Live Review: The Viking And Lionhearts Tour Machine Head / Amon Amarth / The Halo Effect – AO Arena, Manchester 12.09.2022

Phil Pountney

As the majority of the festivals close their doors on yet another season, what could possibly lift us out of these doldrums and inject a much-needed spark of metal mayhem back into our lives? A colossal co-headlining tour from 2 demigods of the extreme music landscape, Amon Amarth and Machine Head, oh and throw in a band who are fairly new to the party but with enough pedigree on board to make any metal fans mouth water, The Halo Effect. 

As the doors to the cavernous AO Arena were besieged and the lights dimmed, The Halo Effect burst onto the stage. Admittedly, to just a handful of keen punters to start with, but as they progressed through the opening track of the set the front half of the arena floor filled and the seats lining the walls started to sporadically see bodies setting up camp. Now, if I were to throw names into the hat such as In flames and the mighty Dark Tranquillity, you should immediately think Melodic Death Metal and that is precisely what The Halo Effect bombarded us with tonight and there really was no holding back at all. As Stanne declared that they were a relatively new band and had only released their first album about two weeks ago they launched into another track, and this only encouraged the first few rows to ignite, even more, showing their appreciation with fists pumping, heads banging and bodies moving, all as if the band were a well-established icon of several years. For an opening support slot, the Gothenburg heavyweights got a respectable set length, and they ploughed all their efforts into showcasing tracks off ‘Days Of The Lost.’ With the band being made up of giants of the scene, and a multitude of back catalogues and anthems in their closet, I personally think they missed a trick by not giving us a degree of familiarity, ‘Only For The Weak’, ‘Graveland’, ‘Take This Life’, ‘Terminus’ or even the massive ‘Misery’s Crown’ would have been a lip smacker but saying all that, part of me just has to stand back and admire the show put before us tonight and simply applaud the Swedish Melodic Death masters for a perfect opening slot, Bravo and thank you.

As the stage was set, it was time to go into battle with the Norse gods and uber Vikings, Amon Amarth. A huge black curtain blocked the view of the battleground which was about to be defended but as the curtain dropped and we were launched into ‘Guardians Of Asgard’ all hell broke loose. The stage was flanked by two colossal statues and the infamous Viking helmet drum riser took pride of place centre stage with Wallgrens kit sitting proudly on top of it. Mikkonen and Soderberg protected the wings of the frontline and Lundstrom was a beast on the bass, battering his thicker stringed axe into submission as if it were a weapon of war with which he had to conquer if all else failed. Hegg was his usual dominant self, prowling and hunting the stage as if he were on a mission to track down some sort of mythical beast and invite them into combat. His titanic vessels, otherwise known as lungs, propelled power and passion up through his larynx and bellowed into Manchester arena. Battle hymn after Viking psalm were defeated and absolutely battered out to the adoring hordes stood before the epic battle, ‘The Great Heathen Army’ sounded glorious in its first live outing for Manchester and classics like ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings,’ ‘Cry Of The Blackbirds’ and ‘The Way Of Vikings’ almost tore the roof off the AO Arena. The stage was an ever-changing spectacle too. Viking boats emerged mid-set and the Midgard Serpent even graced us with his presence before Hegg battled with it and subsequently defeated it with his hammer, reminiscent of the infamous great battle Jormungandr had with Thor himself. The set was a true audible and visual feast. Paper confetti launched into the air via massive cannons and the fire and pyros on display were a true spectacle and one which will have nicely toasted the first half of the arena to within an inch of its life. The absolutely titanic ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’ saw the Vikings sign off from what was truly a resounding success and a true exhibition of Melodic Death Metal done at its best. After that set, there truly was only one word which should be shouted aloud, a wholeheartedly sincere SKAL.

Another huge curtain and this time emblazoned with the infamous name that Machine Head seem to prefer to go by these days, Machine F’*%ing Head, and this all helped build the anticipation and enthusiasm which seemed to be brewing within the respectable crowd now stood within the arena confines. As the curtain dropped we caught our first glimpse of Flynn et al in all their glory before they propelled into ‘Become The Firestorm,’ the only track aired tonight from the new opus ‘Of Kingdom And Crown’. They then led us through a who’s who of their back catalogue, each track seemingly delivered with more venom and angst than we perhaps have previously seen in a live setting, even Flynn himself instructed us to prepare ourselves as it would be fast tonight. ‘Imperium’ was absolutely breathtaking, ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ was immense and ‘Ten-Ton Hammer’ was absolutely brutal. ‘Davidian’ was the only offering from ‘Burn My Eyes,’ but I guess when you have a history as decorated as Machine Heads, it’s hard to fit all of your anthems in without needing a four-hour set to accommodate them all. Flynn himself seemed more powerful tonight and the dedication with which he served up his wares was awe-inspiring, 30 years to polish his craft and not a single one of those years has been wasted, the Machine Head vehicle is a steamrolling juggernaut and one of epic proportions. Tonight, they have well and truly proven why they can step down off the shoulders of the giants that stood before them, hold their heads up, pull their shoulders back and be honoured that we can now call them one of those giants too. 

Next News: Starbenders release new single 'Blood Moon'

No Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.