So, the first gig of 2015 for me, and one that i’d been looking forward to for a while. Having seen both Savage Messiah and Amon Amarth before, i had a good idea what i was in for, but i then had the unknown element in the form of Huntress to witness – should make for an interesting night.
And it did. Despite the show being a sell out (ticket wise of course!), walking out on to the fair sized stage in the Academy 2, the hall was only half full when the lads from London took their places, yet Savage Messiah clearly had their fans in the crowd as they were treated to a really warm welcome from the gathering masses.
As previously mentioned, i’d seen Savage play about a year ago at Hammerfest, where they were one of my highlights of the weekend, and yet here in Manchester, they were a different band. An even better band! Tight, fast and energetic Thrash delivered with panache and confidence was the order of the day, and whilst understandably the material played was strongly favoured from 2014’s underrated “Fateful Dark” album, each and every track had pockets of the crowd headbanging, while the rest nodded in appreciation. It was clear to see that the constant touring, and probably the competition on this tour alone, has had a very positive effect. A great performance from a band still so young, and still so much to offer.
Huntress were up next, and having heard mixed reactions to their live shows in the past, i certainly wasnt going to pre-judge them, but on record they come across as fairly safe, traditional heavy metal, and yet live, they really came in to their own. Vocalist Jill Janus has all the stage presence you could ask for – she simply didnt stop moving, and when she was, it was so theatrical and captivating. Adding to this, she was initially dressed in her now infamous cloak, but with the additions of shoulder spikes, demonesque nails and a well placed wind-machine – it was quite the performance. Vocally, it was as intense as her on-stage persona, and wow, what a range! I was just thankful that i had ear protection at one point.
As for the rest of the band, they seemingly couldn’t compete – there was very little interaction between the band and vocalist, let alone the crowd, and so some songs felt flat and lifeless – the crowd seemed to pick up on this too with rounds of polite applause – perhaps it was a touch of unfamiliarity, or simply saving themselves for the headliners? Who knows? A fun performance overall.
The time taken for a band change over is of course the time where you’d do one of three things: 1) Head to the bar, 2) Head to the loo or 3) Barge your way to the front and assume the position. And with that in mind, its usually the time where the anticipation for the headlining act builds to almost unbearable levels… Unfortunately, who ever was let loose on the PA did an amazing job of sucking the life out of the room by playing Lamb of Godawful tracks. This was valiantly rescued when the lights went down as Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” was used as a precursor to the arrival of Amon Amarth!
Bursting straight in to the lead single from “Deceiver of the Gods” – “Father of the Wolf” – the place erupted in to a mass of trashing bodies, moshing and flailing hair, and rarely let up through out the entire set. Ripping through essentially what could be classed as a “best of…” set at this point in their career, everyone was treated to their faves from the last few albums, but it was also cool to hear tracks like “Bleed for Ancient Gods” from 1992’s “The Avenger” get an airing as well.
I had some trepidation in whether Johan Hegg’s voice would hold up, especially after some trouble he had earlier in the week, but there was nothing to fear as his trademark roar was loud and proud. Stalking the stage like a wild animal, he cuts an imposing figure, but one backed up by his fellow warriors, all of which relishing in the glory of battle and the reaping rewards – the crowd singing each an every memorable lyric and guitar harmony!
At one point, i genuinely had no idea what happened next! One moment im headbanging happily, the next, the crowd suddenly dropped to the floor, and in unison, proceeded to row their imaginary ‘Leidang’ for all it was worth, and all in perfect timing to the beat of “Twilight of the Thunder Gods” – a great moment, and one that will stick with me for some time.
Amon Amarth were on top form tonight, and showed exactly why they are so popular right now – a force to be reckoned with and a genuine treat to catch them in such close quarters.