THE last time so many Vikings landed on the shores of Norn Iron they came to rape, pillage, plunder: now they come for metal!
Headed by the mighty Amon Amarth, the trio of bands - their number made up by the magisterial Grand Magus and newbies to the UK and Ireland tours, In Solitude - are fresh into a trek round these isles without long boats or horned helms: but they bore axes...
Hitting the Mandella Hall on a mid-week, over-18s only gig at the bottom of the bill is tough enough; as such openers set openers In Solitude chose wisely to play as if the hall was full and ripped into a fair sampling of their 2011 release "The World. The Flesh. The Devil."
Despite being hampered by a muddy vocal mix singer Homper emerged into his own for an epic rendition of 'To Her Darkness'. The interplay between Niklas and Henrik in particular elevated their complex NOWBHM and classic metal arrangements to a compelling live listen: a little bit of work on stagecraft and set composition and In Solitude will be proving just exactly why Metal Blade had them sign their Scandanavian signatures on the contractual dotted line.
As for Grand Magus - they had nothing to prove to a Norn Iron audience - solid, tight and engaging, this trio was as tight as an Orca's arse, delving into the back catalogue for the likes of 'Iron Will' and 'Wolf's Return' and giving newer material like 'Hammer of the North' a thorough trouncing. No strangers to Belfast, Magus had an easy relationship with the Mandella Hall crowd, one that showed in the onstage banter and the ability to engage with their trademark power metal with a dark twist.
And then came the band from Mount Doom....
Amon Amarth. Johan and co may wish to distance themselves from the Viking Metal tag, but they come to lay waste...
Holy enslaved abbeys Batman but we have heroes here!
From inasuspicous beginnings Amon Amarth have grown from a Scandanvian phenomenon with a niche following to a band ready smash down the doors to the metal mainstream...with a double-headed axe of course.
'Runes to My Memory', Blackbirds, 'War of the Gods' all displayed the tradmark growl, guitars and subtle melody, but 'Under the Northern Star' also showed that Amarth also have delicacy in their arsenal.
Carefully honed presentation, synchronised stagecraft and easy manner meant the twin guitar attack if Johan (the other one!)and Olavl built a landscape around which songs were elevated beyond the contraints of the studio.
But when it came to sheer power, 'Twilight of the Thunder Gods' and 'Guardians of Asgard' concluded proceedings with aplomb and bombastic brilliance.
Vikings? Aye, we could take them in a fair fight of they want a re-run of the sixth century battles, but in the meantime their lasting appeal is built on pagan myths, stories of terror raids and rapine - now it is a story best told through the medium of...HEAVY METAL.