The anticipation of seeing both Sabaton and Amon Amarth under the same roof nearly killed me as I was eagerly waiting for the doors to open outside of the Commodore Ballroom last night. I ran upstairs, as fast as my short legs allowed me to as soon as I was allowed to go in, and found myself front row and center for what would end up being the most orphic and brutal night of my life.
After thinking that I was going to be passing out from excitement at least twenty times, the lights were dimmed and Skeletonwitch entered the stage to a very keen crowd. The moment the quintet started playing, the show-goers erupted. They were singing along to the harsh vocals of growler extraordinaire Chance Garnette, marveling at the heavy bass of Evan Linger, and smiling from ear to ear whenever one of their two guitarists launched face-melting solos. With good stage presence, good musical ability, and a restless crowd backing them, Skeletonwitch warmed up the room like no opening band I’d ever seen before.
When the lights dimmed again for Sabaton to enter the stage, the crowd started chanting their name, burying the backing track that played them on. Hannes Van Dahl, the band’s drummer who joined the lineup only last year, entered the stage first and set the crowd on fire. The rest of the band walked on stage and started playing their crowd-pleasing opener “Ghost Division” in front of an hysterical audience.
In 2012, Sabaton won the Metal Hammer award for Best Live Band, and they showed exactly why last night. With Joakim Brodén’s microphone flips and particular moves to Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund’s stage hijinks, the permanent smile painted on Pär Sundström’s face, and the precision and obvious passion of all the members of the band, they were perfect. Their set list has been perfected to give their fans what they wanted to hear, playing some of their biggest hits such as “Carolus Rex”, “Primo Victoria”, “Swedish Pagans”, and both singles from their latest album, Heroes. When they played “Resist & Bite”, a third guitar was brought out for Brodén to play, and Englund and Rörland shamed his guitar abilities by displaying theirs, much to the delight of the crowd. That didn’t deter the singer from showing off; he started playing “Master of Puppets” by Metallica, a move that was followed by Van Dahl who accompanied him. When they stopped playing, Brodén sang the first line of the song and smiled as the crowd replied in unison with “I’m your source of self-destruction.” Those little moments, the goose bumps that adorned the frontman’s arms every time the crowd would start chanting the band’s name in between songs, the amazing chemistry and fun those guys have on stage, as well as their deep appreciation for their fans, cemented Sabaton as the epitome of live perfection. The moment Sabaton left the stage, the crowd got exponentially more rowdy. The fun atmosphere they had created disappeared completely and people started trying to push their way to the already packed front row while the technicians were setting up the stage. That alone was a good indication of the sheer brutality that was to come.
When Amon Amarth finally made their way to the stage and started playing their latest single “Deceiver Of The Gods”, they were greeted by thousands of howling, growling fans who tried to get as close to the metal Vikings as possible. Being a short female in the front row of an Amon Amarth show is akin to getting hit by a bus repeatedly. I stopped counting the amount of times where I couldn’t sing along because I couldn’t breathe, and I stopped wondering whether the sweat in which I was drenched was mine. I had no voice left from singing along to Sabaton, but none of it mattered. Amon Amarth were spectacular. Johan Hegg, the growling frontman, has the charisma of a cult leader. The adoring spectators listened to every word he said, and I got chills when he laughed maniacally as he introduced one of the songs. When a band can recreate on stage the same sound and the same feeling they crafted for months in the studio, you know you have something special. Amon Amarth did just that. They have mastered their ferocious sound over the years, and their setlist was savage and merciless. They played the heaviest songs the crowd could stand, including “Father Of The Wolf”, “As Loke Falls”, “Destroyer Of The Universe”, “Guardians of Asgaard”, and “Twilight of the Thunder God” so expertly, it was awe-inspiring. The intense crowd loved every barbaric minute of it. After their set of approximately twenty songs and encore, I felt like I had fought well and that I was first in line to reach Valhalla’s mighty gates.
Written by Kai Robidas