Amon Amarth – Academy 2, Manchester 25/01/14

Amon AmarthIt’s a cold, frosty Sunday evening in January, and an unusually large crowd clad in band t shirts and heavy duty boots are descending on Manchester’s Academy 2, hungry for an evening of face melting metal melodies and the sweet alcoholic nectar that promises fun and frolics for all.

The supports for this particular Amon Amarth tour were two bands I had never encountered before, the first being Savage Messiah (7/10). I could see a lot of influences of greats that have come before them in British metal in their hyper confident, Maidenesque style and rebellious no boundaries attitude. This certainly livened up the audience and got them pumped up and ready to enjoy their evening exactly the way a first bill support act should and I enjoyed their efforts to entertain and bring excitement to the atmosphere.

The audience were very supportive and appeared to be engaged and enthused by the performance, and there was even people arriving in the band’s t shirts over Amon Amarth shirts, which is unusual and quite an awesome level of dedication to see. The sense of unity and mutual dedication to the birth of modern metal through thrash was tangible in the air, and this made the whole set feel like a welcoming and a celebration as one entity which made this performance really fit the bill as an opener and a measure to bind us as an audience together ready for the main event.

The introduction of Huntress (6.5/10) presented an unusual and always welcome variation in the form of a female leader. In the case of this particular frontwoman, Jill Janus, I got a sense from very early on that she has picked up on a certain way of behaving and singing that gets the best response from the band’s audience, and rigidly stuck to it to enjoy the greatest support, with no controversy or unpredictability.

Janus is a classically trained singer with an impressive four octave range but unfortunately, rather than be treated to the full variety of her unique talent, what we get is a throaty and slightly husky female vocal sound that deviates more in power than range, with just the occasional reminder that she can sing in much more interesting ways.

The set was kept moving by Janus’ professionalism and stage presence which, though formulaic and rigid, did express the band’s theme and choice of style well while successfully garnering a modest but appreciative reaction from its audience. I felt they too were thrown off a little with how by the book her performance was, as that lack of feeling of freedom subdued their own desire to just enjoy the set as however they saw fit. It was a bit of a shame as it was the precursor to the headlining act and there should have been a little more excitement in the air.

I am used to seeing a fairly flamboyant and spectacular show from Amon Amarth (8/10); in their last performance at Sonisphere Festival they had the prow of a Viking longship on the stage and that was just a short 45 minute set! In terms of this particular performance it felt almost subdued in comparison and the set had a relaxed, comfortable, slow-burn feeling to it, lacking the hype and excitement that is perhaps the quintessential factor that fans pay to immerse themselves in.

It didn’t really feel like a show for the sheer passion of entertaining, or being flamboyant based on the lack of Viking ship and pyrotechnics, or even for the love of music, and as the set progressed it felt like they were going through the motions of something that has become second nature to them. I would love to say that the air was electric and that everybody was mega engaged and enthralled, but the reality of the set was play song, talk, play song, talk, and it felt quite static. I would like to see them play again but when they actually really want to, as this has been their second full UK tour since 2013’s Deceiver Of The Gods. I look forward to seeing them creating a new album for us fans to enjoy and share with them in the hope that it brings new spice, direction and lots more epic tours to allow for a different, retrospective portrayal of their older songs in comparison to their new material to keep their evolution as artists feeling fresh and animated.

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You can check out our interview with Amon Amarth’s bassist Ted from 2013 here.

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