As I write this, these bands are getting ready to set up the last show of their tour. For a relatively short tour, this one has roamed all over the United States. It started in Las Vegas, looped outward into places like Texas, shifted over to the eastern states, including Florida and Massachusetts, and eventually found its way back West to the wonderful City of Angels. With all the crazy and pummeling snowstorms hitting the east, the bands have been lucky: only one show (in North Carolina) was canceled and that because the governor declared a state of emergency in the state. On the band's Facebook page, they wrote, "We definitely would never cancel any show because of a little snow, and any state that is used to having snow [in] winter time usually knows how to handle it." Seriously: what's a little snow to the boys in Amon Amarth? These guys tour with their own copy of Mjölnir the mighty hammer, forged and ready to strike.
When I caught the tour, it was close to the end of its run. I expected things to be either exiting or exhausting. I figured it would be great, but you never know how a heavy touring schedule can drain people's energy. Fortunately, there was nothing to worry about. This was a great night of music. The bands sounded great and things went off (almost) without a hitch. But I'm getting ahead of myself. To kick things off, Skeletonwitch hit the stage with their usual blend of aggression, energy, and passion. I have always liked this band and have never been disappointed in their live performances. As I watched them perform, I was especially impressed with how effortless they make performing seem. They seem to genuinely enjoy performing for audiences and, in my experience anyway, never deliver anything less than 100%. I was especially impressed with the quality of Chance Garnette's raspy vocals and Dustin Boltjes's drumming. The other guys were no less terrific.
I was really excited to catch Enslaved, a band I've never seen live before and one that has never played in my great state of Utah. When they hit the stage, they played an amazing set, mostly made up of new stuff, but concluding with some older favorites. Unlike Skeletonwitch or Amon Amarth, Enslaved faced some serious technical difficulties. I wasn't sure exactly what set things off, but halfway through the 3rd or 4th song, the sound went off. Things got repaired quickly, only to fail again and again. The cool thing is that the members of Enslaved took it all in stride. Sure, they were upset and offered up a few complaints, but they also had a job to do and didn't want to waste their energy in whining. At one point, drummer Cato Bekkevold played a solid drum solo. I had to laugh when guitarist Ivar Bjornson (the first "o" has a line through it but I can't find the keystroke to do that) said "I'm guessing the Mormons did it." Later, when the problems persisted, he looked around mysteriously and said "something metaphysical is going on," possibly another comment on the contrast between a metal show and the state's dominant religion. Despite these technical difficulties (which cut some of Enslaved songs short—and cut their set short) the band weathered the storm and played really well. I admired their ability to push forward and to give things their all. Enslaved is a great band.
When Amon Amarth finally took center stage, they came out as hard as possible. I've seen them before and knew that they put on a good show. This night, though, was even better than the last time. The band is in top form and they played with a clarity and quality worthy of their epic songs. They also have one of the great front men in the business. From start to finish, Johan Hegg transforms the stage into the kind of place that only he understands, a mythical world in which gods, good and evil, fight things out. I know that some people criticize the band by saying the music sounds roughly the same from album to album, but not all consistency is bad. I mean, these guys write killer songs and bring so much energy to their live set that I can't imagine anyone being disappointed. Even though I am probably most fond of the album Surtur Rising, the material from Deceiver of the Gods (especially the title track) is very convincing in a live setting. Amon Amarth knows exactly how to deliver the goods. To me, this was a great tour package, one that should definitely come together for another series of shows.
To any readers hoping to see some of my grainy, dark, and amateur live photography, I owe you an apology. The lighting was too dark in the venue and my poor little camera, despite my best efforts, only produced some truly awful images, none worthy of this great night of music. Other metal sites have posted some colorful and compelling photos of this tour that a simple internet search should turn up. Happy hunting.