Amon Amarth with support from Darkest Era
Tuesday 12th August 2014 – Limelight 2, Belfast
The turnout for Amon Amarth‘s welcome return to these shores was impressively strong on August 12th : the Limelight 2 and indeed the surrounding streets were filled with an abundance of long haired, black-clad and really quite beautiful folk. And that was just the men!
For those who arrived early enough to catch the support act, they were in for a real treat. Local lads Darkest Era specialise in rather grand celtic metal that really set the scene for the evening. Vocalist Krum has quite the soaring, majestic voice which perfectly matched the band’s epic tone, while the twin guitar assault of Sarah Wiegall and Ade Mulgrew gave the band a ballsy, Iron Maiden-y sound. Shouts of approval greeted each song, whilst titles such as ‘Sorrows Boundless Realm’ and ‘The Morrigan’ lent the songs themselves an epic, storytelling feel. In all, a very talented band and a hugely fun set.
Now, obviously nobody in attendance expected headliners Amon Amarth to bring their full stage set with them tonight. Attempting to shoehorn an entire Viking longboat onto the Limelight’s rather ‘compact and bijou’ stage would defeat even the most hardy of warriors! Still, the crowd were audibly impressed with the setup they did manage: a stone wall which split the stage into two levels, with a gorgeous lightning-filled mural backdrop and two large ‘stones’ carved with runes and celtic motifs, backlit with ever-changing coloured lights. Nice!
Of course, none of that would matter if the show itself didn’t match the stage. Would the gig pale in comparison with such finery?
Would it bollocks is the answer! The band strode onstage to a suitably majestic intro amid roars of delight from the wall-to-wall crowd and immediately launched into ‘Father of the Wolf’ from latest album ‘Deceiver of the Gods’, and they just…nailed it. Vocally tight, rhythmically on the button – even the four-pronged headbanging was perfectly in time. Barely stopping for a breath they dove into the title track from the aforementioned album, with towering blonde vocalist Johan Hegg beaming delightedly as the crowd sang the intro riffs back to him.
After an amiable chat with the utterly enraptured crowd (and a swig from his holstered drinking horn), Hegg and co. continued on, playing an ear-pummelling, viscerally exciting set of both old and new tracks, from ‘Cry of the Blackbird’ to ‘As Loke Falls’. They even threw in a ballad of sorts in the shape of the soaring, grandiose ‘Embrace of the Endless Ocean’ – yes,all six and a half minutes of it – after which Hegg commented with a twinkle in his eye: “I think that concludes the ballad part of the evening, don’t you?”.
Their set was crammed full of highlights: the double-bass heaven (well, Valhalla) of ‘Death In Fire’, the crowd singalongs in ‘Guardians of Asgard’, and the heavy, heavy heaviness of ‘Valhall Awaits’, which was greeted by a sea of aloft horns in the room.
A (very) short pre-encore break gave the overheated crowd a chance to catch their breath before a stormy soundtrack heralded the return of the Vikings. The huge Thor’s hammer held aloft by Hegg garnered a huge blare of appreciation from the crowd, before ‘Twilight of the Gods’ rang out – to which everyone showed their delight by drowning out the band during the chorus! This was possibly what prompted Hegg to command the crowd to bellow out “ODINNNNNN!!!!!!” during the particularly apt final track ‘The Pursuit of Vikings’, with spectacular, noisy success. Following that with a humble thank you and acknowledgement of the crowd, the band then exited the stage, spent, sweaty and stouthearted – triumphant warriors, one and all.
The Limelight is one of those venues that is intimate enough to give you that “I can’t believe they’re here!” rush of excitement, particularly if the band onstage is killing it. Well tonight, Amon Amarth killed it. They were thrilling, primal and, much like the tales they tell in their songs, legendary. Here’s hoping that their longboats bump up against Belfast’s shores again soon.