The juggernaut that is the Machine Head and Amon Amarth co-headline tour finally kicks off in the UK at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena; both bands with fresh records out and eager to get back on the road.
The co-headline tour concept is always a weird beast; on this lineup Amon Amarth get a slightly longer set but Machine Head get to close the event. I wonder how many meetings it took to settle on something that felt fair to all.
Tonight, our openers are The Halo Effect, a new band made up of ex-In Flames members – badged as a ‘Swedish death metal’ outfit, probably because they come from Gothenburg and are from In Flames. (What can I say, us media lot are lazy.) They easily justify their slot on this titanic tour though. Their riffs are melodic and Swedish, but they remind me more of Eclipse than Entombed. They open with The Days Of The Lost and close with Shadowminds, which we’ve been playing on Louder Than War Radio’s Rock Show for a couple of weeks now. Whatever their genre tags, they are awesome, and their new record Days Of The Lost is well worth checking out.
As Amon Amarth prepare to hit the stage, all accredited photographers are told we need to head to the sound desk to shoot. We’re told that the show includes ‘some pyro’ and it’s unsafe for us to be in the pit. We all grumble but do as we’re told. Thirty seconds into the set we all look at each other and agree that it’s a wise decision. We can all feel the heat from the constant flames 50m away as they run through Guardians of Asgaard. Neither the band nor the flames die down as the Vikings take the roof off the Arena. It’s an onslaught of fire straight from the heart of Mount Doom.
The Amon Amarth setlist flies by with heavy hitters like The Great Heathen Army, Deceiver of the Gods and Raise Your Horns all getting the rapturous reception you’d expect from the army of Vikings in the arena. They close out with Twilight Of The Thunder God.
We’re allowed back to the front for Machine Head but I can’t help wondering how the technicians are going to turn the stage around from the huge theatrical Viking set to the stripped-back Machine Head affair, which is even sparser than it should be after their huge screen backdrop split it two the afternoon before. I shouldn’t have been concerned; the army of wizards soon have things ready and, as Ozzy’s Diary Of A Madman fades out, the Machine Head curtain drops and the band slam into BECØME THE FIRESTØRM, Imperium and Now We Die.
It must be said that watching Robb Flynn during Now We Die always makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck; the almost trancelike mode he goes into as he plays the lead and sings the clean vocals is a highlight of the night.
There are no flames, no huge TV’s, in fact no nothing. This is as close to a celebration of Machine Head’s music as it gets. The setlist is too short but it packs a punch with NØ GØDS, NØ MASTERS, Aesthetics Of Hate, Darkness Within, From This Day, Davidian and closing with Halo. It’s over too quickly at Nottingham for sure, with other venues getting Ten Ton Hammer and Locust too.
As a tour, this must be one of the must-see events of the year; the theatrical showmanship of an Amon Amarth gig and the raw power of Machine Head. It’s a wonder it didn’t start a universal event for having so much heaviness in one spot.
All words and images by Neil Johnson. More writing by Neil Johnson can be found at Neil’s archive. Neil is also on Instagram as @jonnokid and is also the co-host of The Monster Shop on Louder Than War Radio (LTW’s Metal Show).