Sweden's kings of Viking metal Amon Amarth have been lumped on quite a few extreme metal tours here in the US over the last few years, so it only seemed fitting that in late 2007 the lads from Tumba found themselves on a month long headlining tour that saw them make their New York City stop at Irving Plaza, or, as they like to call it now, The Fillmore. Originally, Polish technical death metal upstarts Decapitated were slated for the tour as well, but a bus accident in Europe just prior to the tour that caused the death of their drummer forced them to cancel their appearance, which left Amon Amarth, US metalcore/thrash favorites Himsa, and Sweden's Sonic Syndicate to keep the tour going with just the three bands. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo was on hand for the event and brings this full report.
I wasn't sure just how well this show would draw, as none of the three bands seem to have that large of a following yet here in the US, or so I thought. Surprisingly, there was at least 800 or so people packed into New York's The Fillmore, seeming to say that Amon Amarth's recent opening sets in the area the last few years have really boosted their following. Not the cold New York weather nor the fact that it was a work/school night for most kept the Tri-State area metal heads away for this one, which was a good sign for things to come.
Sweden's new hotshots Sonic Syndicate took the stage first, making their debut appearance in New York and celebrating their signing to Nuclear Blast Records. Their latest CD Only Inhuman is a mix of Swedish melodic death metal and US styled metalcore, and the band features two lead vocalists, lots of melody, and crunchy guitar work. In speaking with both rhythm guitarist Roger Sjunnesson and the lovely bassist Karin Axelsson before the show, the band seems very honored and excited to be on this tour, with Roger stating that "the shows so far have ranged from large turnouts to smaller crowds in the smaller cities, but we really don't care as we are just happy to be here and playing for new audiences every night." I asked Karin how it felt when the band won the Nuclear Blast new band contest and got their recording contract, and she replied that "it's all been like a dream come true, but we've had to work really hard in a short period of time, getting the CD finished and getting ready for the tour, but it's all been worth it!" The hard work was evident in their short 30 minute set, as the band were extremely energetic and tight, showing plenty of confidence and swagger for such a young band. Dueling vocalists Richard Sjunnesson & Roland Johnasson fired off plenty of screams, growls, and clean passages, and the bands accessible yet heavy songs displayed a style that should really click with US audiences. Problem was that it seemed, at least at this show, that most of the audience were only interested in Amon Amarth and death metal, and Sonic's brand of more youth-targeted metal drew plenty of ire and disinterest from much of the crowd, dispite some in front of the stage who seemed very into the set. It's a shame, because the band really nailed it during their brief performance. Perhaps a more proper booking with bands that are more similar to their style on a future tour will benefit them better than this particular night (and I'm not sure their Spring 2008 jaunt with Nightwish is going to fare much better), but time will tell. Despite this, they were a charming bunch to meet, and gave it their all in a set that drew mostly from their new release.
Himsa didn't far much better, by this time the fans at The Fillmore were just not interested in anything other than the appearance of the headliners. Honestly, I expected more from this band, as their latest CD Summon in Thunder is actually very solid, but live, these songs just sort of sounded flat, as the Seattle band lacked anything that could have separated them from any number of other opening acts that we've all seen over the last few years. The thrashy punch and classic metal vibe that permeates from the CD just didn't transfer to the stage, and after 2 or 3 songs most of the audience seemed to feel the same, causing the rest of the set to be treated with little to no enthusiasm from the crowd.
Finally, Amon Amarth came out to a thunderous applause from the fans, who were pretty sure that the cancelling of Decapitated would result in a longer set from the headliners. That was indeed the case, as the Viking horde tore through 17 songs from throughout their career, including such classics as "Versus the World", "The Fate of Norns" (which was dedicated to Vitek, Decapitated's late drummer), "Victorious March", and of course "The Pursuit of Vikings". Lead singer Johan Hegg as always was an imposing frontman, possessing some of the best vocals in the death metal genre, and prowling the stage like the crazed Viking leader he portrays. The fans growled along to every word, and there was plenty of frenzied moshing going on throughout the floor area in front of the stage. Personally, after about the 10th track in, things for me started to get a tad tedious. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I've seen the band quite a few times over the last 2-3 years, as well as I've sat through the huge DVD set of theirs not too long ago, which includes quite a few shows with similar set lists to what I was witnessing. My opinion though was not shared by the majority, as it seemed that not one person went home unhappy. Amon Amarth delivered a ferocious and lengthy set of favorites, that proved that they were worthy of the headline status for the first time here in the US.
The absense of Decapitated was felt by many, as they would have added that extra element of death metal that was missing from most of the evening up until Amon's set. Sonic Syndicate and Himsa were in somewhat hostile territory on this night, but they made it out unscathed and are surely looking forward to more positive times here in New York in the near future.
Amon Amarth Setlist
2.Valhall Awaits Me
3.With Oden On Our Side
4.Death in Fire
5.Versus the World
7.The Sound of Eight Hooves
8.Hermod's Ride To Hel
9.Cry Of The Black Birds
10.The Fate of Norns
11.Thousand Years of Oppression
12.Down the Slopes of Death
13.Bleed for Ancient Gods
14.Runes To My Memory
16.The Last With Pagan Blood (dedicated to san diegans)
17.The Pursuit of Vikings