Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre, Chicago (US)

AMON AMARTH / ARCH ENEMY / AT THE GATES / GRAND MAGUS

Date: 07th October, 2019
Venue: Riviera Theatre
Ticket:
$40/€36
Promoter: n/a


Well, this was not a touring, but a Swedish takeover... Oh yeah, this was a packed billing with bands ready to challenge the audience’s stamina, from the opening band all the way to the headliners. Pile on that the fact the US audience has acquired a sweet tooth for all things Viking, so having on the top AMON AMARTH was a solid guarantee that the venue would be packed. And indeed it was, even before the starting time with GRAND MAGUS getting onstage for their Chicago debut. I think that it is a shame that JB and Co. had crossed the Atlantic for the first time because GRAND MAGUS’ musical perfectly suites the US market, so hopefully this tour will open their fanbase, although I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The three-piece lineup of GRAND MAGUS looked “scattered” because, due to the limited stage space, Ludwig’s drum-kit was the wall separating JB from bassist Fox. This kind of removed the energy this band is capable of delivering live but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. It was nice hearing a couple of cheers as JB was getting ready to show up because it meant that GRAND MAGUS did have metalheads who were aware of their musical doings. With fist in the air JB kicked off the set with “I, The Jury” from the band’s amazing “Hammer Of The North” contrary to what may have been expecting when considering that GRAND MAGUS have released “Wolf God” earlier this year. Or maybe, “Hammer Of The North” has gained some traction in the US and therefore the Swedes wanted to start things on a high note. Well, my wish was granted with “Dawn Of Fire” that followed back to back, making me feel that it had been too long to see this band live. The epic riffs, the pounding rhythm section and JB’s epic reading are elements GRAND MAGUS have in abundance and it was awesome to see how they were gaining ground inside the Riviera Theatre. “Good evening, Chicago - we are GRAND MAGUS from Stockholm, Sweden. This is our first time ever in Chicago, so if you don’t mind, we are gonna play some Heavy Metal”, said JB before my favorite and epic to its core “Like The Oar Strikes The Water”. Oh yeah, the Swedes were putting their best foot forward and the audience was sensing this, with more heads nodding to the rhythm and more fist pumping in the air. Sure, it was a slow-burner but we were getting there. “Sometimes life hits you hard and the only way to survive is with an iron will”, said JB making a sweet pass to the epic “Iron Will” that got more people involved leading towards the highlight of this dwarf setlist with “Hammer Of The North”. The opening riff and the epic vocal melodies were soon topped off by the killer chanting part that triggered one of the loudest singing-along I’ve heard during an opening band’s set. I am sure if there were more time, GRAND MAGUS would have gotten the entire venue involved, so maybe the time to break the US market has come, but they’ll have to work hard for it.

GRAND MAGUS setlist:

01. “I, The Jury”
02. “Dawn Of Fire”
03. “Like The Oar Strikes The Water”
04. “Iron Will”
05. “Hammer Of The North”

GRAND MAGUS

Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Grand Magus @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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I love it when the stage crew keeps a tight schedule because the mood is kept right without any frustration of waiting aimlessly. You see, after maybe 15 minutes, the stage was ready for the almighty AT THE GATES who claimed their spots under the hair-raising intro “Der Widerstand”. The clean guitar melodies and the red lights shifted the mood from GRAND MAGUS’ epic Metal to AT THE GATES Gothenburg born and raised Death Metal. Tomas Lindberg’s trademark grunt sounded the charge for the night with the killer “To Drink From The Night Itself”. A mosh-pit was spawned and I think got more energetic the moment Tomas grunted “go!” for “Slaughter Of The Soul”. This is the beauty of melodic Death Metal of Swedish origin, highlighted by the catchy riffs, the fast snare-drum and the genre-shaping vocal frying / growling. I think I saw the first bodies crowd-surfing during the snare-drum driven “At War With Reality” and I didn’t expect something less from the Swedes who are always mosh-inspiring, having Tomas at the tip of the spear. He was constantly moving around the stage provoking everyone to join the fun although I think their riff galore and the slower headbanging break were more than enough.

“Thank you so very much, Chicago - we are AT THE GATES from Gothenburg, Sweden”, said the band’s frontman seconds before slowing the tempo down a bit with “The Colours Of The Beast”. If my memory serves me well, this was the biggest number of words the singer used that night. Yeah, AT THE GATES opted out from talking and squeezed as many songs as they could in the time given. This kept the moshing going strong although there was no other option with the fast “Cold” knocking the air out of your lungs... The clapping along was a break for moshing during “Heroes And Tombs” but everything went back to normal after the taped intro “El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” with the duet of “Death And The Labyrinth” and “Blinded By Fear”. The crowd-surfers were reaching the photo-pit in an almost constant pace, topping off AT THE GATES’ energy proving once more how awesome is melodic Death Metal where it’s been executed the right way. “The Night Eternal” was the last for the night and it was cool seeing the band leaving the stage one by one (the way this song fades away is perfect for this) only to return for the “audience at the back” selfie and for a proper goodnight. Although, a supporting slot is not quite appropriate for this band and turn a blind eye only because the Swedes have not released an album this year, so I will be waiting for a headlining show once they return from the studio.

AT THE GATES setlist:

01. “Der Widerstand” (taped)
02. “To Drink From The Night Itself”
03. “Slaughter Of The Soul”
04. “At War With Reality”
05. “The Colours Of The Beast”
06. “Cold”
07. “Heroes And Tombs”
08. “El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” (taped)
09. “Death And The Labyrinth”
10. “Blinded By Fear”
11. “The Night Eternal”

AT THE GATES

At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) At The Gates @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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ARCH ENEMY have been keeping a “radio silence” as far as releasing new music, and I am sorry but a “covers” release does not cut it. Still, this band has been great watching live, even though I consider myself a die-hard fan of the Angela-fronted era. Now, that does not mean that Alissa White-Gluz is not that good, but only that the band appears a bit different than what I was introduced through “Wages Of Sin” almost two decades ago. Anyway, one should always keep an open-mind, especially when a band changes singer who in most cases is perceived as the “face of the band”, and this is why we use the term “frontman / frontwoman”.

The taped intro and the light show were more than enough to bring the enthusiasm at defcon 5 with the band appearing in front of an already loudly cheering audience. Oh yeah, things were about to get bananas once more under the amazing riff of “The World Is Yours” show the mosh-pit getting alive again. Alissa showed up last (but definitely not least) and assumed the driver’s position having gained a boat-load of onstage confidence since the last time I had seen her. Yes, she has her own way of fronting ARCH ENEMY and is great if you’d asked me because I cannot even imagine how challenging it can be replacing a singer who has been in the lineup for so long and thus has shaped the band’s image. Of course, this is ancient history and Alissa has rightfully won her position behind ARCH ENEMY’s mic and there is no doubt about this. And since I opened the “lineup-changes” box, I should also add that I miss the second Amott brother onstage left, but at the same time it was an absolute delight seeing Jeff Loomis (of the NEVERMORE fame) sharing guitar leads with Michael and his bloodstained flying V. Damn, the double guitars on “War Eternal” sounded fantastic and I would be a terrible liar if I did not get goosebumps to the evil “My Apocalypse” and that sonar-sounding effect. “I want everyone in this room to jump up and down”, requested Alissa and judging by the response I’d say that her wish was granted. By the way, I love the melodic solo in this one and the pounding part as they lead the song all the way to the end. And to follow this with “Ravenous” and its trademark riffs that have the Amott name written all over was the icing on this headbanging cake. Oh, and the chanting along the riff was super sweet, so kudos to the audience.

The groovy “The Eagle Flies Alone” came out great and made me reconsider the latest ARCH ENEMY LPs because I have to admit that I have not been following them closely after seeing Angela switching to management duties. After all, watching Alissa shaping up her own way of performing and putting so much energy on stage were enough reasons to touch base with ARCH ENEMY. I loved the evil-to-its-core intro of “First Day In Hell” and how it transformed into another headbanger with the Amott / Loomis guitar duo “killing it”. It was time to bring the ARCH ENEMY flag on stage meaning that the set was getting close to an end. Yeah, “As The Pages Burn” and the neck-snapping “Nemesis” (the double-bass drumming / main riff compo is amazing) were the last ones out for the night. The “one for all, all for one” singing-along was definitely appropriate and a strong indication that the set was short but hopefully ARCH ENEMY will be back with a new LP under their belt.

ARCH ENEMY setlist:

01. “Set Flame To the Night” (taped)
02. “The World Is Yours”
03. “War Eternal”
04. “My Apocalypse”
05. “Ravenous”
06. “The Eagle Flies Alone”
07. “First Day In Hell”
08. “As The Pages Burn”
09. “Nemesis”

ARCH ENEMY

Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arch Enemy @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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The theatre looked packed and rightfully so, because AMON AMARTH have been working hard to spread their Viking Metal on this side of the Atlantic. Watching them going from small to bigger venues is the strongest piece of evidence, proving that they have been successful. Judging by the fast-working stage crew and the huge curtain (with “Berseker” written on it) hiding the stage, I’d say the Swedish Vikings were about to prove with actions that things are on a rising course. MAIDEN’s “Run To The Hills” started blasting from the venue’s PAs getting the audience pumped up with anticipation of the drakkar ship setting its course through Chicago. Although, I am sure most of the metalheads had already done their YouTube study beforehand and knew how the stage would look. Well, I hadn’t, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Swedes had upped their game with Jocke Wallgren’s drum-kit comfortably seating on top of a Viking helmet. That looked pretty awesome, with two screens inside the helmet’s eye-holes, changing colors and images to fit each song. The band members had already taken their positions and started the “attack” with the fast “Raven’s Flight”, and Johan who growled for the first time that night. The audience responded right away joining the frontman into “battle” by singing / grunting along with fists in the air when not helicopter-headbanging... The lights and sound were equally amazing, putting the word ‘show’ in bold letters. Of course, the music matters the most, but in a big setting, having a stage show can really elevate the experience, and in this, AMON AMARTH deserve a glowing A+. Johan took note of the audience’s immediate and most energetic support; “Holy shit, Chicago - one of the most amazing welcomes in this tour, thank you very much. Are you ready to feast like Vikings tonight?”, he asked but I am sure he already knew the answer. Damn, “Runes To My Memory” sent us to headbanging Heaven, with “Deceiver Of The Gods” sealing the deal. During the latter, Loki joined the band with green glowing eyes, topping off the show side of the performance. Describing this with words may not sound that exciting, but seeing this with your own eyes experiencing the lights and the music loud and clear makes a huge difference, especially with the riffs of this pounder. It may sound cheesy but I would say that the epic chorus gave the impression that the band was fighting shoulder to shoulder with all the AMON AMARTH fans. Isn’t this fun or not?

AMON AMARTH is one of those bands that you have to watch live to appreciate the energy of their music and the intensity of their live shows. Really, I have not paid much attention to the latest LP, “Berseker”, but damn, “First Kill” sounded fantastic. The epic riffs, Johan’s grunting singing combined with all the off-stage commotion (the mosh-pit was going strong) were more than enough to join into singing along. Let’s continue with another one from our latest album right now”, said Johan after “Fafner’s Gold” before letting the AMON AMARTH-trademark riffs of “Crack The Sky” bring back some helicopter-headbanging. The song’s riff with the pounding rhythm carries the AMON AMARTH trademark sound with the outmost Viking pride. Seriously, if you cannot recognize the band listening to this one, then you have missed the Viking boat all together and you have some catching up to do. And speaking of Vikings, how cool was having two well-built guys in full warrior attire fighting each other during “The Way Of Vikings”... The two warriors stayed onstage, standing left and right from the drum riser, provoking the audience during the “Shield Wall” by hitting their shields like true Vikings. Have I already said how cool that looked?

The singing-along climaxed during “Guardians Of Asgard” that - by the way - also carries the trademark AMON AMARTH riff-driven rhythm section delivered by the Mikkonen / Söderberg duo with their awesome looking guitars with the band’s logo led-lit sitting right next to the magnets. Good Viking Metal involves some drinking… Ok, lots of drinking, and right before “Raise Your Horns” it was about time to say “skol” with the band members raising their full of beer horns. The “chug, chug” chanting helped Johan drink the last drop of beer from his horn, although I am sure he would have been successful at any rate...

The band left the stage but did not wait too long to satisfy the crowd’s burning appetite for more. This time the two warriors brought banners on stage and let Olavi tease us with the trademark-as-the-Sphinx in-Egypt riff of “The Pursuit Of Vikings”. I will never get bored listening to this one and it was awesome watching everyone headbanging the AMON AMARTH way. “You don’t need to know the lyrics because it is Death Metal, no one could tell the difference”, said Johan convincing every single soul inside the venue to sing-along the chorus of this headbanger.

The Swedes were about to end their show with a bang and once again I congratulated myself for skipping YouTube before this. You see, we got a 3D version of the “Twilight Of The Thunder God” cover artwork. Of course, Johan played the role of Thor and at one point he got his hammer to fight Jörmungandr. This thing was big onstage and really put the cherry on the top of AMON AMARTH’s show and I wonder what they will do next time around. Isn’t it such a shame that they are not allowed to use pyros in the States?

That was the best way to end this successful show that had it all; most-pits, crowd-surfing, singing-along, Vikings, monsters and gallons of beer. Is there more to ask?

AMON AMARTH setlist:

01. “Raven's Flight”
02. “Runes To My Memory”
03. “Deceiver Of The Gods”
04. “First Kill”
05. “Fafner’s Gold”
06. “Crack The Sky”
07. “The Way of Vikings”
08. “Shield Wall”
09. “Guardians Of Asgaard”
10. “Raise Your Horns”
11. “The Pursuit Of Vikings”
12. “Twilight Of The Thunder God”

AMON AMARTH

Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amon Amarth @ Riviera Theatre (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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