For the most part, it seems live music has picked back up again. Venues are swamped, tickets are selling out in days, and band after band is announcing back-to-back tours across the world. One of the last concerts I saw in 2019 before the world shut everything down was Amon Amarth at Rebel with Arch Enemy, At The Gates, and Grand Magus. It had been some time since I’d seen the Viking Metal legends bring about a berserker rage from fans in the crowd, and with their album Berserker having been released, it seemed only fitting. This time we were to celebrate The Great Heathen Army album that had dropped in August of 2022 – and boy did we celebrate.
This time, the venue of choice was History – a brand new venue owned by Canadian Icon Drake, that’s quickly gaining popularity with concert goers and clubbers alike. With metal detectors and ticket scanning making things move much faster than the old wand and pat down, the venue is well-managed and well-maintained with some of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen, AND water refill stations.
BUT, let’s get back to the concert! Cattle Decapitation was already on stage when I got inside (friends and I had a rough time getting into town with traffic and rain so we grabbed some food first), and having seen them a few times in their earlier days I wasn’t too bummed to miss most of the set. They definitely had the crowd moving for the most part, and well-deserved for the years they’d been around but, they’d never really been my cup of tea from a musical stand-point.
Obituary followed up, and after catching up with some friends, and meeting some new ones, I made my way onto the floor, inching ever closer to the stage to get some good shots and hear some solid tunes. “Redneck Stomp” naturally kicked things off, and giving my head the reminder that this was still one of the heaviest riffs that infected my ears long ago. I wouldn’t go as far to say I’m a huge fan but, I don’t skip these guys when they come onto a playlist, and they still put on one hell of a show. We even got some new flavour with “The Wrong Time” that had classic Obituary heaviness with a bit more modern flare. I was glad to have gotten closer to see these guys as the sound seemed a bit distorted further back, and they definitely have their skills working to the max for these performances.
Carcass came up after, and this was a real treat. Hearing that this band doesn’t tour much from the many fans gathered around me, I could feel a shift in the scene the moment these guys took the stage. Cheers were louder, movements harsher, and there definitely were some die-hards in the crowd that wanted as close as they could get. They kicked things off with some finessed fret work on “Buried Dreams” that goes full tilt on the instrumentals on introduction which was a feature I had missed with many new bands. With tracks like “Kelly’s Meat Emporium” and “Genital Grinder” also on the setlist, I was perplexed but at the same time intrigued. The skill-work and expertise this band still has after running through the 80’s head-first is admirable to the say the very least. Not only did the hold up to the rugged riffs and dirtiness with 80’s metal but, kicked up the thrash and extreme when the crowd seemed to simmer a bit too much for their liking. Definitely a band that caught more of my attention, and I was happy to see so many loyal fans around as well.
But, when Amon Amarth took the stage, things heated RIGHT up. The usual push from fans trying to get closer didn’t come in but, you could feel that more bodies had come into the building, and the atmosphere was electric. With a curtain down to ‘hide’ the set-up, it was all anticipation. Being on the far right of the stage, I could see the band, and a got a few happy grins and thumbs up before the curtain finally dropped to the riff from “Guardians of Asgaard“. A simple track, one with the heaviness of classic Amon Amarth glory but one that didn’t get things too crazy…. yet.
Still, you could hear the echo of the crowd singing along, and the pit opening up to get things literally kicked off for the night.
But when the melody started for “Raven’s Flight” and Johan let out his signature shriek, the pit exploded, with bodies flying and crowd-surferers raised into the air. The speed and heaviness of this track got the crowd amped up, from jumping and swaying along to some wild head-banging and even wilder crowd surfing. With the show barely beginning, it was a wonder what else was going to happen.
Of course, the energy could only remain as “Deceiver of the Gods” came up, and the lighting darkened. The emerald glow of two eyes peered through the shadow and fog of the stage, with Loki emerging before us. This brought the crowd into an uproar as soon as that signature riff started up.
Having donned my war-paint (as per tradition for Amon Amarth concerts), as soon as the lyrics “they have kept me down, they have forced me to conform” came through, Johan pointed right at my face. I had managed to make my way to the front thanks to some friendly, tall folk and other fans who had some spare room and I was ecstatic to be close, just like last time. As the breakdown hit, you could feel the barricade sway beneath the head-banging from everyone at the rail.The intensity on this track brought out the absolute insanity in the crowd, and got even the most laid back metal-head moving along.
With one of their newer tracks coming in, “Oden Owns You All“, you could feel the crowd take a bit of a breather. But the gasps and stretches were short-lived as the speed on this new track is relentless in both its haste and weight. It’s a song that at first I hadn’t paid much mind to when it was initially released but, the more I listened to it, the more I admired it. So much so that I reviewed the recent music video they released that featured the talented Rod Hughes and his renowned Bladesmith skills! (Read the review HERE!)
It was after this that one of their popular tracks “The Pursuit of Vikings” kicked in and the crowd once more cheered, the pit once more opening up and encompassing any unsuspecting concert goer in its boundaries. “The Great Heathen Army” followed up to keep the momentum steady, and the crowd was happy to oblige.
To say the crowd had unyielding energy would be an understatement. Toronto doesn’t see many big concerts on Friday and Saturday nights so this was a special treat for many who didn’t have to worry about work in the morning. You could feel the crowd really give it their all, even to newer tracks like “Get in the Ring” but, the energy unleashed when “Destroyer of the Universe” came on was next level.
Shoes, shirts, and debris went flying as the intro riff came on with thunderous momentum, the pit engulfing anyone and everyone as they began to circle around, flailing and thrashing about like mad dogs in a cage. Those of us on the rail nearly lost our vocals shouting along (I know as I lost mine within the first few minutes the show began but that didn’t stop me from going all out regardless.) A favourite off their older Surtur Rising album, this has been a staple for many of their setlists, if not all, and it was easy to see why.
“Put Your Back Into The Oar” brought about a different energy, one that had me up against the rail, but with my body twisted to stare back and down. A popular release that dropped nearly a year ago but, one that still kept listeners head-bopping and caught the attention of old and new fans alike. (I also reviewed it when it dropped and you can find that full review HERE!) When the pacing slowed, and Johan says “so put your back into the oar” before beginning his “ROW!” chant, you felt half the floor move, and when you turned to look back, EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE that wasn’t on the barricade was on the floor, rowing in complete and unyielding unison as if they really were rowing for victory. What was the real piece of enchantment was to see everyone, afterward, getting up and offering a hand to help everyone else up. That night, Johan had said it was the biggest row pit he’d seen on tour – and they had seen a LOT of shows before this one!
“Cry of the Black Birds” unleashed another layer of hell upon the crowd, as the once row-happy pit had become a battlefield once more, the energy of fans renewed as if they’d truly landed on new shores. Pillaging, plundering, tossing friend and foe alike, the security guards were nearly at their wit’s end picking up and dropping off crowd surfers from every angle. You could see the sweat on their brow, and the anxiety in their faces as once they dumped one off, another they’d quickly have to scoop up.
The same energy didn’t yield when “The Way Of Vikings” brought out new entertainment for the crowd. Two armour-clad warriors held both shield and sword, circling the stage and ready for battle. Of course, this is no joke, as the duo DO actually hit each other until one is named the victor as the song rushes ever onward. The booming drums, and the wild riffs simply cannot be ignored, and it’s always fun to watch the battle ensue on this one.
My favourite Amon Amarth track “First Kill” followed up and despite my lacking vocals, I expressed every verse with vocal prowess and physical intensity that did frighten a few folks on my left. The crowd was ballistic at this point, the pit having grown larger and the energy still relentless. I let loose. Head-banging, tossing my long hair into the eyes and faces of anyone around me as my broken vocals screamed at the stage. The story and passion in this track ALWAYS has me coming back to it for a replay. It’s a staple in nearly every single one of my playlists on a daily basis, and it will stay that way for years to come as “I AM NO MAN’S SON!“
Keeping that same passion, “Shield Wall” picked up, and much to my dismay, there was no wall of death created in the pit, though at that point the pit itself was a death trap for anyone who fell willingly or not into its range. And to close out we held our horns, glasses, cans, and lighters up for “Raise Your Horns” as an ode to those who had left us, who we would surely see again one day. It was a bittersweet closure, as the Metal Community in Toronto had lost one of its own very recently before that show, Walter Froebrich aka the Mayor of Metal, who was a friend to literally everyone in the Metal Scene both near and far, including myself.
But, in truth, an Amon Amarth concert can’t close out without their signature track, one that has garnered more than 76 MILLION streams on Spotify alone – “Twilight of the Thundergod!” Though we did not get Johan’s signature scream on this one, the energy and fire was still the same as it has always been for this encore and ender. With Mjolnir raised, Johan cracks down upon the serpent as its head and tail burst through the stage, twisting and churning to attack. The wildness that that crowd had introduced previously was completely eclipsed with this track’s release – energy, lightning fast movements and jumping off the walls could not even begin to describe the insanity. Fans bounced with fire and ferocity as the breakdown came in and security was quick to rush the rail. Crowd surfers were flung everywhere, and the pit had almost taken over just as they’d done to row. It was a wild way to end the night, and one I would not soon forget.
For me, it wouldn’t truly be an Amon Amarth show without getting a little something in commemoration – a guitar pick of course, always aimed at my face for the warpaint I adorn myself with. And to note, I was one of TWO in full (not fancy) warpaint that night. Not a few little paint brush dabs or lines, a full eye-mask of viciousness. I never wear it just for show either, as some may know from my last show in 2019, where I did intend nearly go full berserker mode on someone. It’s all fun and games until someone tries to push through you to get to the front.
You can find more from this concert on my Instagram where I’ve got some highlights including videos, and more pictures! I’ve also added a few more photos to the Gallery section for you so don’t forget to check them out too!