October 25, 2019
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Metal fans were treated to four of Sweden’s best heavy metal bands on Friday night at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, as Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, At the Gates, and Grand Magus each plowed through some exciting sets.
Amon Amarth headlined the evening with a furious setlist that left the sold-out crowd blown away. The band specializes in pummeling melodic death metal, combining soaring guitar harmonies with the bellowing death metal growls of lead singer Johan Hegg. With the stage decked out in Viking imagery and the drum kit resting on a giant Viking helmet, it was quite the epic metal spectacle. The band opened with the slamming “Raven’s Flight” off this year’s Berserker album, with the guitar team of Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen throwing down some impressive riffage. Next up was a slightly more melodic song in the form of “Runes to My Memory,” which featured some catchy twin guitar leads and another powerful performance from Hegg.
The band was just getting started with their Viking metal onslaught, as the following song was when the show really started to get wild. Amon Amarth ripped through “Deceiver of the Gods,” a track anchored by the hyper-technical drumming of Jocke Wallgren and the solid bass of Ted Lundström. A few songs later, the band roared through an inspired rendition of another new track, the crushing “Fafner’s Gold.” The song featured some of the most memorable melodies of the night, with Mikkonen and Söderberg bashing out some sweet harmonies to support one of Hegg’s strongest vocal performances. While his vocals are not exactly melodic, they are quite memorable, and the sheer power of his delivery is truly something to behold. A few songs later, the band brought out a couple of Viking cosplayers to help give some authenticity to the song “The Way of Vikings,” yet another burner of a song. While the over the top nature of the band’s stage show might seem ridiculous to some, the band does the whole Viking thing so well that it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
To close out the evening, Amon Amarth ripped through one of their most well-known songs, “Twilight of the Thunder God.” With a giant inflatable version of the Norse sea serpent Jörmungandr in the background, and Hegg wielding Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, the song perfectly encapsulated the raw metal power of the band. There are few acts in the metal world that can produce such a quality, high-energy show like Amon Amarth, and this was evident through the entire length of their set.
Arch Enemy wasted no time in rolling through a tight set of new and old material, giving the band ample time to show off the incredible guitar team of Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis. Pairing a guitar god like Loomis, who made himself known in the metal community for his guitar heroics in Nevremore, with the likes of Amott made for quite the night. The band opened with the blistering “The World Is Yours,” a slamming slice of metal that combined the full-throated roar of lead singer Alissa White-Gluz with the soaring guitar leads of Amott and Loomis.
Few bands are as adept at fusing the melodic and atonal sides of metal as Arch Enemy, and this was evident a few songs later as the band shredded through the classic “Ravenous.” The song featured Amott’s most impressive leads of the night, along with an astonishing guitar solo, which switched between slow, sustained notes to a furry of sweep picked arpeggios. A few songs later, Arch Enemy closed out the nigh with another classic, “Nemesis,” which was anchored by a furious double bass drum pattern from Daniel Erlandsson.
While At the Gates may have been one of the earlier bands on this bill, they played like a headliner, delivering a furious set of thrashing metal. Emerging from the underground metal scene in the ‘90s, the band set the standard for melodic death metal, blending buzzsaw guitar riffs with dark neo-classical melodies. The band managed to fit a solid number of songs into their set, like the all-time classic “Slaughter of the Soul,” which rode a slamming detuned groove from bassist Jonas Björler.
To open the night, Grand Magus brought some heavy songs to the stage, which provided a great contrast to the rest of the show. The band channeled classic heavy metal with their clean vocals and tasty guitar riffs, such as the ripping opener “I, the Jury” and the rollicking “Iron Will.”
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of all four bands by Raymond Ahner:
Setlist: Raven’s Flight | Runes to My Memory | Deceiver of the Gods | First Kill | Fafner’s Gold | Crack the Sky | The Way of Vikings | Shield Wall | Guardians Of Asgaard | Raise Your Horns || Encore || The Pursuit of Vikings | Twilight Of The Thunder God
Setlist: The World Is Yours | War Eternal | My Apocalypse | Ravenous | The Eagle Flies Alone | First Day in Hell | As the Pages Burn | Nemesis
At the Gates:
Setlist: To Drink From the Night Itself | Slaughter of the Soul | At War With Reality | The Colours of the Beast | Cold | Heroes and Tombs | Death and the Labyrinth | Blinded by Fear | The Night Eternal
Setlist: I, the Jury | Untamed | Like the Oar Strikes the Water | Iron Will | Hammer of the North