompting an enthusiastic roar from the packed-out Brixton crowd. “GOOOOOOD!” He’s the most genial Viking you could imagine - six-foot plus with a gigantic beard and massive hair, a drinking horn holstered on his thigh, and a huge smile plastered across his face.

Named after the Sindarin name for Mount Doom in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, naturally, Amon Amarth are currently marauding their way across Europe as part of a massive world tour (whose upcoming dates include Norway's pleasingly named Tons of Rock festival). Brixton’s metal fans (and one clearly delighted security guard down the front) are quite happy to be conquered by the Swedish invaders, whose perfectly-chosen intro music (Iron Maiden’s "Run to the Hills") sees drummer Jocke Wallgren stride onto the stage and clamber behind his drumkit, which is perched betwixt the horns of a giant Viking helmet. Hegg appears soon after, arms aloft, followed by the rest of the band, and then it’s down to business.

Having had the good fortune to clap eyes on Amon Amarth at Download festival this summer, we wondered if the impressive pyrotechnics of that set would make an appearance at a much smaller indoor gig – and boy, do they ever. Spectacular pyro displays so intense they warm the happy faces of the back row scorch the air throughout the 90-minute set, interspersed with surreal, comical appearances from a pair of sword-fighting warriors and a mysterious horned berserker. At one point, the lights go down and return to illuminate a pair of gigantic stone-effect figures either side of the stage - an impressive sight that brings Middle Earth back to mind, echoing the Argonath statues from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Spectacle is certainly the name of the game tonight. And this lot, having been at it since 1992, are very, very good at providing it – and at having an enormous amount of fun doing so. “Crack the Sky”, from current album Berserker, gets everyone jumping, with a massive cheer for Hegg as he wields a giant Thor-style hammer. The eye holes of the giant Viking helmet are screens that variously display lightning, (more) fire and at one point some creepily moving human eyes. A giant drinking horn is ceremoniously brought on for Hegg to quaff from, after a gravelly holler of “SKÅL!”, as a hilariously British chant of “Chug! Chug! Chug!” from the crowd cheers him on. “That’s a bit more than a pint, but that’s all right,” he says, before introducing excellent drinking song “Raise Your Horns”. And amid the Carlsberg bottles, there are plenty of drinking horns obligingly held aloft.

The whole show whizzes by in a highly entertaining frenzy, before a giant inflatable basilisk (and why not?) appears on stage for the finale, “Twilight of the Thunder God”. The crowd is absolutely loving it – among them a small boy who catches a drum stick at the end and then disappears into the night holding his dad’s hand. Yes, the songs are all about mythical battles, drinking, warriors and Valhalla, but Amon Amarth do this so well that resistance is futile. And when the real world is all getting a bit much, it’s good to have a loud, daft Viking fantasy world in which to escape, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Skål to that.

Comments

Great write up, thanks. I was there in the pit and the energy was fantastic. There were two episodes of mosh-rowing which were great fun. All in all an epic gig, and I’ve still got Fafner’s Gold playing in my head. Skal!

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