Review by Pete Finn for MPM
After going nearly, the whole of August without a gig together, we’re now on our second in three days, as myself and MPM Tog, Manny ‘Statler’ Manson head back to Nottingham.
This time we’re off to the Big Brother of the amazing variety of venues Nottingham has on offer and it’s the 10000 capacity Motorpoint Arena, which is also the home of the Nottingham Panthers Ice Hockey Team.
Tonight’s show is being described as “The most monumental metal tour of 2022.” We are going to see two of the world’s most revered heavy metal bands, Bay Area metal icons Machine Head and Sweden’s Viking metal overlords Amon Amarth, who are teaming up for the colossal ‘Vikings And Lionhearts’ co-headline arena tour which is set to rampage across Europe over the next couple of months.
Joining the metallic pairing to open the show are The Halo Effect, a new band featuring five luminaries of Swedish melodic death metal and who are pioneers of the genre.
I looked for a description of ‘Melodic Death Metal’ as it will be mentioned a few times, ‘Wikipedia’ described it like this, “Melodic death metal (also referred to as Melodeath) is a subgenre of death metal that employs highly melodic guitar riffs, often borrowing from traditional heavy metal (including New Wave of British Heavy Metal).
The genre features the heaviness of death metal but with highly melodic or harmonized guitar riffs and solos, and often features high-pitched shrieked vocals (differing from traditional death metal) alongside the low-pitched growls commonly featured in traditional death metal.” I think the term ‘Melodeath’ is brilliant.
I’ve brought my drinking horn and broadsword; this is going to be epic on an epic scale…
There is a bit of a hold up at the box office while we wait for ‘the list’ to come down, which sees us arrive in the arena which is about 1/3 full, just as the lights go out.
Formed in 2020, The Halo Effect consists of Peter Iwers (bass guitar), Daniel Svensson (drums), Jesper Strömblad (rhythm guitar), Niclas Englin (lead guitar) and Mikael Stanne (vocals). The names may sound familiar as all five members were previously in the Swedish metal band In Flames. The motivating idea behind the band was to return to the roots of the 1990s “Gothenburg sound” that pioneered the melodic death metal sound. They released their debut album ‘Days of the Lost’ last month.
Tonight, sees Patrik Jensen step in for Jesper Strömblad who has pulled out of the tour, in his press statement it says he, “has decided once and for all to deal with” his “addiction and other demons”. We wish him well.
The band walk out on to the stage, there is a huge ‘The Halo Effect’ back drop behind the drum kit, the stage lighting emerald green. Their opening track is the title track from the new album ‘Days of the Lost’, we’re off, quick riffs and beats, Iwers’ bass is shaking everything as the prowling Stanne’s growling lyrics grab your attention. The riffs and solo from Englin takes the pace even quicker.
“Good Evening Nottingham, we are The Halo Effect” cries Mikael Stanne.
The instrumental start to ‘The Needless End’ is full of melody, it becomes hard and heavy as Stanne’s vocals join in. Jensen and Englin are criss-crossing the stage, Stanne is up on the monitor as he belts out the lyrics. It’s actually quite hard to see what’s happening on stage with just the basic green and occasional white spotlight, however, the sound is on the money. Englin’s outro has the crowd punching the air.
Stanne is back on the monitor as he tells us that this is the band’s first tour together, and only their fifth gig. Svensson’s marching beat brings in ‘Gateways’, the power riffs from Jensen and Englin are massaging the temples. Englin is up on the monitor coaxing the crowd. Stanne mic clenched in his fists delivering the lyrics. The band as one call for the crowd to punch the air, those on the floor copying those on the stage. Credit to The Halo Effect, they are certainly warming the crowd up, and the crowd are enjoying the band.
‘Feel What I Believe’ sees the tempo increase, Mikael Stanne is ‘air drumming’ as he balances on the monitors. The band producing an impressive wall of sound. Svensson and Iwers’ pounding beats are like punches to the chest. The big circular riff indicates the start of ‘In Broken Trust’, there is a chugging undercurrent riff, that carries us on like a steam train through the track, Stanne is stomping around the stage in time, Svensson’s break shakes your teeth as the guitars line up across the stage.
“We’re feeling good, How are you doing? This one is fast and a tribute to the old days.” As Stanne introduces ‘Last of Our Kind’, Iwers has his bass pointing at the sky as he slaps the strings, the guitars line up across the monitors, as they power through the notes, they start synchronised headbanging. Stanne is crouched over the pit at the stage edge as his growling lyrics slam around the arena.
Stanne thanks the crowd for coming in early to see them, and then says that he and the band wish Jesper well in his rehabilitation. He follows up by saying that this is their last track of the show, it’s ‘Shadowminds’, the quick tempo continues, again the band are zigzagging across the stage, Englin is leaning forward, his hair over the strings as he smashes out his final solo, the track pauses as Svensson lets off some parting shots, then The Halo Effect finish their set.
They leave to a good cheer, waving and flicking picks into the crowd. I’ve really enjoyed their show, the sound was fantastic, just a shame about the lighting.
Setlist: Days of the Lost, The Needless End, Gateways, Feel What I Believe, In Broken Trust, Last of Our Kind, Shadowminds
Now, that the house lights are on I can see that the top few rows of seats have a curtain over them, and the arena is probably just over half full. There is a 50/50 mix of Amon Amarth and Machine Head T-shirts. A curtain now hides the stage and the delights that await us.
Amon Amarth is a Swedish melodic death metal band from Tumba, formed in 1992. The band takes its name from the Sindarin name of Mount Doom, a volcano in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Still with three of the original members, the current line-up is Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen (lead guitar), Ted Lundström (bass), Johan Söderberg (rhythm guitar) and Jocke Wallgren (drums).
Since the release of their debut album ‘Once Sent From The Golden Hall’ in 1994, they have released a further eleven studio albums including ‘The Great Heathen Army’ which was released in August 2022. The last time I saw Amon Amarth was at Download in 2019 where they had a Viking Longboat on stage with them.
The house lights go out and Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ starts playing, the crowd is drawn to the stage. The Amon Amarth intro plays and the curtain drops to an explosion of flash bombs and flames. We’re straight into ‘Guardians of Asgaard’ from ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ that was released in 2008. Wallgren is smashing his drum kit, sat on a huge Viking helmet riser, there are two colossal Viking statues bookending the stage.
Johan Hegg charges around the stage as he delivers a vocal that makes your hairs stand up. Olavi Mikkonen is at the stage front powering riffs between the huge flames going up before him. Ted Lundström is punching the air in time with the ‘Hey’ chant. This is a no holds barred, take no prisoners start. Brilliant.
The rapid drum start and wall of flames brings in ‘Raven’s Flight’ from 2019’s ‘Berserker’ album. The band, in a line are all headbanging. The flames are now crossing over the band from one side to the other. Guitarists Mikkonen and Söderberg are standing facing each other toe-to-toe as they fire out riffs and solo’s, Wallgren’s feet are double tapping his bass drums. The crowd are headbanging as one. Hegg is up behind the riser pointing at the crowd and the crowd are waving ‘horns’ back. Everyone is up for this.
The Vikings disappear from the stage edges, Hegg addresses his audience, “Good evening, Nottingham, are you ready to create some chaos and mayhem? Then, you truly are the Great Heathen Army” and ‘The Great Heathen Army’ the title track from the recent release starts. The guitarists in a line shaking their heads. Johan Hegg moves from one side to the other as he addresses his troops, the green stage lighting being interrupted by flashes of fire.
A fist waving Hegg calls for ‘Hey’s’. I don’t want to look down to make notes in fear of missing something, this is brilliant. The crowd sing in time to the outro. ‘Deceiver of the Gods’ the title track from the 2013 album, is welcomed with flash bombs as the man himself appears on stage his piercing green eyes cut through the smoke as his smashes his staff down creating explosions below. The guitars are on the riser firing out the chords and headbanging. The crowd are ‘woahing’ along to Mikkonen’s solo.
‘Get in the Ring’ from ‘The Great Heathen Army’ has the stage covered in blood red lights, Johan Hegg wants Nottingham to give him a circle pit, they are more than happy to do so. The power of the sound is moving the air around the arena like a tornado, I can feel it moving my shorts.
The end of the song is met with a huge cheer. “Nottingham, Who is the Greatest Of All Time? Who is the GOAT?” asks Hegg, “Heidrun” he shouts. ‘Heidrun’ is from the new album, it starts with some proper heavy rocking riffs. Mikkonen’s solo is the prelude to a huge confetti bomb going off, as Hegg and the crowd chant “Who’s the GOAT?”
We travel back to 2004 and the ‘Fate of Norns’ album for ‘The Pursuit of Vikings’, it starts with the sounds of the sea, a Viking longboat is on stage. Punching riffs has Hegg and the crowd alternating ‘Hey’s before he’s off walking around the risers. “Scream” he bellows, Lundström and Wallgren keep the beats going as the crowd sing the lines.
The guitars are all stood on the riser behind the drums, a masked warrior appears on stage with a sword and shield, a second appears and the duel, with the second one winning, he removes his helmet, it’s Hegg, he starts ‘The Way of Vikings’ from ‘Jomsviking’ released in 2016. Wallgren’s pace is relentless, Söderberg is keeping the rhythm going as he beats the chords out of his guitar.
The new single ‘Put Your Back into the Oar’ is next, “Row, Row, Row” is the chant, a circle pit starts on the arena floor. The drums and bass beats are shaking the floor any settled confetti is being vibrated down. Hegg starts chanting “Row, Row, Row”, the circle pit is now sat on the floor rowing. This is fabulous.
First Kill’ is the opening track on ‘Jomsviking’, the slow spoken intro is launched into life by the pyro cannons, the pace becomes frantic, Mikkonen and Söderberg are almost duelling their squealing guitars, there’s a tag team of ‘Hey’ chants, fist pumps and flames, it doesn’t get much better than that. The outro is played to a fanfare of fire.
Hegg thanks the crowd then cries, “Vikings, Vikings raise the Shield Wall”. ‘Shield Wall’ is from ‘Berserker’, the band are headbanging, the stage a mix of red and yellow lights, strobe lights slicing through them. The big marching beat has the crowd punching the air.
The band are given drinking horns, they raise them and have a drink with Nottingham, who chant “Skol” as the band down the drinks. ‘Raise Your Horns’ from ‘Jomsviking’ is next, Hegg is on the riser drinking from his horn as the crowd surfers start.
Johan Hegg thanks the Nottingham crowd again, the lights go out, when the stage is lit up again there is a sea serpent coiled around it, there is a storm, and the title track of the 2008 album ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ starts. Hegg is holding Thor’s Hammer aloft and crashes it down to a huge explosion and flames, the band are on the risers as the crowd sing the words.
The pace is still ferocious, Hegg takes the hammer and starts hitting the serpent. The track finishes with a huge pyro curtain coming down from above the stage. The band leave to great applause flicking picks and throwing drumsticks into the crowd.
That was a bloody amazing show, I like everyone in here, am on my feet cheering and clapping.
Setlist: Guardians of Asgaard, Raven’s Flight, The Great Heathen Army, Deceiver of the Gods, Get in the Ring, Heidrun, The Pursuit of Vikings, The Way of Vikings, Put Your Back into the Oar, First Kill, Shield Wall, Raise Your Horns, Twilight of the Thunder God.
Draped across the front of the stage is yet another huge black curtain, although this one has big red letters emblazoned across it, those big red letters spell ‘Machine Fucking Head’.
Machine Head are from Oakland, California. The band was formed in 1991 by vocalist/guitarist Robb Flynn, who remains the only original member of the band. Machine Head’s aggressive musicianship made it one of the pioneering bands in the new wave of American heavy metal.
Its current line-up comprises Flynn, Jared MacEachern (bass), Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka (guitar) and Matt Alston (drums). Machine Head’s first gig was 30 years ago last month, when on the 16th August 1992 they played at Mike Scum’s House Eviction Party in Woolsey Street, Oakland. They have released 10 studio albums with their debut ‘Burn My Eyes’ released in 1994, and their most recent ‘Of Kingdom and Crown’ a few weeks ago in August 2022.
Machine Head as a prelude to these dates with Amon Amarth and The Halo Effect, have played five dates in Scotland as well as appearing as the secret act at the Bloodstock Festival last month.
The lights are out, Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ is playing, at its conclusion the curtain drops and a tidal wave of bass wash engulfs the arena, “Are you ready, for a fast one?” is the battle cry, the arena explodes and a circle pit starts as the first note of ‘BECØME THE FIRESTØRM’ from the new release ‘Of Kingdom and Crown’ is struck. WOW this is LOUD! The crowd surfers are off, carried not only by the hands below, but by the sheer volume of sound.
Matt Alston has the best seat in the house, high above the stage, although I’m not sure how much he can see from behind his massive drum kit. I’m sure with the force he’s hitting those skins, the ice is shattering beneath our feet. Vogg smashes out a solo as Rob Flynn gets everybody jumping. The intensity is immense, your face is being battered, it’s like riding a motorbike without a crash helmet.
“Let’s see some fists in the air” demands Flynn. ‘Imperium’ from ‘Through the Ashes of Empires’ released during 2003 is next. The crowd chant the song in with “Hey, Hey, Hey”, Alston unleashes a vicious drum salvo, Jared MacEachern bass is stamping all over my internal organs. The arena floor is a sea of nodding heads. “Scream for me Nottingham, are you ready to lose your minds with Machine Head tonight?” asks Flynn, before calling for another circle pit. Vogg’s hands a blur as they dance around the strings as he wrings every decibel out of them.
‘Now We Die’ from the 2014 album ‘Bloodstone & Diamonds’ gets the circle pit starting again. Flynn calls for the crowd to join in on the vocals. He’s calling the shots like a General on a battlefield. MacEachern is shaking his head, his hair is like a Catherine wheel. Vogg stood leaning over the pit produces a squealing solo, the track slows slightly in the middle, I can grab my breath, the crowd starts to clap as the tempo rises until they go berserk.
Another track from the new album is ‘NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS’, a different tempo with slower parts, the intensity and power is still there, but it totally under control. It proves the amazing talent these musicians have. Manny back from the pit, is grinning at me, “This is mental”.
The operatic intro brings in ‘I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)’ which is taken off ‘Unto the Locust’ released in 2011. It starts slower and moody, Rob Flynn growls the lyrics, before telling us it’s time for the biggest circle pit of the night. The vocal is now fast, matching the speed of the rotating pit. The band stop, leaving Vogg playing by himself, the whole front of the stage explodes with fire cannons, I can feel the heat on my legs. The flames are going from the floor up past the stage lights.
Flynn says the next song is “For our brother Dimebag Darell, I want you to sing his name”, it’s ‘Aesthetics of Hate’ from ‘The Blackening’ released in 2007. Another circle pit starts, Flynn calls for everyone to start jumping. Vogg and MacEachern are rocking out as they smash their strings. Manny shows me his phone, it has one word on the screen “Brutal”. It was, it was brilliant too.
Flynn has a small technical issue with his acoustic guitar, we can’t hear it, he tells us to have a beer whilst Junior his guitar tech fixes the wireless link, he abandons the acoustic and goes back to the ‘V’, laughing he says it’s Opening Night on a Machine Head tour.
Flynn then acknowledges Queen Elizabeth II’s passing with a respectful tribute, that is graciously applauded by the Nottingham crowd. Rob Flynn dedicates the next song to everyone who has been suffering, but stood strong. It’s ‘Darkness Within’ from the 2011 album ‘Unto the Locust’.
Flynn is on stage by himself as he starts singing and playing. The rest of the band join in during the second verse. There is a melodic interlude before all hell is unleashed again. The crowd get to sing along as Flynn claps them along occasionally strumming.
The pits and surfers are off again as ‘From This Day’ from the ‘The Burning Red’ album starts, Flynn is rapping the lyrics, the crowd know the words and are joining in. As the track concludes Flynn calls for everyone to raise their drinks, “Beers up, beers up”, he then throws his into the crowd and someone catches it.
‘Davidian’ opening track from 1994’s ‘Burn My Eyes’ is next, the crowd are punching the air to the intro, Flynn tells them to take their shirts off and spin them above their heads. The stage glows blood red again, the crowd are on lead vocals for the chorus. The band producing a barrage of music, Vogg’s solo cuts through it. The sound goes down and dirty, then slowly builds towards the end, and the big finish.
Flynn thanks the other bands and then the crowd. The final song of the night is ‘Halo’ from ‘The Blackening’ released in 2007. Flynn calls for everyone to stand up and clap. “Nottingham, do you know how to Headbang?” asks Flynn, this is pure energy.
Vogg smashes out another quality solo, then rocks out with Flynn. The track slows and the crowd sings, before exploding with a confetti canon to the finale, as the circle pit sees the band off stage. The band thank the crowd and pose for a photograph, line up and take a bow before leaving the stage throwing memento’s as they go.
Setlist: BECØME THE FIRESTØRM, Imperium, Now We Die, NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS, I Am Hell (Sonata in C#), Aesthetics of Hate, From This Day, Davidian, Halo.
It has been a truly amazing evening, with three fabulous performances, it’s near the top of my personal Richter Scale of loudness. There’s still a few dates left to catch the bands on tour. The ‘Vikings and Lionhearts Tour’ is one I will remember for a long time.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM