On Saturday night I headed to Brixton Academy for an evening of Swedish metal featuring Hypocrisy, Arch Enemy and the mighty viking metal gods Amon Amarth. This was the third and final UK date of the band’s mammoth “Berserker World Tour” promoting their eleventh studio album, and they sold out the almost 5,000-capacity venue. With doors at the relatively early time of 6:30pm it was great to see so many people already lining up to get into the venue when I arrived.
First to hit the stage at around 7pm were Hypocrisy who I had been looking forward to seeing live for ages, and they didn’t disappoint. They opened their set with “Fractured Millenium” and went on to play a highly-entertaining seven-track set to a very receptive crowd. Peter Tägtgren (whose side project Lindemann with Rammstein vocalist Till recently released their second album Frau &Mann) was an excellent and engaging front-man, and I really enjoyed their set.
Next up were main support Arch Enemy, who I first saw at Tons of Rock festival in Norway last summer. Drummer Daniel stood up on the drum kit and received a huge roar from the crowd, before he was joined on stage by the rest of the band and they launched into “The World Is Yours”. Vocalist Alissa White-Gluz was as commanding as I remembered her being, and roamed the stage in a Gene Simmons-esque jacket with bat sleeves, that looked particularly cool when she jumped down from the drum riser with her arms out. Guitarists Michael and Jeff regularly formed some classic guitarist poses (always a treat for photographers), and bassist Sharlee also got in on the action.
After my three songs in the photopit I joined some friends upstairs in the balcony to watch the rest of the band’s set and they said they were surprised when the slim blue-haired lady on stage opened her mouth and let out the sort of thundering vocals that you might expect from a big man with a beard. I think that sentiment was echoed by a lot of the people in the room who were seeing Arch Enemy for the first time. The band played a brilliant hour-long set from their 20-year career, of which “No Gods No Masters” was probably my favourite. I am not very familiar with their music, but that track really stuck out to me.
After Arch Enemy had left the stage it was time for all of their gear and stage props to be moved aside to make way for the Amon Amarth stage set. I always love watching how shows go together – the build up and the tear down, everyone working together to make something spectacular out of things that then have to be loaded into lorryies and driven to the next city – but a large black “Berserker” curtain was drawn over the stage as the final pieces were being put into place, so I made my way back downstairs to meet with the other photographers.
We were let into the photopit earlier than we were expecting (I didn’t have time to finish my beer!), and were met with a briefing from both venue security and the Amon Amarth team about all the fire that was about to go off in our faces and how to keep ourselves and our gear safe. A thorough pyro briefing is always appreciated especially if, like me, you are of a slightly nervous disposition!
The Berserker curtain fell to the ground and it was time for the main event – viking metal giants Amon Amarth – who opened their set with “Raven’s Flight” from their 2019 album Berserker (which I reviewed back in April). There were flames right from the very start (which were pretty warm when only a meter or so from your face) and the band were on top form. The packed room sang along and to not only the lyrics but the guitar parts too and the atmosphere was fantastic. The stage set was spectacular and the lighting was a photographer’s dream.
Johan Hegg’s thunderous vocals filled the room and the unmistakable twin guitar attack of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, backed up with Ted Lundström’s skills on bass, made for an incredible sound. It is always nice to see the drummer get some appreciation, and at one point later on in the band’s set the large horned viking helmet drum riser that rose into the rafters and perfectly lit Jocke Wallgren as he treated us all to a wonderful solo.
The band played a brilliant set not only featuring tracks from Berserker, but also fan-favourites including “Death In Fire” and “Guardians Of Asgaard” and crowd-pleasing sing-along anthem “Raise Your Horns”, before an encore of “The Pursuit Of Vikings” and “Twilight Of The Thundergod”.
I have seen some spectacular gigs this year and I have to say that Amon Amarth put on one of the most entertaining shows of them all. There was fire, there were battling Jormsvikings, there was a mighty hammer, confetti cannons, a huge dragon / serpent… but above all of that there was great music, played expertly by men who looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage. A thoroughly enjoyable Saturday night.
Pictures by Katie Frost Photography