Amon Amarth - Return of the Thundergods @ Jaxx


Some things never change. An example would be the inability of Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Virginia to open their doors on time. Or even remotely on time. My personal waiting record for Jaxx was at a Blind Guardian show a few years ago where we stood out in the freezing cold for two hours past the scheduled door time (and you know metal fans aren't wearing anything but t-shirts or maybe a cut-off denim jacket; a leather jacket for the ones who plan to sweat to death once they get inside.) Yes, basically Jaxx is the Guns 'N Roses of rock clubs - They will open when they damn well feel like it and you will just feel lucky to be there when they do.

On this particular Monday night Jaxx was only an hour late opening their doors. Scheduled to open at 7, they actually opened at 8, which was of course the scheduled start time for the show, which then really started at 9. I hadn't been to Jaxx for a couple years so standing out there griping with the rest of the crowd made me feel like I'd never really been away.

At least this gave me more time to eyeball what band shirts other people were wearing to the show. This is a time honored tradition at metal shows, looking to see who is wearing the rarest or most "underground" shirt in the crowd. I was breaking the first rule of metal club by wearing the shirt of the band that we were waiting to see. That's such a rookie fanboy mistake, but I've been going to metal shows so long that frankly I could show up wearing a Miley Cyrus shirt and the so-called hardcore fans better kiss my ass and ask where they can get a shirt just like it lol. I saw two different guys wearing Darkthrone shirts, how embarrassed they must have been.

When we finally got inside we purchased the requisite concert shirt and moved on to begin the pre-show sauna period. This is the time before the show where you slowly acclimate to the brutal heat inside the main room of the club. Everyone can relax now that they are in position and can focus on building a nice wet outer sheen while mentally preparing for the inevitable jump in room temperature that accompanies bodies bouncing off each other in metallic frenzy. It couldn't hurt for Jaxx to invest in some heavy duty air conditioners.

Reading up to this point you might think I had a pretty miserable time at Jaxx that night, but you would be wrong. Normally we would have had to sit through four or more opening bands of varying quality before the headliner took the stage, but not this night. This was "A Night with Amon Amarth" and right out of the gate we had what we came for - Amon Amarth would perform their entire new album "Surtur Rising" as well as a second set of songs spanning the rest of their catalog.

It was as though the sky opened up and the Norse gods on high descended to lay waste to Jaxx and the mortals therein. Plainly spoken it was one of the best extreme metal shows I've ever attended. This show cannot be compared to larger venues and artists of the caliber of Iron Maiden, Dio or Metallica, that is a different breed. But for the small venues frequented by the even more underground extreme metal bands, this put all others to shame.

The sound was thunderous and yet at the same time devoid of the muddy mish-mash of noise one generally expects from shows like this one. Johan Hegg's deep and powerful vocals were discernible above the music, just as he was always at least barely visible above the writhing crowd at the front of the stage, head back as he snarled Nordic fury into the microphone. The guitars were not the typical wall-of-fuzzed-out-distortion, the massive riffs and melodic leads cut through all other sound and were easily recognizable. These things just don't happen at small metal shows, and certainly not at Jaxx.

The mighty Swedes played for over two hours, and like the crowd, their energy never lagged. Despite the fact that it felt like nearly every drop of fluid had by this time sweated out of me, exhausted and swaying I was disappointed that the show had to end. We saw Jay the owner of Jaxx on the way out, and I thought to myself I should recommend A.C. units to him, but then decided what good is a metal show if you don't come out soaked head to toe. Instead we staggered off in search of Gatorade.