Archive for Amon Amarth

Preview: Heavy MTL 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Lightning Slim

And so the pilgrimage is set to begin again. Heavy MTL 2013 will (hopefully) be a good time that will rinse out the bad taste of encroaching cheapness that has overtaken the show of late. Main sponsor has switched from Budweiser to Molson Canadian, which is a bit like telling a captive that flogging has been discontinued in favour of foot-sole beatings.

Also, remember these?

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The beautiful holographic VIP passes and lanyards that have been a cool feature of the MTL experience are now gone. Paper tickets only. Wonder how MUNG those are going to get when we have to show them to security every time we want to get into the seating area? Also likely gone is any sort of physical schedule, which was slowly eroded from a full magazine/brochure until last year it was a single flyer, inaccurate and delivered late in the day.

For the first time, MTL has offered its own dedicated accommodation package; a set of rooms at the New Residence of McGill University (the building itself is a former 4-star hotel). This could either be the best decision we’ve ever made or the worst, as it is inexpensive and convenient, and populated entirely with heavy metal maniacs. You see the double edge of the sword here, no?

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Now, for the schedule. Here’s Saturday:

Sat Schedule

 

Although I’m a little sad that A7X takes pride of place over Megadeth, I totally get it. Dudes are old and tired. Not as successful as Metallica or grass-roots respected as Testament. Plus, Dave Mustaine is like three seconds away from pulling his pants up to his armpits and turning into cranky old Republican Clint Eastwood. Thing is, Eastwood has always been a “good guy with a gun”, and never wrote “Hook In Mouth” or covered “Anarchy in the UK”.  My crew will be hanging with Wintersun anyways.

Why are we forced to decide between GWAR and Blackguard while Halestorm is in the free and clear? Grr. Ah well, I can’t resist seeing what the inconsistent Antarcticans* can come up with in a festival setting.

Similarly, it hurts me that I have to run from interesting proggers Baroness to see a few minutes of jaunty, parodic Steel Panther.

Sorry, Newsted. A reformed At The Gates takes it. And a possible train wreck reunion of Danzig and Doyle is way more fun than All Shall Perish.

How about Sunday?

Schedule Sun

No interruptions to the silly fun of Huntress! Or Finntroll! Or the-real-reason-everyone-is-here Amon Amarth! Me likey.

Then there’s some time for a Dagwood sandwich, some people watching and a bit of a nap before Machine Head.

Thrash newcomers Havok would be in trouble if both Mastodon and Children of Bodom hadn’t played Canada 150 times in the past decade. I swear I’ve seen Mastodon more than the Dayglo Abortions, and it’s well-known the Dayglos will play your living room for $200 and a pizza if you can track them down. Looking forward to it, Havok!

While I actually enjoyed the mellow vibe Godsmack brought to their last appearance at MTL, I don’t need it again. Certainly not at the expense of missing Cryptopsy.

Zombie is never bad live – let’s hope he keeps his record strong.

 

Will report back afterwards, of course! Check my Twitter feed for on-the-day shenanigans!

 

* I love GWAR, but they can’t self-edit. Every record (excepting the first two) has at least one excruciatingly bad track on it. I made a “worst of” playlist and discovered they could play an hour long full set of filler.

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Album Review – Amon Amarth “Deceiver of the Gods” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2013 by Lightning Slim

AmonAmarth-DeceiverOfTheGods  When Metallica followed up Ride the Lightning with Master of Puppets, an album that is virtually identical in terms of structure and songwriting, I don’t recall anyone at the time getting butthurt about receiving more of a good thing.

Why, then, is Deceiver of the Gods getting flak for its lack of forward momentum and the band’s entirely sane decision to not go about fixing the unbroken and popular sounds they’ve achieved of late? Personally, I look at it this way:

Twilight of the Thunder God = Number of the Beast; the definitive and instant classic.

Surtur Rising = Piece of Mind; the longer and more confident follow-up. Less oomph, but definite quality.

Deceiver of the Gods = (you guessed it) Powerslave; a top-of-the-game album. Safe choices, very clean production.

It’s a fun record with all the chops you would expect and influences written all over it. It has a Priest’s worth of double harmonies and a heck of a lot of old-school thrash. “Blood Eagle”, in particular just screams Kreator. I highly recommend the deluxe version, which includes an EP of original tunes written (absolutely perfectly) in the style of Priest, AC/DC, Mötorhead and Sabbath. Johan Hegg’s Ozzy impersonation alone is worth the price of admission.

If these past three records are where the Amon Amarth wants to plateau, I have absolutely no problem with camping out a while. Let’s just hope my Maiden analogy goes no further. 8 out of 10

Album Review – Amon Amarth “Surtur Rising” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  Surtur Rising kicks off with “War of the Gods”, a punishing gallop through territory Amon Amarth knows very well, and they deliver the goods with polish and ease. As an opener, it also serves as a “Previously On” looking back to previous record Twilight of the Thunder God, which was an exhilarating (and possibly unsustainable) headlong charge. The rest of the album explores different tempos and moods, the tone of these songs having a lot more in common with earlier works With Oden On Our Side or The Fate of Norns. The deeds and passions of gods and men mingle here, and if it is difficult to distinguish between the two that is likely by design.
 
What Amon Amarth are doing here, exploring the small moments across the battle field of Ragnarök, is the same thing Amorphis have done by returning to the Kalevala for source material: added a mature legitimacy to the enterprise. These are actual Scandinavians recounting the legends and history of their people with an eye to detail that makes Manowar seem like a bunch of bikers who like to LARP. The story is here viewed though the veil of myth, not the fuzzy lens of fantasy, a difference that seems small but allows us to immerse ourselves in a different time and place without projecting MTV-era values onto them.
 
Speaking of the mainstream, however, my deluxe copy contains bonus covers “Balls to the Wall” and “War Machine”, which AA make their own with aplomb to round out a solid recording. It’s not Thunder God’s runaway freight train full of TNT, but Surtur Rising is great metal by anyone’s standards, and another milestone for the heavy hitters of Team Viking. 8.5 out of 10

Decade Review: Ten Bands that Rocked the 2000’s

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by Lightning Slim

Decade Review: Ten Bands that Rocked the 2000’s 

This isn’t a best-of, more of a reflection on who had a good decade in my musical universe. Some artists are old masters making a comeback, some are newer bands that hit right around the Millennium, and some are just hard-working dudes who cranked out a good ten years’ worth of tunes without having any kind of meltdown. 

  1. Amon Amarth – With every record, they just keep getting better and better. Not too shabby, especially when they keep banging them out every 20 months or so like clockwork. While the past few years have been their time to shine, AA’s pagan thunder has people excited to see what’s next.
  2. Ministry – After starting the decade in rehab and stumbling out of the gate with Animositisomina, Al Jourgensen roared back into focus with his “Dubya Trilogy”. Ministry’s best moments have always been collaborative, and these supposedly final slabs of finger-pointing are fortified with the likes of Tommy Victor, Burton Bell and Paul Raven (RIP). If he really is done this time, the Alien has capped off his career with head held high. 
  3. Iron Maiden – In early 2000 I received a promotional postcard with a picture of Eddie on one side and one sentence on the other: “Bruce is Back.” Exciting, but that wasn’t the whole story, as Dickinson brought songwriting partner Adrian Smith with him and the band kept bonus guitarist Jannick Gers. Now a six-piece, the big boys of metal released three albums in the Zeroes. All of them are long, noodling and by no means The Number of the Beast, but at the same time they are consistently better than anything since Seventh Son. Maiden were also smart enough to realize that the new material isn’t as rousing onstage – their solution was elegant and ingenious: Dust off your ass-kicking 1985 World Tour gear, pack it on your own  jet plane and just do it all over again. This is captured in all its glory in the highly recommended documentary Flight 666.  
  4. KMFDM – In 1999 KMFDM released Adios, their farewell album. They’ve cheerfully made fun of this while making six studio albums and about a bazillion singles, remixes and side projects since. Bringing in Lucia Cifarelli brought an end to hired-gun female vocalists as well as adding another songwriter to the fold, and the often underrated Tim Skold had his fingerprints all over their third decade of bold-faced rip offs “conceptual continuity”. Still political, still angry, KMFDM have nonetheless loosened up a bit, presenting a little more Blackadder than black leather. 
  5. Amorphis – If Entombed and Chrome Division define Death n’ Roll, Amorphis created a kind of DoomPop with Tuonela, a record filled with the rich textures, lyrical imagery and saxophone (!) you’d normally get from artists associated with the singer/songwriter world. It’s the heaviest U2 album ever made. After that, things got a bit weird with two straight-up psychedelic releases before Eclipse, Silent Waters and Skyforger returned us to the land of the Kalevala with Tomi Joutsen as our upgraded tour guide. By mining the national epic for narrative, Amorphis became a band with stories to tell, the Neil Young of the metal world. 
  6. Arch Enemy – Obviously, it’s been a good decade for the “A” section of my shelves, and AE really got cooking with the addition of pint-sized punk menace Angela Gossow. Debate as you will about who did what first, Gossow has become the poster girl for female contributions to extreme metal. She’s made enough of an impression that the Arnotts have retroactively made her the sole vocalist of the band by putting her up front in early-hits redux record The Root of All Evil. Sorry, Johan! The band put out four studio albums in the Aughts (two great, one good, one so-so), toured relentlessly and recorded tons of live material. We don’t know what the Teens will bring, but as of right now, they are Kind of a Big Deal. 
  7. Rob Halford – I wonder if the Metal God likes to make lists? If he made one for the 2000’s, it might look a bit like this: Reunite legendary metal band Judas Priest – check. Successful solo records praised for their heaviness (thanks Roy Z!) – check. Clothing line, recording studio – check and check. Just for fun, make a well-received Christmas album – check. Do all of this as a gay man in his fifties – ka-check!
  8. In Flames – I’m still learning to love 2004’s Soundtrack to Your Escape (and might never), but otherwise it’s been full speed ahead for the Jesterheads. Arguments over which of Clayman or Reroute to Remain is better are futile, since both are excellent. The choruses have gotten punkier over the years (they do tour with hardcore bands a lot) but the band still lays a firm claim to their piece of the Gothenburg Sound.
  9. Danko Jones – He’s “big in Sweden”! Thus Danko complains to typically lackluster Toronto crowds whenever he plays at home. He can be moody with his non-emotive Canadian fans but it hasn’t stopped him from releasing several chunks of straight-up rock. They’ve all got some great numbers on them, and very little filler. Danko’s also one of the few guys operating today who sings about girls without sounding either emo or femicidal.  
  10. Apocalyptica – There’s that “A” again. 2000 was the year Apocalyptica stopped depending on cover songs and took off on their own with Cult. Each subsequent release added new elements to the cello quartet’s classical sound: Reflections has drums and a touch of piano, Apocalyptica throws in some vocalists and Worlds Collide finally fully embraces the big goth-rock mess of the genre they basically invented. I’m not as much a fan of the latter album, thinking that they lost some of their unique charm by putting too many kids on the vocal side of the teeter-totter. As a whole, however, they make this list by rising above the tide of “A Gimmick X Tribute to Band Y” to become their own masters.

 Honourable Mention: Motörhead, but then, it’s always their time.

Album Review – Amon Amarth “Twilight of the Thunder God” 2008

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on December 3, 2009 by Lightning Slim

Twilight of the Thunder God marks the third goal of Amon Amarth’s mid-career hat-trick. After fans spent all of 2004/5 listening to Fate of Norns and 2006/7 loving With Oden On Our Side, this 2008 release promises many more spins to come. Ten tracks, no dogs – the frosty five-piece hasn’t fixed what isn’t broken. In case you don’t feel like reading the rest  – I’m loving it.

Remember when you were a child and you wanted to experience that favourite picture book/theme park ride/arcade game “Again”? This record’s opener and title track contains that kind of infectious energy – when people ask what constitutes a perfect heavy metal song, play them that.

Musical guest artists are always a double-edged sword. Did the band beg them to show up and add some credibility to the process, or did they come on their own because they wanted to get involved in a project with a lot of buzz? In this case, I’m guessing the latter, as Roope Latvala (Children of Bodom) drops a letter-perfect solo into the aforementioned lead track and LG Petrov (Entombed) shows his Viking solidarity on “Guardians of Asgard” . Such is the gravity of the situation that when a string section becomes unexpectedly necessary, Amon Amarth don’t mess around – that’s Apocalyptica on “Live for the Kill”, having the kind of fun that BMW people have when they visit a military surplus yard and go for a spin in the tank.

I don’t mean to gush – there is a murky, no-middle production feel going on here (perhaps it’s low mastering) that keeps things from going completely into the stratosphere, but I’m too busy pushing Play again to complain. Twilight of the Thunder God is Amon Amarth’s best album to date, a product of a band in its prime. 9 out of 10

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