The 16th of May, 2016, was my fifth time seeing Amon Amarth take the stage — with more vikingness than ever, it seems. I first saw them back in 2007 for the With Oden on Our Side tour when I lived near San Francisco. Having seen them five times, I must admit this one was the least spectacular — and they even had cosplayers on stage. But I think that was why; I much preferred their shows with no bells and whistles, just pure energy to carry us into the night until we ride at dawn. This is also, in part, due to the difference between SF Bay Area shows and Vancouver, BC, shows. Vancouver has nothing on SF. More on that at another time.
Setlist and Stage Presence
So if you take a gander over here you’ll find the complete setlist for the show. It was an okay mix of their albums; I would have liked to see more from Versus The World and before. I’m not a huge fan of Jomsviking and that definitely skews my perception of the show. Their execution is always pretty good, but there was a definite lack of energy on stage — perhaps just fatigue from being aging vikings on the last leg of their tour, but disappointing nonetheless. Which is ironic considering the amount of theatrics that went into their performance. Behold:
I’m guessing that was one of the reasons tickets were so expensive. Some bands pull this off well, but often because they started with a gimmick. Ghost and GWAR, for example, do theatrics to near perfection. The first wave of Norwegian black metal essentially championed this, and all the subcategories of black metal that came after; one must only look to Gorgoroth’s Black Mass Krakow to understand stage presence. But Amon Amarth started as — dare I say — a grassroots melodic death metal band with heavy folklore influences. I hesitate to say they are “selling out” because who gives a fuck really, but their vibe has shifted dramatically from what it used to be. Whether or not that’s good or bad, it has at the very least made their shows less exciting for me. That raw, primal vigor that clenches your gut and rips out your intestines simply wasn’t there.
On the Floor
The Amon Amarth Crowd has become increasingly diverse. From furries to sequins and uggs (yeah not fucking joking), everyone seems to be coming out of the woodwork to see their most beloved viking metal band. That’s one sign to me that Amon Amarth is becoming more accessible. Again, not going to place a judgement on that, but it is… interesting. Points of note:
- A faux-corseted lass moshing in heels.
- The standard few larpers you always see at folk metal shows.
- A woman wearing a rainbow sequin dress with uggs.
- No hardcore dancers (praise the gods).
- A very gay threesome waiting to happen (heartwarming, actually).
Another thing I’d like to mention is what happens when you’re a female at a metal show. As someone on the receiving end of free liquor, here’s a PSA for all y’all who are on the purchasing end: If I don’t see the bartender pour it, I ain’t drinkin’ it. More about this in a future post about the social psychology of metal concerts.
To raise horns or not to raise horns?
I wasn’t impressed by this show. It was decent. The crowd was intriguing. As an academic, any time people gather together in groups is always a nifty experience from an analytical socio-cultural perspective. So that’s kind of all I’m taking out of seeing Amon Amarth this time around — another chance to study the metalhead in its natural environment.