Amon Amarth + Grand Magus + In Solitude @ Wulfrun, Wolverhampton – Friday 16th March 2012

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Review by Chop and photos by Krish Mistry

Despite having released a fine album last year, the Wulfrun was somewhat sparsely populated when In Solitude got the night under way. This turned out to be a mixed blessing; nice as it was to be  close to the stage without being jostled, a bit more atmosphere would have helped, although with the muddy sound they had to fight against it’s probably a good thing that the audience was thin. Bass tones dominated and rendered the guitars and vocals practically redundant. The four lengthy tracks they played during their twenty five minute stint didn’t get the chance to impress, tight as the band were. Aside from the massive drumkit that lay under drapes at the back of the stage atop a sizeable riser, my lasting memory of their set was the uncanny resemblance of the Flying V wielding guitarist to Mercyful Fate’s Michael Denner, and the vocalist being a lookalike of Watain’s Erik. They’re a band I’d like to see again, higher up on a bill, with a sound that gives them a fighting chance to showcase their undoubted abilities.

 

If you were looking for a band that personified what metal is all about Grand Magus would be a worthy starting point. Battle hardened from numerous festival appearances, the band owned the crowd from the word go and could do no wrong. Were they really on stage for forty minutes? It seemed to be all over in an instant. Frenzied headbanging and synchronised fist pumping greeted each song as the band built the crowd to fever pitch. There were still sound issues early on, yet these were ironed out quickly enough, leaving the power trio to concentrate on their thoughtfully constructed set. Name the tracks you’d want them to play and chances are they played them. ‘Like The Oar Strikes The Water’ set the tone early on, although the closing duo of ‘Hammer Of The North’ and ‘Iron Will’ were simply stunning. In short, Grand Magus played a blinder, a crowd unifying set that combined power and finesse with a huge amount of bonhomie. Anyone not nodding their head, tapping their foot, or grinning manically, needs to seriously reassess what metal means to them. Gauntlet thrown down – were Amon Amarth up to the challenge of following that?

From a building anticipation perspective Amon Amarth‘s technicians did all you could ask. From the moment the behemoth of a drumkit was unveiled, through the various coloured lights picking out and lending different levels of brooding and menace to the huge album artwork backdrop, to the time of the torch being flashed towards the mixing desk and the house lights subsequently fading, all seemed well. Personally what followed was nothing short of an act of endurance. The fans will tell you different, as one of the biggest pits the Wulfrun has seen for a while developed early on, but for me this was a truly disappointing set. Sound issues had returned and reared their ugly head throughout the performance. Guitars were desperately thin at times, vocals hit and miss, but the main issue concerned the relentless, and hugely unimaginative, double bass assault from the kit. Quite why a double rack and countless toms set up seemed necessary is beyond me, as much of the top end of the kit was under-utilised. The band as a whole appear to have changed direction from their early death metal inflection to a more battle or power metal attack, with a horrifying reduction  in overall power and impact. Perhaps this was an off night, but this showing was incomparable to their efforts at Bloodstock a couple of years ago, and supporting Children Of Bodom last year. There were occasional flashes of brilliance, and some riffs of the highest quality, but the set as a whole was hugely underwhelming. Sorry fellas – emphatic victory for Grand Magus tonight I’m afraid…

 And you can see Krish’s photos from the show here: