Amon Amarth, Sabaton – October 17, 2014 Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park, NYMonday, 20th October 2014
Options were limited for a weekday show viewing this bill in New England (either a three and a half hour trek north to Burlington, VT on a Tuesday or 1 ½ hours south to Hartford, CT on a Wednesday), so I felt it was fine to split the difference and trek out to Clifton Park, NY (about 15 minutes north of Albany) on a Friday night. An early afternoon drive with my RI friend in tow hit minimal road construction or traffic delays – so we arrived at the venue in comfortable time before the 7 pm doors.
The Upstate Concert Hall is situated in a plaza strip a couple of miles down from the highway. An Ocean State Job Lot and tattoo place are anchor tenants around the venue. Plenty of free available parking is a plus… and the staff are very friendly. When you go into the door, you sign your name as you give your ticket, relinquishing liability should you get injured in any capacity for pit action, stage diving, or crowd surfing. The venue itself once inside reminded me of a large hangar area – the two bars situated nicely to the right so there was a decent amount of room to mill about.
Outside there was a sign stating Skeletonwitch would not be playing tonight’s show, reason for the cancellation unknown. Sabaton in fact had only a two hour notice to come up with 15 extra minutes in their normal 9 song allotted set – bonus for us as consumers, as they were one of the main reasons for me to make this trek. “The Final Countdown” from Europe was the track airing before the synth intro kicked in, as the band burst out on the stage to “Ghost Division”. They quickly grabbed the crowd by the throat and never let go – Joakim once again the affable frontman assuming the role of party leader and master of ceremonies.
We would jump for “To Hell and Back”, we would throw our arms up in cross arm fist bump style to “Carolus Rex”, and shout the chorus for all its worth on “Primo Victoria”. We gained two more new tracks aired for the first time on this leg of the tour with “Soldier of 3 Armies” and “Night Witches”. A fan dressed in war fatigues and battle helmet even got into the flag spirit, presenting each country’s flag to correspond to the tracks the band would air – even the Finnish flag for the aforementioned “Soldier of 3 Armies” that no one but the band knew they were playing. Finishing the night by bringing a 9 year old metal fan (attending his first show ever) to headbang with the band for “Metal Crüe”, you can tell Sabaton is ready for headlining status in North America. Power war metal wins again. – Matt Coe
A bummer that Skeletonwitch was unable to perform, as it was part of the reason I headed upstate to catch this tour (alongside meeting fellow scribe Matt Coe) as Vallenfyre was taking their place for the special NYC gig, but Sabaton provided plenty of some additional metal fun in their absence. I don’t often get up to Upstate Concert Hall since moving to the Hudson Valley, but it seemed there was quite a crowd (especially considering there was no “-core” related band to be seen).
Amon Amarth is a band I have tried to repeatedly catch live to no avail. Alas the stars finally aligned and I couldn’t be happier. With the past few albums, particularly Deceiver of the Gods, the band has really put their foothold into North America. So it only made sense that they would focus on these albums with their setlist. Cranking through some choice cuts that included opener “Deceiver of the Gods,” “We Shall Destroy,” “Death in Fire,” “War of the Gods,” and “Guardians of Asgaard,” Amon Amarth made the crowd do some work (though we were happy to do so). Plenty of chanting, fist-pumping, jumping, and some crowd surfing was on display throughout their lengthy set. Frontman Johan Hegg is an imposing yet cheerful character, and the band’s stage performance definitely oozed metal.
They wisely chose some of their strongest tracks for the encore as well. The excellent “Twilight of the Thunder God” started things off, with the sing-a-long friendly chorus of “The Pursuit of Vikings” closing out an entertaining set. The pit even got in on the Viking action with the final song, doing some coordinated rowing. All in all, with a mere two bands playing on this particular evening, you couldn’t help but be pleased with the performances by both Sabaton and Amon Amarth. Amon Amarth certainly worthy of their headlining status, and Sabaton proving they are ready to be given said honors. – Kyle McGinn