Live at House of Blues in Houston, Texas on January 22nd, 2014.
Houston has never been known as a good live music city. The largest attendance figures here come from the annual Rodeo, an embarrassing display of the worst that pop and country have to offer. And unless your last name is “Bieber”, don’t expect to be selling out any large venues. Naturally, this puts off a large number of musical acts. So whenever any metal shows pass through this Lone Star State, myself and other metalheads make it a priority to see the show, in case of a lengthy live absence. But this show was on a Wednesday night (or as Johan Hegg refers to it, “middle Saturday”). Furthermore, none of my friends could make the show with me. I semi-reluctantly decided to trek on solo to the show, making the one hour drive to downtown Houston and driving back at just slightly past midnight, in rebellious defiance of my scholarly duties (Ooooooooh!).
The House of Blues was packed. By the time Amon Amarth had hit the stage, there were maybe 800 people scattered throughout the general admission, VIP lounge, bar, and balcony seating sections, in quite stark contrast to Wintersun’s 300 people-ish turnout just a few months prior. The demographics were just as varied as the city itself, and the camaraderie in the venue, especially in the pit, only heightened as the show progressed. I witnessed friends being made, hugs being had, freelance crowd surfing, and a passionate Viking-enthused audience that lived their part.
Finally, at 8 p.m., Ohio metallers, Skeletonwitch, absolutely crushed the place with their performance. With a setlist focusing heavily on 2013’s Serpents Unleashed, the guys gave a performance that riled up the crowd almost instantly. By the time the title track from the new album kicked in, the pit had already opened up, and guys had begun to get hoisted up above the headbangers and moshers. As cliché as it may be, Skeletonwitch sounded better live than they did on the album. Not only was the energy radiating off the stage in spades, but the sound was crystal clear (albeit I was wearing earplugs). They quickly ran through their half-hour set and left a hefty mark on the night.
After a short 15 minute intermission, progressive black metallers, Enslaved, hit the stage with their brand of atmospheric extremity. The first half of the set was largely composed of the slower and newer tracks, which were pretty effective in calming the crowd down (I only saw 6 crowdsurfers and 3 mosh pits in that time!). The final half of the set was composed of fan-favorites and heavier tracks. If you can’t tell yet, I’m pretty unfamiliar with Enslaved, but they made a big impact on the live audience. I’m guessing with a name like “Enslaved”, you don’t expect clean vocals and a keyboardist.
At 10 p.m., the place went berserk when Amon Amarth hit the stage to open up with the newest single from Deceiver of the Gods, “Father of the Wolf”. The band quickly banged out track after track from the new album before going back to old classics like “Twilight of the Thunder Gods” and “Guardians of Asgaard”. The band was firing on all cylinders, having just started the tour, and the performances were impeccable. The sing-along anthemic choruses sounded majestic within the intimate setting, and the crowd did not stop moving for the entire 90 minute set. After having decreed the entire crowd as Vikings, the band, fittingly, packed a final punch with “The Pursuit of Vikings” and a sincere “thank you” to the Houston crowd for making it out on middle Saturday.
Afterwards, I got in my car, blasted Twilight of the Thunder Gods, and drove home while head banging and singing/growling my heart out. Wednesday night well spent.