The Vikings had landed, and they had brought some uber guests with them in the guise of Arch Enemy and Hypocrisy. On my arrival, security informed me that the gig was sold out and this was obviously evident by the vast swarming crowds which had assembled and hugged the perimeter of the venue in cold anticipation for entrance into the cavernous Apollo

As the venue was slowly filling up, the lights dimmed, and the Swedish death metal members of Hypocrisy entered the fray and launched straight into ‘Fractured Millennium’. The intentions from these death metal giants were clear from the start. Tagtgren et al strode about with a confidence and passion which was clear for all to see. The whole set was technical and precise and the short time in Manchester was finished with a flawless ‘The Gathering’ and a true classic, spat out with venom and power, ‘Roswell 47’.

Behemoths and Swedish powerhouses, Arch Enemy, announced their entrance with a commanding ‘The World Is Yours’ and it was all orchestrated by the genius that is Michael Amott. Alissa White-Gluz was a panther, stalking the stage with malice and spite, spitting out the vocals as if her life depended on it. Amott and Loomis bolstered the stage with mesmerising six string work whilst the muscle of D’angelo helped add the beef to the whole set, without any weakening or flaws throughout. Erlandsson sat astride the raised drum kit, punctuating the delicate skeleton of the Arch Enemy set and he acted as the aorta pumping the blood through the Swedish arteries.

The set was written around absolute classics and anthems, ‘War Eternal’, ‘My Apocalypse’, ‘Ravenous’, ‘Under Black Flags We March’ and the beast that is ‘No Gods, No Masters’. The set was closed with ‘Dead Bury Their Dead’ and the monstrous ‘Nemesis’ which saw the crowd go ballistic which was then replicated by each strand of the band on stage. Amon Amarth must be very comfortable in their own skin to invite a band of Arch Enemies’ stature on tour with them as guests, because based on this performance, it won’t be long before the Apollo is being sold out under the Arch Enemy banner.

A black curtain was dropped so that the sold-out crowd couldn’t get a glimpse of the mammoth stage set being constructed behind it. The drape had a simple Amon Amarth emblem and ‘Berserker’ emblazoned on it. When show time arrived and the curtain dropped, the stage was absolutely mesmerising whilst a riot then ensued on top of it with all members of the band coming out fighting. Johan Hegg stalked every inch the stage with intent and purpose, growling and roaring with absolute colossal power and rage. Soderberg and Mikkonen thrashed with energy and ferocity, both nailing the axe work with enthusiasm and delicacy which bounced off the sheer brute power emanating from the 4 string bass work of Lundstrom and the percussion of Wallgren being beaten out, centre stage, sitting on top of the colossal, impressive Viking battle helmet.

The pyros were widespread across the battlefield and the set was made up of a who’s who of Amon tracks tonight. ‘Berserker’ saw 4 outings, with ‘Jomsviking’ seeing an impressive trio unleashed, ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’ and ‘With Oden On Our Side’ are represented with a duo from each, and then the set was polished with single injections from ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’, ‘Fate Of Norns’ and ‘Versus The World’.

‘Runes To My Memory’ gets probably the loudest reaction from the crowd tonight and ‘The Way Of Vikings’, Shield Wall’ and ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ were all met with massive pits erupting within the tightly packed floor area. ‘Guardians Of Asgard’ and ‘Raise Your Horns’ ended the main set with deafening appreciation before we saw the Vikings appear again for ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings’ and the absolute anthem of ‘Twilight Of The Thunder Gods’.

The evening had been splattered with differing backdrops, confetti blasted out at tactical moments, and enough fire to put the 5th of November to shame, hell we even had ‘real’ Vikings acting out battles on stage in front of the band themselves and a drum solo (which it later emerged that this was a tactical pit stop for the rest of the band to nip to the pub next door for a swift pint of Guinness before getting back to stage just as the solo was finishing).

The evening had been a great success although I was left wondering whether the band are injecting too much focus on the Viking theme, and this is drawing them away from their death metal roots, does all the theatrics and showmanship dilute the intensity and ferocity of the music a little, maybe, but hey at the moment, these Norse gods have truly shown why they are selling out Apollos, and are sitting at the pinnacle of their career at present, with maybe a little scope for some more growth and notoriety still to come.

Review and Photos Phil Pountney