“Viking metal”– It’s a thing and I think I’m hooked.
For some reason, “viking metal” is a huge thing in Minnesota. Growing up in Iowa, I really had no exposure to this whole scene but as soon as I moved up here, I was thrown into this strange and exciting genre. The people in the scene are some of the nicest people to go to shows with. The music is exciting, full of talent, and brutal. The live shows are perfection and entertaining. Last night was a perfect example of just how great these shows can be.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking… metal music is metal music and it’s all the same. I guess to the untrained ear, it does all sound the same what with the driving guitars, pounding drums, and growling vocals but it is so much more than that. What makes “viking metal” stand out from all of the other various subgenres of metal music is that the lyrics are about vikings . Another difference I have noticed from going to so many “viking metal” shows is that the music has this feeling of being royal. Maybe “royal” isn’t the right word to use but I truly can’t think of a better one. The music has this sense of power and confidence behind it. No band displays this power and confidence better than Amon Amarth.
From the second these guys walk onto the stage until the very bitter end of their almost two hour long set, you feel like you are in the presence of true vikings. Just the members’ stances are enough to give you chills. They are big, muscular, guys that have nicer and longer hair than I could ever hope to have. You would probably be scared to death if you ran into one of them in a dark alley but after hearing them talk in between songs, these guys are absolutely harmless.
The music Amon Amarth plays is heavier than heavy. The guitars are enough to overpower any vocalist but somehow Johan (the singer) is able to rise above them. His voice powers through the sweeping guitars and driving drum beats but that doesn’t help you understand any of the words he’s saying. Although he’s singing in English majority of the time, it all kind of ends up sounding like gibberish just like majority of the death metal music out there. Johan cracked a little joke when he asked the audience to sing along. He said that even if we didn’t know the lyrics, it didn’t matter… you can’t understand them anyway… it’s death metal!
The live show was just as intense as the music. The back of the stage was occupied by a giant horned helmet that had the drum kit sitting far above it. The three other members of the band stood in front of the giant helmet but there was still room for some theatrics. There was sword fighting at one point between two guys who were all dressed up with viking garb complete with swords and shields. During a different song, a devilish looking character crept up on stage with giant horns shooting out of his head and a creepy mask that was worthy of the Behemoth stage show I saw just a few weeks ago. This character just wandered around the stage which doesn’t sound like much but it made the heavy song become more creepy than heavy.
The crowd loved every single song that Amon Amarth played. It didn’t matter if it was just a few months old and from their new album, or a classic that has been around since the band’s inception in the late 90’s, the audience was going crazy to see this Swedish metal band in such an intimate venue.
The crowd’s aggression matched the fury of the music. There was shoving and pushing but in the most polite way possible. Nobody was out there trying to hurt anyone else and when a drink was spilled, there were a thousand apologizes to make up for the spilt drink. Minnesota Nice reaches the mosh pits and it’s a beautiful sight to see.
Surly Brewery was the main sponsor of the show. This is the brewery in town that is notorious for brewing one off beers for international metal bands including 1349 and Pig Destroyer. Of course I had to try a cup of their Asator Viking IPA that was brewed just for Amon Amarth. I’m not going to lie, it was not my favorite that Surly has put out. It was a little too hoppy and too dark at the same time for me but that’s not the point.
The point is that going to a metal show up here is completely different than metal shows anywhere else. People are Minnesota nice to you even when they are bruising your body in the mosh pit. They apologize when they bump you and make you spill your locally brewed beer that was made for the specific band that you are currently watching. I’ve been to shows across the country… you don’t see this kind of behavior anywhere else.
The show was opened up by two other bands. First to play was Exmortus but, unfortunately, the set times were listed wrong on the venue’s website and my roommate and I were a wee bit late and missed majority of the set. I think my roommate had the best description of this band (keep in mind we only got to see about two songs) but she told me that they were like The Trans Siberian Orchestra only with more hair… I couldn’t agree more.
The other band to open the show was Entombed A.D. I had been wanting to see these guys for awhile and they were everything I wanted them to be… at least I think. Unfortunately, the margaritas I had with dinner were kicking in and I couldn’t seem to pay attention to much of anything and, let’s be honest, the crowd was just too interesting to watch… especially with the alcohol shooting through my body.
I don’t know if I will ever understand why “viking metal” is such a thing up here in Minnesota but I’m not complaining.
It probably has to do with the Minnesota Vikings… you know, the hockey team.
Venue: Varsity Theater
Sausage Fest Meter- 265 out of 10
Average Age of the Crowd- 21
Crowd Surfers- 15
Stage Divers- None
Dudes Walking Around With No Shirts On- 5 (in their defense, it was probably close to 345 degrees in that place)
Broken Bones- None Notice
Drunkards Taken Out By Security- None Noticed
Celebrity Sightings- None
Overall Score- 8 out of 10
Show on Deck- The Used— Back to back nights of pure nostalgia in Milwaukee, WI.