The musical plundering by Amon Amarth is far from over. On their path to world domination, they made a stop at 013 in Tilburg on June 21, with the mighty Asphyx as the opening act. On behalf of Zware Metalen, writer Remco Faasen and photographer Casper Houtepen joined The Great Heathen Army, raised shield, sword, and horn, and returned with the following report.
It’s quite bold to have Asphyx as the opening act for Amon Amarth. A layperson would place both bands in the same category, but the contrast couldn’t be greater: the Dutch band plays pure death metal without any frills, while the Swedes opt for a more melodic approach and bring along theatrical props in their travel case. Additionally, the Dutch Death Doom Division usually leaves a trail of broken necks, but Vikings have faced hotter fires before.
Earlier than planned, Asphyx takes the stage, and although it’s enjoyable for fans to see the band on a big stage like this, for most attendees, they are simply the “support act.” A song like Deathhammer is normally enough to make the roof of a venue explode or a festival field tremble, but today, that magic doesn’t happen. It’s not due to the band’s quality: I’ve seen Asphyx for the first fourth time this year, and for the fourth time, it’s pure delight. For example, with Forerunners of the Apocalypse, a magnificent gift that is gratefully received by the front rows. I hear German, French, and Dutch around me, but the language of admiration for this grand band is universal. Last One on Earth? Goose! Bumps! Asphyx does themselves a great service and closes their set furiously.
For a nanosecond, I consider going home now that the highlight has passed, but oh well, we’re here now, and watching Amon Amarth is certainly no punishment. As the A-runes dance on the screen in front of the stage, the first phones are raised to capture the lighting spectacle, and when the screen falls, we start, just like last year at AFAS Live, with the extremely catchy Guardians of Asgaard. During Raven’s Flight, half the venue is already bouncing around, and the first crowd surfers make their way to the stage, where Jocke Wallgren’s drum kit is hidden inside a gigantic Viking helmet, and two enormous Viking statues gaze into the crowd. Amon Amarth‘s music serves frontman Johan Hegg and his most accessible growls in the history of death metal. The band’s stage presence doesn’t differ much: there’s only one focal point: Hegg. The rest participates because they don’t want to perform with a backing track.
During The Great Heathen Army, two Viking warriors appear on stage, and at the first notes of the song, fists enthusiastically rise throughout the venue. Amon Amarth doesn’t need to do much today to transform 013 into a dancing and steaming mass. Just being there is enough; the audience does the rest. The atmosphere is exuberant, those who stand still are in the minority, and Hegg keeps egging on the crowd. It’s easy for him because the groove that Amon Amarth injects into every song even gets a retirement home moving. And since practically every song is easy to sing along to (Heidrun! Death in Fire! The Pursuit of Vikings!), such a concert practically writes itself.
Due to technical problems, there is no pyro tonight, but the absence of fireworks isn’t missed. Deceiver of the Gods is greeted with massive cheers, also because Loki makes his appearance, and during the subsequent Find a Way or Make One, we clap along. Yes, 013 doesn’t intend for this to be just an ordinary concert night; it seems they want it to be memorable. The crowd surfers keep coming in relentless waves, and when the two Viking statues on stage are replaced by ships, everyone knows what it’s time for: rowing! A significant portion of the floor instantly transforms into a rowing mass for Put Your Back Into the Oar. It earns approving looks from the music-playing Vikings. We continue with Destroyer of the Universe, and the always infectious The Way of Vikings. There’s roaring, headbanging, crowd surfing, and above all, laughter because Amon Amarth is a celebration. There’s a momentary pause with The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, but with First Kill, the fists are raised again. Shield Wall is performed with immense power, and for a lesson in choreography, we watch the returning warriors on stage, letting loose.
As the last notes of Shield Wall fade away, the warriors rush to the side of the stage to provide the band members with some moisture: the drinking horns are filled, with Hegg naturally having the largest one. He downs it in one go to underscore that in the world of Amon Amarth, there is only one sitting on the throne. Him. And no one else. The finale of this evening is no surprise: it’s a final moment of singing along, waving, and toasting with Twilight of the Thunder God, while Hegg battles a suddenly emerging sea monster with a hammer. Of course, he defeats it because in 2023, Vikings are unbeatable, especially when it comes to creating catchy, accessible, melodic death metal that even your grandmother can hum along to. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. Skål!
Date and location
21 juni 2023, 013, Tilburg
Casper Houtepen (Instagram)