Amon Amarth / Carcass / Hell

9.12.2013  Helsinki

A Monday evening after a long day at work and freezing temperatures outside – not the most favorable conditions for leaving the house. But the package offered at Kaapelitehdas was irresistible to me, and it proved attractive enough to get the old cable factory packed: three international acts, each of which would have been a worthy headliner in its own right.

The first was Hell, who had been one of the highlights at Hammer Open Air a few months ago but whose impressive performance works even better on a big stage in a dark hall. They started so early (7 pm) that I missed the beginning, and the whole set was undeservedly short anyway, but theatre-trained fronter David Bower and his comrades made up for the lack of quantity by spotless quality.

After the last chorus of “On Earth As It Is In Hell”, Bower disappeared behind one of the stage props, while his brother Kev traded the guitar for the keyboards and drummer Tim Bowler abruptly slowed down the tempo, seamlessly blending into the opening bars of “Blasphemy And The Master”. Shirtless and whip in hand, the singer reappeared to declaim the dramatic intro, culminating in the outcry “Oh Satan, I beseech thee to have mercy on my soul!” The whole seven-minute opus magnum was metal drama at its finest, a tour de force including self-castigation and exorcism. It was followed by “Something Wicked” from the new album and the uplifting “The Quest”, and then it was already time for “the last sermon of this tour”, as David aptly introduced “Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us”. The song started straight from the guitar solo, skipping the newsclips of the album version – but even without them, the chorus left no doubt as to what the song was about.

Among the evening’s three bands, Carcass were the one least often encountered on these shores. Although Jeff Walker credited Finnish background forces for playing a significant part in the band’s reunion a few years back, the Brits hadn’t visited here since Tuska 2008. I have good memories of that show, but it had been a trip down memory lane in the mid-afternoon sun, whereas this club gig served to promote one of the best new albums of 2013. Which is not to say that the old stuff was neglected; the band succeeded to cover the whole span of its career in spite of the limited time.

The earliest days were represented by “Genital Grinder”, featuring the menacingly deep growls of Bill Steer. The man’s guitar by the way could have been a bit more prominent in the mix at times, but all in all the sounds were pretty balanced for Kaapelitehdas, which is not primarily a concert venue and always a challenge to sound engineers. The lights were great for all three bands, too, whereas Carcass’ video screens seemed a bit superfluous as they were shrouded in stage fog most of the time. Only during “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” the gory footage was properly visible, but minimal distraction from the music itself was only for the good. After “This Mortal Coil”, Walker introduced the two new members, who received a warm welcome from the crowd. Ben Ash not only did a solid job replacing Michael Amott on guitar but also demonstrated ample moshing skills. The set finished all to soon with a splendid “Heartwork” and a little salute to the evening’s headliners – would be great to see Carcass back soon as a main act, but meanwhile I’m looking forward to their visit at Tuska next summer.

Amon Amarth have visited Finland a good deal more often than Carcass and their latest album is a continuation along familiar paths rather than a spectacular surprise, but they always put on a good show and this one was no exception. Johan Hegg was charming as ever, and his Finnish is getting better all the time. The loquacious greeting that preceded “Death In Fire” sounded genuinely heartfelt, and who would have contradicted the notion that Helsinki was the perfect place for finishing the European tour… The Swedes have always had a knack for good-looking stages and outdid themselves with the runestones that appeared to both sides of the stage during “Runes To My Memory”. As the volume in front of the stage was very high by Finnish club standards, I watched most of the set from the beer area behind the mixing desk, and it was pretty awesome to see hundreds of people jumping up and down in sync with Hegg during “Varyags of Miklagaard”.
For good measure, this song was followed by one of the evening’s slowest and heaviest tunes, “The Last Stand of Frej” from “Surtur Rising”. Surtur himself rose a little bit later behind the stage, when the huge backdrop changed into the album’s dramatic artwork to illustrate “Destroyer Of The Universe”. It was changed again for the encore “Twilight of the Thunder God”, when Johan Hegg re-entered the stage brandishing a massive Thor’s hammer. Having watched the latest Thor movie just a few days earlier, I couldn’t help noticing certain parallels between Amon Amarth’s rendering of Norse mythology and the Marvel/Disney interpretation. But no harm done here. The Viking legacy lives on, it only changes form. The best stories will always make for good entertainment, whether told at a fireplace on some dark winter night in 1013 or on a movie screen a thousand years later. Set to appropriate music, they work even better – and Amon Amarth, for all their cliché and oft-mentioned repetitiveness, still rank among the best of their genre.

Hell set:
The Age of Nefarious
On Earth as It Is in Hell
Blasphemy and the Master
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Quest
Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us

Carcass set:
Buried Dreams
Incarnated Solvent Abuse
Unfit for Human Consumption
This Mortal Coil
Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System
Genital Grinder / Exhume to Consume
Corporal Jigsore Quandary
Captive Bolt Pistol
Ruptured in Purulence

Amon Amarth set:
Father of the Wolf
Deceiver of the Gods
Death in Fire
Free Will Sacrifice
As Loke Falls
Runes to My Memory
Varyags of Miklagaard
The Last Stand of Frej
Guardians of Asgaard
Shape Shifter
Warriors of the North
Destroyer of the Universe
Cry of the Black Birds
War of the Gods
Twilight of the Thunder God
The Pursuit of Vikings

Tina Solda - concert and festival reports, photos, interviews - - - Favorite genres: I don't care much about genres, but on a grossly generalized level I like melancholic death, unconventional black, melodic doom, dramatic folk and smart pagan metal (main regions: Iceland, Finland & Norway) - - - Other interests: guitar, books, beer, movies, cats.