Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Krish Mistry
Metal Hammer’s annual Defenders of the Faith pageant can usually be trusted to deliver a fairly explosive package of metal and this year was no different with Amon Amarth leading the troops into battle in what was their first ever headlining slot in Birmingham.
A four-band bill usually means a fairly early start so the main Academy was not exactly bursting at the seams when East Midlands devil worshippers Hell arrived on stage. The Derby demons put on a theatrical masterpiece at Bloodstock a few months ago but in these slightly more confined surroundings had to tone down their normally flamboyant stage show.
Frontman Dave Bower still appeared sporting his trusty crown of thorns headgear while his impressive rhythm section looked as though they’d just arrived from the set of a Bela Lugosi film having played the part of gravediggers. Hell may have first started preaching from the blood soaked pulpit of Lucifer over two decades ago but this reinvigorated new look line-up is certainly capable of elevating the band to heights not previously reached. In Bower they have a peerless frontman who will do as good a job as anyone as selling their satanic message to the masses. Tracks such as ‘The Quest’ and the perennial crowd pleaser ‘In Life as it is in Hell’ were delivered with the customary aplomb.
New album Curse and Chapter looks the perfect stocking filler for the devil worshipper in your life!
The Defenders of the Faith tour traditionally mixes things up and certainly Bleed From Within are far too busy with their abrasive full on metalcore than to worry about stage props and mini firework displays.
The Glaswegians are cut from the same cloth as Hatebreed although theirs naturally comes in tartan. Scott Kennedy is a furious livewire scarcely pausing for a quick intake of breath as he bellows and bawls his way through a set of knuckle crunching aggression. Numbers such as ‘Uprising’, the title track from the Scots’ impressive album release earlier this year, pin you to the wall and inflict a flurry of rabbit punches to your solar plexus.
If Bleed From Within are one of the brighter lights of the hardcore scene, then Carcass are the wise old uncles who know every trick in the book. Having finally reconnected for good this year the legendary Liverpudlians have quickly gone about establishing a whole new fan base, well over 20 years on from when they first started kicking down doors. It’s testament to how far they’ve come in a comparatively short time, since their resurrection, that just a couple of weeks ago they headlined the Damnation Festival in Leeds.
This slot on the Defenders’ tour gave Carcass the chance to connect with those who hadn’t made the Yorkshire showcase and it was one they took greedily with both hands. Taking to the stage against the scorching ‘1985’ (the year they were formed) intro to the accomplished new album Surgical Steel, Carcass proceeded to bludgeon their way through a number of tracks from that album whilst also coughing up a couple of older favourites.
What Carcass manage to do so brilliantly is mix up a blend of pulverizing death and thrash while never being afraid to delve into some serious guitar solos at the same time. On tracks such as ‘Cadavar Pouch Conveyor System’ there’s more shredding going on than in Frank Durr’s marmalade factory. Throughout the Merseysiders’ set a flickering screen threw up a grotesque cocktail of stomach churning images that seemed to have more than just a passing connection with the band’s name.
Carcass have always been serious sickheads and showed their appetite for the unhealthy and unhinged has not weakened a notch by bowing out with the intestine twisting ‘Ruptured in Purulence’.
Amon Amarth were pussycats by way of contrast although the beaming smile of animated man mountain vocalist Johan Hegg takes nothing away from the Swede’s entertaining brand of Viking metal.
Having sailed through the city’s canal network and parked their longboat at Brindley Place, Amon Amarth had built up quite a thirst with Beggs entering the stage with a traditional Viking ale horn slung casually from his belt. After a grand entrance that any self-respecting Viking would have been proud of, they launched into ‘Father of the Wolf’ immediately followed by ‘Deceiver of the Gods’, the title track from the epic new album which successfully initiated the first mass singalong of the night.
If the sea, swords and sorcery are your thing then Amon Amarth deliver it by the bucket. Playing against an epic mass backdrop of the latest album sleeve, the Swedes take all their inspiration from the myth and folklore passed down through the generations by hairy Swedes. While the music’s as good as this there’s no need to change it – the formula is perfect as it is. Beggs teases and coaxes the crowd into ever more rapturous ovations pausing only to take the occasional swig from his trusty horned hipflask.
Against a blood red stage the Swedes completely tore into ‘Death in Fire’, also from the new album, sparking a wave of fist pumping energy that threatened to send a man overboard from their trusty old Viking ship. Amon Amarth convey tales of olde glories but all played out against an inspiring soundtrack of energetic melodic metal.
Although the Academy was far from packed, those who did venture out on a Tuesday night in Brum certainly returned home with a smile on their face, probably still chanting the chorus to the ‘Guardians of Asgaard’.
This was a voyage on which Amon Amarth were never seriously going to lose their way and after briefly downing oars after a tumultuous rendition of ‘War of the Gods’ they returned for two more gifts from above before heading off into the night to set sail once more. In Amon Amarth’s world there’s always new seas to conquer and battles to be won.
1. Father of the Wolf
2. Deceiver of the Gods
3. Death in Fire
4. Free Will Sacrifice
5. As Loke Falls
6. Guardians of Asgaard
7. Runes to My Memory
8. Varyags of Miklagaard
9. Destroyer of the Universe
10. War of the Gods
11. Twilight of the Thunder God
12. The Pursuit of Vikings
See more of Krish’s photos here;