“As a teenager, I really wanted to be James Hetfield. I know now that I was being silly. As an adult, I realize what I really want is to be Johan Hegg.” – George
Last night the mighty Amon Amarth returned to our shores and laid waste to the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. Allow me to recount our tale of high adventure.
The doors were set to open at 7 pm, and I rolled into town at 6 pm intending to meet up with Will and John beforehand. I parked in my usual parking garage and began making my way to the meeting spot at McGinty’s Public House, which is nearby the Fillmore.
While walking down Fenton Street, I started going over my mental inventory. I brought the establishment-allowed point-and-shoot camera to take some photos at the show. Check. I also had the portable recorder so the three of us could record a postmortem of the show for the podcast. Check. Earplugs to stave off any further damage to my already ravaged hearing. Checked and triple checked. I felt confident that I was adequately prepared for the upcoming show. And then I had this sudden flash of an image in my mind; a nightstand next to my bed, with a drawer, and in that drawer: my ticket. Still in that drawer. Fuck.
This disaster was at least the second time that I have arrived at a show, only to realize that my article of admittance is actually somewhere else completely. I had a brief moment of panic. Anyone around me on the street probably thought I was a crazy homeless person because I was just walking along normal and all of a sudden burst out into a seemingly random fit of Tourette’s Syndrome. I texted Will and John to let them know of my stupidity and made a detour for the Fillmore ticket office.
I was hoping the show had not sold out so I could buy another ticket. John purchased his ticket earlier in the day, so my hopes were high. The lady at the window informed me that, yes, there was still tickets available. With a sigh of relief, I handed over my credit card to buy another ticket. I started babbling to the lady about how I left my original ticket at home, which is an hour away. She tried explaining to me that I could just call Ticketmaster, and they could make a note in the system that would allow her to print me another ticket from my order number. One does not simply call Ticketmaster.
John arrived on the scene while I was talking with the ticket office lady, and I explained I was going to try calling Ticketmaster. The lady gave me a phone number and my order number and said to see her when I was ready. Well, if you have ever tried calling Ticketmaster (or the cable company, or the gas company, or any large company service) you know that you don’t just ring them up and have a nice chat. I spent some time going through many automated menus before being given the option of talking to a person. When I finally was moved on to the choice of a live person, I was told I had a 15 minute wait time, which in real Earth time means at least 45 minutes.
I shook my head in defeat and walked back to the ticket lady to just buy another ticket. The lady thought I was crazy, but there was just nothing to be done about the situation. I took my new ticket, and John and I headed over to McGinty’s.
Will said he was on the second floor, so we climbed the stairs and found him at a table near the bar. Will was scheduled to meet with Blake Harrison of Hatebeak and Pig Destroyer. Will is hoping to brew a beer for Hatebeak and wanted to pick Blake’s brain. Blake was also bringing Will a few bottles of 3 Floyd’s Brewing’s Permanent Funeral, which was brewed for Pig Destroyer (Will’s BREWHEAD review to follow…)
John and I greeted Will, and Blake arrived shortly afterward. The service at McGinty’s was, well, absent. In the 45 minutes or so that we were there not a single person inquired as to whether we needed anything. Will and Blake had to go directly to the bar to order their food and beer, despite all the employees wandering around.
The first band, Exmortus, was scheduled to start at 7:30, so that is when we began walking back to the venue. There was no line to speak of by this point, just a security line where they probe you like they are expecting to find ISIS hiding behind your nut sack. This dude was thorough. I will leave it at that.
Upon entering the Fillmore, one is immediately presented with the headliner’s merch booth. My eye was drawn to all the wonderful Amon Amarth gear; so it was inevitably my next stop. I could hear Exmortus playing in the background; they sounded good. After acquiring my beer-horn-adorned t-shirt, I entered the main room and sought out Will and John.
The room was already packed, and we ended up standing most of the way to the back. Our position in the room did not bother me; I think the sound was better toward the back, and there was also less chance of getting caught up in any unexpected pit action.
Exmortus looked and sounded excellent for the remainder of their set that I was present to witness. Buke asked me to pick him up an Exmortus shirt, and I obliged. I snapped a few photos of the band and then their set ended.
Scheduled next was Entombed A.D., or as I like to call them, simply, Entombed. I became an Entombed fan after the release of their 1993 album, Wolverine Blues. For me, Entombed peaked with the release of Wolverine Blues (yes the first two albums are good too), and they haven’t done anything since then that has impressed me nearly as much. That said, I have still always supported them, and I will be the first to agree that the pair of Entombed A.D. albums are their best showings in years.
This show was my second time catching Entombed live. The first time was opening for King Diamond at Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia all the way back in 2003. Thirteen years? Wow, time does fly; it doesn’t seem nearly that long ago. That was an early show for the George/Buke concert duo.
Entombed A.D. sounded pretty good on stage at the Fillmore. I wasn’t as familiar with all the songs as I would have liked to be, but they certainly brought the metal, and L-G Petrov’s voice seemed in good form. I was a little disappointed that they only played the title track from Wolverine Blues, but the other songs certainly were not lacking for the omission.
Finally, it was time for the headliner, Amon Amarth, to take the stage. We could see that there was something large underneath a lot of black sheets on the stage. Obviously, it was some large drum riser. Based on the shape underneath I speculated that the drums would sit in the middle of a large dragon ship. I was wrong, however, as when all was revealed it turned out to be a giant horned Viking helmet…with the drums in the middle. I am no historian, but I thought I had read at some point that Vikings never actually wore helmets with horns on them, at least not enough so that it should be considered typical. Since Amon Amarth are a Swedish band, I expect they are fully aware that this is simply a stereotype perpetuated by too many Hollywood movies, so I am a little surprised they would use something so historically inaccurate. On the other hand, they are entertainers and probably want to give the people what they are expecting, reality be damned.
Regardless, Amon Amarth played a killer set. My previous trip to see Amon Amarth perform was at the aforementioned Jaxx for the Surtur Rising tour. For that show I only recall the band having a backdrop of the album cover. Granted, Jaxx was a smaller venue, but Amon Amarth seem to have come along way in the last few albums, at least in terms of stage presentation.
Throughout the set, Amon Amarth featured three different large background banners. The first was the album cover for their current release, Jomsviking. The next was the album cover from Surtur Rising. I did not recognize the third, but it was cool. It looked like a comic book rendition of warriors headed into battle, complete with blood squirts.
In addition to the backdrops and giant horned helmet, periodically throughout the set two mighty warriors in chain mail and helm would amble out onto stage. The first time was to enter into mock combat right at center-stage and whack the shit out of each other until a victor emerged. The second time they each stood to one side of the stage and toted flag banners, which they would stomp on the ground in time to a drum hit. The final time the pair appeared they stood at the ends of the stage again, only this time brandishing longbows with arrows nocked. It was evident the arrows did not have tips, but all three of us laughed after the show when recounting how we all cringed a little whenever the bolts seemed to be trained on us. They still looked like they could be uncomfortable if the guitar player bumped into them and they accidentally let fly.
I started off this write-up with a fake quote from myself about James Hetfield and Johan Hegg. I did this because damn if Johan did not stir something in me that has been long dormant. I am of an age where I no longer ever think about what is “cool” or hip or fashionable. While Amon Amarth certainly are not hip or fashionable in the sense that matters to the world at large, to me, Johan is just about the coolest Viking son-of-a-bitch one could ever want to be. He is tall, bearded and tattooed, and has one hell of a crazy deep singing/growling voice. If that wasn’t enough, Johan looked like he was having the time of his life on stage. He was headbanging and prowling the stage like a Viking jarl firing up his warriors, but at times he would also laugh and make silly faces at the guys running sound. He made me proud to be a metalhead and honored to be there taking in the spectacle.
The rest of the band weren’t so bad either. The music throughout was, to not put too fine a point on it, killer. Before one song Johan stopped and introduced their new drummer to the crowd, followed by much applause.
The highlight for me, and seemingly for the rest of the audience based on their response, was the first encore song, “Raise Your Horns.” This song is brilliant. Not only is it a cool Viking song about drinking to your fallen brothers, but it is also conveniently named for what the band expects you to do at their show: throw the metal horns in the air.
Watching Amon Amarth perform it is easy to see how this band has become as huge as they have in the metal world. They consistently make great music and their live show seems to only be getting better with each passing tour cycle. If you have the opportunity to see these guys, even if you’ve seen them before, I highly recommend you attend. I was so fired up by the performance that I totally drank all the Kool-Aid afterward, as can be seen in the following photo:
Thanks to Will and John for making the night even more fun. After the show the three of us recorded a short postmortem in the parking garage. If you would like to listen to that, it will be at the end of our next podcast (episode 47), which will be posting early next week.
RAISE YOUR HORNS TO AMON AMARTH!!!