Amon Amarth w/ Ex Mortus and Entombed A.D.
Playstation Theater, NY, NY April 22, 2016
Valhalla in NYC, Vol. 1
Part 1: Choices
Being impulsive and doing things on a whim has opened me up to all sorts of experiences as I get older. Whereas in my youth I would have found out about Amon Amarth and talked myself out of going to see them the same day I discovered they existed, at 43 it took very little to talk myself into going to see them the same day I discovered they existed. When I woke up for work that morning back in April, I never would have expected myself to be at a Viking death metal show 12 hours or so later, but that’s how it happened. And I’m glad it did, because Amon Amarth raided, plundered and pillaged the Playstation Theater and provided me one awesome show.
I’m jumping the gun, so let’s rewind a little. After polling my friends on social media, all of whom said “Go for it!” and finding out my hero, employee and friend Fezz Narine not only loved Amon Amarth but had songs on his phone for me to sample, I made a quick decision. No back-and-forth deliberation, no shying away, no staying at work well past any point I need to be there; I was heading out for a show. So I hopped a subway, and off I went.
The concert experience started off weirdly, with something I would never have expected: the Playstation Theater is adjacent to the theatre that plays The Lion King on Broadway. So there I am at the back of a long line of metalheads about to plunge into death in Valhalla, to the right of a long line of normals about to watch Mufasa plunge to death in an African ravine. Fans on the right would later be singing along to “First Kill;” fans on the left would later be singing “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” A more bizarre juxtaposition of entertainment, I could not conjure in my mind.
Once I was inside, I dropped off my jacket and headed over to the T-shirt stand. There were several album covers with awe inspiring artwork depicting Vikings being Vikings, and I pondered my choices. And then I saw this.
And so there really was no choice to make.
Part 2: The Rail and the War of the Gods
Having donned my new shirt, I was ready to sport the war. It occurred to me as I walked into the theatre that this was the first heavy metal show I had ever attended that wasn’t a Slayer show. But the Slayer show mentality was still in my head, and that dictated to me one mandate: get up close to the stage. Had I realized there was no need for me to be in this mode, I would’ve hung to the back, right by the wall where General Admission meets the seating section. Hell, I had no idea what an Amon Amarth even looked like, and even if I’d made it to front and center against the rail, it wasn’t going to be the same experience as standing directly before Tom Araya. But none of these thoughts occurred to me as I milled toward the front.
And there was my mistake. Toward the front. Not at the front holding the rail. No, I was seven or eight dudes back from that life saving rail, and my body would regret this unconscious decision for several days of soreness later.
And herein lies that part that anyone who doesn’t enjoy heavy metal can never understand: getting the snot beat out of me as I’m being pummeled from all sides is not only an essential part of going to a metal show, it’s an essential part of the joy of going to a metal show. Back in 2014, I went to a Slayer show in Montclair, NJ. I got so whacked out off some meds I was taking that I almost didn’t go. But my sister Sarah talked me into it, and so by the time I finished driving there from Long Island, I had not only missed Exodus, but there was no way to make it down through the mass of metalheads to get to the stage. So for the entire show— which consisted of Slayer playing a set I didn’t find so great to begin with— I hung by the back. And at a safe distance, from which I not only couldn’t reach out and touch Kerry King’s beard but no one was slamming into my kidneys to the point where I should be pissing blood for days, I took no real joy in that show. It sounds insane, I know. But I never feel more alive than when I’m up against a barrier at a thrash metal show. Others will never understand it, but I appreciate it.
But hey, all this talk of the buildup, and I have an actual show to tell you about.
Prelude to the Twilight of the Thunder God: Of Shirts, Sonatas and Stumblebums
In the business, we call this a teaser. Scope out Vol. 2 for my observations on the opening act’s choice of shirts, the only time I’ve witnessed Beethoven played at a thrash metal show, and the weird tale of a random drunk wandering onstage and not getting jumped by security. If that odd concoction of stuff doesn’t draw you in, then Valhalla’s already got your soul.
–Phil Fasso \m/