On a freezing cold January evening in Southampton, there is a queue of people that stretches around what seems like a dingy warehouse with its rusty red bricks and slated roof. Actually the building is the 1865, an intimate entertainment venue. But the only indication that the Swedish Viking metallers Amon Amarth are playing here tonight is the metal looking car parked outside with flames on the roof, along with the lavish double decker coach, a number of white vans and some people wearing Amon Amarth T-shirts in the queue. The queue is so long that over half of the punters are unfortunate enough to miss thrash metal band, Savage Messiah’s set!
Go back an hour or so from doors opening and Brunswick Square is in a completely different state. There is no queue disregarding the twenty odd people waiting outside near the front doors to the venue and the occasional crew person who is running around finishing setting up the show. On the second floor of the building lies a room that has the interior design of an east London pub, and inside it the band members of Savage Messiah, Huntress and the legends themselves, Amon Amarth, are hanging out.
Huntress front woman Jill Janus lights up the room straight away with her friendly charm and beckons me over to a large, old fashioned wooden where guitarist, Blake Meahl sat down next to his amusing “titty bong.” Southampton was their last UK date before plunging into central Europe and so far they have had a good run on the UK leg of the tour, despite not being the heaviest band on the bill. “They’re not playing anything heavy, Amon Amarth fans aren’t stuck up,” Meahl states and it shows from the extremely positive reception of their stage show.
Meahl also spoke about woman in metal, the outbreak of female metal stars and impact it’s had on the genre. “Metal is a boys club,” he claimed, “but there’s a lot of girls doing it, and Jill’s an original.” Jill Janus’s awe striking vocals make the mould of the band and boy can she stand and deliver live. Her loud and electrifying voice room fills the room getting the crowd all rowdy. The dramatics in their stage show really enhanced the band’s hands on performance. From way Janus’s hair spun in a stunningly theatrical spiral to their artsy back drop of their latest to their new album. The guitarists are on top of their game and present there selves to the audience in a true rock n’ roll fashion, with attitude! Tracks like ‘Zenieth’ and ‘I Want to Fuck You to Death’ went down a smash, particularly when she mentioned that Lemmy from Motorhead had written the lyrics to, ‘I Want to Fuck You to Death.’
As the audience wait for the main headliner, Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ came on and the crowd sang to the age-old anthem. Anticipation was at a high. Moments later the room darkens, a roar echoes in the venue and suddenly a blue and purple streamed light show flashes before Amon Amarth finally come on the stage. Their set list was mainly compiled of fan favourites such as ‘War of the Thrones,’ ‘Father of the Wolf’ and ‘As Loki Falls’ that everyone appreciated and chanted along to. They also pulled out older tracks like ‘Destroyer of the Universe’ to please those hard core fans. The best songs of the night were ‘Guardian of Asgard’ which had everyone’s fist in the air and heads banging, and also ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ as an encore.
The band and crowd interaction cast a really fun atmosphere. At one point, lead vocalist Johan Hegg, got out a horn and started downing beer from it and had the whole crowd egging him to ‘chug.’ He also had a great sense of humour. For instance, in an attempt to get the whole crowd to sing along he said jokingly, “it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the words. It’s death metal, no one knows the words.” It was obvious how much energy was in the crowd when the rowing pits started to form. They started off small and spiralled outwards impressively. What was more impressive was the way the people involved managed to chant ‘row’ at the same time as each other making it even more exciting and hilarious for spectators to watch. The rowing pits showed how enthusiastic and passionate their fans are.
Amon Amarth are definitely a band to watch if you get the chance. Not just because they are killer at playing live but mainly because it’s all good fun. The music may have a serious, dark tone to it but Viking metal is an over the top sub-genre. All of this mixed together makes Amon Amarth gigs a great night out!