The Saint Vitus Bar listening party for the sure to be a hugely victorious new Amon Amarth ear pillager Jomsviking was a great event. The already classic yet still newer venue (in the larger scheme of things) hosted a small gathering of some of the most viking metal faithful writers in the scene and various label and musician types as vocalist Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth held court.
The thunderous music was a delight to behold, the full throttle charge of instant anthem “First Kill” (complete with some awesome descending riffs and Johan’s mighty roar) letting us know this was indeed a full blown Amon Amarth battle cry. One does not simply get to their tenth album of Viking themed melodeath and suddenly put out an album of squishy water in your jelly flip flop pool party tunes, for example.
No. Dudes open their new record with the lyrics ,“The first man I killed was the Earl’s right hand man!” growled like it means everything to Johan. These dudes have the power of At the Gates yet with the intense epic feel of European sagas. Outlaw anthems to melt the heart of Skade, the Ski-goddess.
Johan welcomed the writers and PR people, some of us meeting for the first time as people had flown in from the West Coast for the special, exclusive event. He was very friendly but said he hoped we liked the record and made a funny threatening growl at us. My guitarist Ryan Rios from our band GET OUT. had driven me, as I am pretty nearsighted and shitty in metropolitan areas, and he noted that “Raise Your Horns” in particular reminded him of some of the classic styles that made “Runes To My Memory” from With Odin On Our Side so memorable. “The Way Of The Vikings” stood out to me as one of the most aggressive and anthemic tracks yet from a band known for crushing mead halls beneath their treading boots.
The record sounded absolutely incredible and it was cool to run into some old friends like John from Candiria or meet Frank from Metal Injection in person finally or other assembled Metal Blade homies. Jomsviking is really, really uncompromising and good. The epic feel you love is there and yet the songs seem a bit faster, at least to me. There are still some slower war marches and even an awesome, prickly inside cameo from the legendary Valkyrie, er …warlock (World of Warcraft forums say ladies can be Warlocks too) Doro Pesch that raises the whole record to even further Asgardian heights on penultimate track “A Dream That Cannot Be”.
The epic original story is set in the world of the Jomsvikings, the legendary order of mercenary Vikings. As front-man Johan Hegg explains: “The Jomsvikings were a shadowy and legendary sect of Viking mercenaries, as shrouded in myth now as they were when they fought across Europe and the Middle East. Ruthless and deadly warriors who fought for the highest bidder, their code was simple: Show no fear. Never retreat. Defend your brothers, and when called upon, avenge their deaths. I felt we were finally ready to use their story as the jumping off point for an Amon Amarth album. The Jomsvikings and their world is the background for the story of a young man that is in love with a girl but unfortunately she’s being married off. He accidentally kills a man when this happens and he has to flee – but he swears to have revenge and win her back. He can’t let go of the past. He feels that he’s been wronged and his life has been destroyed. The way the story evolves is not a happy story.”
It’s always great to see what a fine metal institution has sprouted up in Greenpoint next to my favorite place for tacos Acapulco. I love that it is close to the water and easy to get to but still kind of tucked away and self-regulating. If you were to re-enact a post-death dining in Odin’s hall where “tonight he’ll drink his fill” (as an Amon Amarth lyric about a fallen warrior in new song “One Thousand Burning Arrows” goes, Vitus would be a good spot to do the imbibing amidst the flickering shadows, in a pro-metal zone with as fine a bar to rest your elbows on as you are likely to ever find in most rock clubs.
I have seen great bands rock the place like Kings Destroy and KEN Mode or heard great things from artists who have played there ranging from Tearist to ASG. And for a low key but vibey yet semi-casual elbow rub of an event this was a perfect spot.
Driving back Upstate afterwards jamming some tracks from Darkest Hour, Unearth and Atreyu’s A Death Grip On Yesterday as clouds swirled in the sky, we were left feeling really inspired that hard work, camaraderie and the historical power of metal’s ever evolving story is a humbling and incredible mantle to be able to participate in helping pick up as a fan, a writer or as a band. Thank Odin for Amon Amarth and be sure to pre-order Jomsviking HERE at the band’s incredible new website.
True heavy metal will not fall.