21.9.2022 The Halo Effect, Machine Head, & Amon Amarth @ Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki

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Helsinki’s Jäähalli, otherwise known as Black Box when the stadium seats are curtained off, became a true battlefield last Wednesday when the Vikings and Lionhearts Tour 2022 hit the Finnish capital on a rather sunny autumn day. It was the first time that I attended a gig in this legendary venue since the beginning of the pandemic, so I was very excited to go back to a place usually reserved for bigger international acts with great stage production. Although COVID is still around, things have gone pretty much back to normal in Finland, so we can enjoy live shows without any restrictions. And what a tour package I got for this long-awaited comeback to Jäähalli!

THE HALO EFFECT was the band in charge of opening the evening, jumping on stage around 18:25. By then, quite a big crowd had already gathered in front of the stage. As we all know, the band consists of former members of IN FLAMES, commanded by Mikael Stanne, the frontman of DARK TRANQUILLITY. Despite starting the band 2 years ago and releasing their debut album, Days of the Lost,” only recently, the Swedes have gotten a lot of attention from the media and the metal community worldwide. So much so, that they performed on one of the main stages of the last edition of Wacken Open Air without even having an album out.

After a triumphal marching drum intro, they kickstarted their 40-minute set with title track “Days of the Lost,” a catchy tune full of nods to late ’90s IN FLAMES, followed by one of my favorite tracks from their debut, “The Needless End,” including a folky lead guitar intro combined with some fast, classic melodeath riffing. “Gateways” has a more Gothic and doomier vibe and it works as a palate cleanser among the faster tracks. Mikael Stanne gave a speech about them growing together in the ’90s in the Gothenburg scene and they deliver the goods with the energetic and bombastic “Feel What I Believe.”

“A Truth Worth Lying For” gave us the chance to hear some of Stanne’s clean vocals, something I wish he did more often. The band sounded very tight and even though guitarist Jesper Strömblad couldn’t join them this time, Patrick Jensen was a great replacement, while Niclas Engelin indulged us with some clean guitar outros. “Conditional” was a total banger and a great surprise in the setlist. Of course, the encore had to be “Shadowminds,” the first single they released back in 2021, which is their biggest hit and probably catchiest song so far. A great show despite the short set and the simple stage setup, although I loved their backdrop and minimalistic lightshow.

After a short break MACHINE HEAD hit the stage around 19:20 and hell broke loose immediately. The energy and stage presence of Robb Flynn was undeniable, despite not knowing their music well. From opener “BECØME THE FIRESTØRM,” it was clear that they were not kidding when it came to unleashing some old-school circle pits. The audience went batshit crazy and the party went on with the groovy “Imperium,” especially towards the fast end section. “The Ton Hammer” was another highlight of their show, featuring some grunge and nu-metal influences.

“I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)” was truly epic, full of time changes and plenty of pyros. You could tell the difference in the stage budget compared to the opening band, starting from a cool drum-riser and massive lights. They went back to their debut album, “Burn My Eyes” with “Old,” another groovy, heavy track. Before “Darkness Within,” Flynn gave a heartfelt speech about his mental health struggles and how he found a way out of them through music. It was a cathartic performance that included acoustic guitar chords by Flynn, blending with Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka’s heavy distorted riffing. “Now We Die,” with its very catchy chorus, kept the energy flowing.

“From this Day” took us back to 1999 and the glory days of nu-metal, a period that many would rather not be reminded of, but the audience seemed to love this facet of the band. “Davidian,” on the other hand, was simply brutal, bringing back the power and might of the likes of PANTERA. After some confetti and a beer-catching contest, to close their 75-minute set, they went for the 9-minute epic “Halo,” a track filled with cool, melodic riffing, and a more chilled vibe than most MACHINE HEAD songs. The band looked amazed by the audience’s reaction and threw more guitar picks than I’ve ever seen before.

The Swedish Vikings from AMON AMARTH came onstage a bit past 21:00 amid a dramatic lightshow and intro tape and when the curtain fell, we quickly realized how big of a band they have become. Their stage setup nowadays is akin to what you’d find from IRON MAIDEN, with plenty of platforms for them to walk around, the coolest Viking helmet-inspired drum riser, and a couple of inflatable statues. “Guardians of Asgaard” was the chosen one to open the set and flames were unleashed without minding a single bit about the current price of gasoline. The furious “Raven’s Flight” also featured plenty of pyro and some kickass guitar duals between Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg.

Frontman Johan Hegg declared Jäähalli’s crowd to be the wildest metalheads in Northern Europe and invited the character Loki to the stage, and they deliver a flawless rendition of the energetic “Deceiver of the Gods,” one of the fastest songs in the set. They slowed things down with “Crack The Sky” and “The Great Heathen Army,” taken from their last two albums. This new tendency of theirs to write a lot of mid-tempo songs and release them as main singles tends to get a bit boring, especially when they play them all live in a row. Things got even weirder with “Heidrun,” which must be one of the weakest songs on their latest album. What an odd choice for a live set, having such a strong back catalog.

After this short drop of intensity, the show got much more interesting with the powerful “Destroyer of the Universe,” another brilliant display of brutality and speed. Johan commanded the audience to sit and put themselves in position for a row pit. Of course, we obeyed and they delivered the catchy non-album track “Put Your Back Into the Oar,” amidst some foggy visuals. “Cry of the Black Birds” is clearly a fan-favorite with an unrelenting double bass drum by the unstoppable Jocke Wallgren. Flamboyance is not enough to make a good live show, so they put a lot of effort into the music performance, which became evident when they delivered “The Pursuit of Vikings,” probably one of their most well-known songs, without any special effects.

Hegg made some funny remarks about the first times in everyone’s lives, before performing “First Kill,” a dark but catchy song. “Shield Wall” and “Raise Your Horns” were two of the mid-tempo tracks in the set that worked well live, since they are easy to sing along to your fist in the air. Hegg went backstage to pick up his hammer while a giant sea serpent rose from the ground and we knew what was going to happen next: “Twilight of the Thunder God” is a bona fide classic and a perfect way to close their set, among a shit ton of pyros that made the front row sweat. After 80-minutes of heroic anthems, the Viking ship sailed away but they promised to come back to visit their neighbors. AMON AMARTH‘s live shows never disappoint and it’s great to have them touring again, hopefully for many years to come.

Article by David Araneda
Photos by Laureline Tilkin

SETLIST

  1. Guardians of Asgaard
  2. Raven’s Flight
  3. Deceiver of the Gods
  4. Crack the Sky
  5. The Great Heathen Army
  6. Heidrun
  7. Destroyer of the Universe
  8. Put Your Back Into the Oar
  9. Cry of the Black Birds
  10. The Pursuit of Vikings
  11. First Kill
  12. Shield Wall
  13. Raise Your Horns
  14. Twilight of the Thunder God