PHOTOGRAPHY BY: JASON HODGINS
WORDS BY: GIANCARLO CORTEZ
On October 10 of 2014 I had the pleasure of covering Swedish titans Amon Amarth with Sabaton and Skeletonwitch at the Sound Academy in Toronto.
Doors opened at 7, but there was already a sizable crowd to Skeletonwitch pound! Skeletonwitch’s run of albums has been nothing sort of phenomenal: 2007’s Beyond the Permafrost, 2009’s Breathing the Fire, 2011’s Forever Abomination, and 2013’s Serpents Unleashed. The Ohio based metalheads have blossomed into an accomplished band. They seemed to be enjoying themselves up there.
Witnessing the American band rip through “More Cruel Than Weak”, “I’m of Death ” plus “Burned From Bone” you’d also have to say they sounded hungrier as they opted for their most blackened songs instead of their thrashy, At The Gates sounding material. At least for the first part of the set.
Vocalist Chance Garnette sounds like he has been influenced by Sven Erik Kristiansen, who is best known as the former frontman in the black metal band Mayhem under the stage name “Maniac”. Especially the Chimaira (2004) era.
Skeletonwitch’s older numbers such as “Beyond the Permafrost”, “Stand, Fight and Die” sent the crowd into a neck snapping frenzy.
Swedish warriors Sabaton had a tough act to follow but they pulled it off. A hugely entertaining repertoire with grooves and instantly recognizable riffing. Newer members Chris Rorland (guitar), Thobbe Englund (guitar), and Hannes Van Dahl (drums) seem to be growing as musicians and mastering their material convincingly.
Frontman Joakim Broden broke the ice with the crowd by talking bout hockey. His jokes about Canada always beating Sweden were so hilarious the crowd reacted with laughter. Metal purist couldn’t help but grin watching the frontman bound across the stage.
As for the new album Heroes, there were worthy pieces: “To Hell and Back” is spellbinding, and “Resist and Die” is a glorious exposition of power metal with that unmistakable Sabaton tingle.
But noone can hold the torch to Amon Amarth. The crowd didn’t expect Amon’s insanely war-zone of a set. the Swedish took the crowd by the throat. Amon Amarth are synonymous to sonic brutal assaults, unrivaled destructive power, truly unbelievable sustain. Guitar players Johan Soderberg and Olavi Mikkonen sent shock waves of sound across the venue and awakened a godzilla-roar overtones when they chugged through power chords.
Amon Amarth have managed to stand the test of time together since 1998. Making the Swedish band one of the most stable band formations in the history of not only metal, but music in general.
Stage-wise the vikings didn’t decorate their stage with the hull of a viking ship as last years Mayhem Festival performance where the band went all out and made their stage as epic as their music. However, the band played for 90 minutes this time, last year the crowd only got 30 minutes of a festival set.
“Guardians of the Assgard” gave the crowd a good shacking although the absence of Entombed’s LG Petrov was felt. The legendary Swedish singer did guest vocals on the studio version and joins the band on occasional European shows for a run-through of the song. Having Apocaliptica’s Perttu Kivilaasko popping up for “Live for the kill” would not hurt either but that’s too much to ask.
Despite a notable lack of diverse albums, gigantic frontman Johan Hegg puts it in a solid set, “All of you, sing along. Don’t know the words? It’s death metal… no one will know the difference!” Amen to that!