Amon Amarth @ Club Capitol (Perth), 24 Nov 2009

Perth: ransacked.

The tickets quite clearly said that doors opened at 7.30 pm, but with the support slot once occupied by Victorians Nothing now empty, the venue apparently decided to change that to 8 pm – and then not let anyone in until at least 8.15 pm. By this time the line of grumbling and restless would-be Vikings lined up outside had stretched well down Murray Street. Fortunately, when the line did start moving, it moved pretty quickly, avoiding any kind of barbarian punter uprising.

Inside, the air conditioning was cranking – an attempt to bring a more Nordic feel to Perth’s warm spring evening perhaps? The stage setup for Amon Amarth had sadly no room for their trademark longboat – but they had managed to drape much of the back of the stage in some kind of stormy ocean backdrop. Unfortunately they couldn’t completely cover the venue’s trademark daggy red curtains, leaving no doubt that this was, in fact, Perth’s Club Capitol.

The AC/DC that had been playing in the background faded out and local black metallers Mhorgl appeared, instantly turning the leather threat level in the room to “bondage”. These guys play serious (and seriously good) old-school black metal with lashings of spikes and bullet-belts-a-plenty, but without seeming overly ridiculous most of the time – which can be a hard balancing act. Vocalist Sam Moretta, guitarist Robert Thorpe and bassist James Campbell are solid musicians and the music they produce is enjoyable, if not overly ground-breaking. But they are really pushed to the next level by the powerhouse drumming skills of new addition Louis Rando, also known for his work in local black metal outfit The Furor and Dubai-based Nervecell. Louis is an absolute machine behind the kit and is mesmerising to watch.

When the headline act took to the stage after what seemed like an eternal wait, the crowd response was enormous – and seemed to take even the band by surprise. When Johan Hegg, Johan Söderberg, Olavi Mikkonen, Ted Lundström and Fredrik Andersson last played in Perth a little under two years ago, it was at the smaller Amplifier Bar. This time around, on the first date of their Australian tour, the turnout in the larger venue was good, especially for a Tuesday – proving that even if Viking metal is only a gimmick, as some insist that it is, there’s plenty of life within that gimmick yet.

Twilight of the Thunder God kicked off the set which featured heavily from this year’s album of the same name, and previous effort With Oden On Our Side – with occasional dips into the band’s earlier releases. Pressed up against the front of the stage to one side is definitely not the best position from which to judge audio quality – but I had a nice spot and was not about to give it up. It’s a sad irony that those who prefer to hang back from the action get the best audio experience! Still, from what I could hear it was pretty clear and even.

One way that some fans chose to show their appreciation was by stage-diving – more people clambering on stage to windmill with the Swedish masters of the movement then has been seen at any Perth metal gig of late. Some who outstayed their welcome or who got too much in the band’s way got a gentle shove back into the crowd from the long-suffering audio tech – because the venue’s security sure weren’t doing anything.

Song after song, the crowd went nuts. It seemed like every fist was raised in horned salute, every voice was screaming. Gods of War Arise ended the set – but then the band were back for an encore with Runes to My Memory and Cry of the Blackbirds. When Hegg asked everyone to sing along in grand finale Pursuit of Vikings, he made the same joke he’d made two years earlier – about singing even if you don’t know the words, because it’s death metal and no one will be able to tell – but it was still funny and no one seemed to mind. Then it was all over, and all band members came to the front to take a bow, and took the time to shake sweaty hands and distribute picks and sticks to the fans.

If Amon Amarth get the same kind of response with the even bigger crowds in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, they can certainly say they have conquered this far-away land. For now, though, they can add Perth to the list of towns sacked by metal Vikings. Praise the gods!