Amon Amarth/Enslaved – February 6, 2014 – Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

Friday, 7th February 2014

Going without a shirt in order to show off Viking runic symbols on one’s body > The woes of illness and/or hypothermia in 15-degree weather. Ah, to be young and careless, right? A young gentlemen, no older than 18, decided take the above risk for Amon Amarth and Enslaved’s early February date in Pittsburgh, surely as means to show off for his friends…or to try to impress the ladies. After all, what lass couldn’t resist a spirited male with emblems on his body he surely doesn’t know the meaning of? Such characters were bound to turn out this evening, for a.) The show was sold-out; and b.) Viking culture is really popular right now. And to think, Amon Amarth couldn’t have been more un-cool ten years ago…

The success of the Viking Swedes shouldn’t be a mystery for anyone with a relative clue as to what’s going on in metal. They’re unbelievably hard-working, steadfast to their sound to a fault (read: they haven’t produced a new idea since 2003), but have managed to engage their swelling fanbase in a manner most bands would be jealous of. DR caught a glimpse of multiple young punters miming every one of Johan Hegg’s words across opener “Father of the Wolf,” the just-as-recent “Deceiver of the Gods” or longstanding triumph “Runes to My Memory.” Even more remarkable is that a lot of these songs are designed for sing-a-longs; they’re just your standard grunting-in-key-alongs, but AA has a grip on catchy tunes, with older cuts like “Death by Fire” and “Cry of the Black Birds” having their way with the throng.

Unfortunately, technical difficulties came to be the norm throughout the evening, as the front of house sound went out at least five times, once for opening Skeletonwitch, twice for main support Enslaved, and an additional two for Amon Amarth. All three soldiered on with professionalism and wry smiles, especially from Amon Amarth, who were particularly amused when the power vanished smack-dab in the middle of “For Victory or Death.” Enslaved handled it in a similar manner, with drummer Cato Bekkevold even getting time for a drum solo, during which keyboardist Herbrand Larsen draped a towel over his face. Smiles all around.

The Norwegians’ set largely stuck with 2012’s progressively-progressive Riitir, with the aforementioned Larsen getting plenty of vocal time atop his keyboard perch during “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” and the excellent title track. “Allfaðr Oðinn” from the Hordanes Land EP was clearly the set highlight; a rollicking black metal bruiser, serving as a stark reminder of how extreme the band once was.

Ohio’s Skeletonwitch were given the usual 30-minutes to warm up the crowd, and were wrought with the all-too-frequent sound issues that befall opening bands. They were the first to experience the venue’s power outages, but considering the fact the band are seasoned live vets, they’ve probably seen worse. Choice numbers: “Burned from Bone” and live mainstay, “Within My Blood.”

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