I think I've had enough AMON AMARTH to last me through the rest of the year, seven hours and 22 minutes to be exact. It is the total running time for this three-DVD set called "Wrath of the Norsemen". Fortunately, the five live performances are worth the time of any AMON AMARTH fan. Rather than cramming in the typical backstage shenanigans or home movie material, the only non-performance segment included is a "making of" piece called "The Vikings are Coming – A Look Behind the Scenes in Cologne", which details the preparation for the August 2005 performance at Live Music Hall, the DVD's main feature. And that's a good place to start
Disc 1 includes the Cologne performance, which was clearly intended to be the highpoint of this DVD. Filmed with 11 cameras, the band plays the longest set in its decade-long history: 22 songs (including the show-opening intro music)! Beyond the fact that the sound and camera work is outstanding, the stage production is a site to see. Often drenched in crimson light and with copious amounts of flame and explosions, the show even includes a cast of actors playing Vikings that are welcomed on stage at strategic points during the show. Included is an actual battle scene toward the end of the show. Far from cheesy, it suits the band's music and image perfectly and is very well done. As for the band itself, the players are nearly flawless. Johan Hegg is a towering frontman that has the chops, the stage presence, and a contagiously congenial nature, which has been the case every time I've seen an AMON AMARTH performance. What is most astounding is how sharp the group remains for this marathon set. At 22 songs, there is not much point in detailing the set list, as you can guess that it includes material from all the band's albums, the cuts from "Fate of Norns" and "Versus the World" coming off particularly well. The 1,000 audience members must have been exhausted at the end of this one. The "Vikings Are Coming" feature is an interesting piece that covers the actors' preparation for the Viking scenes, as well as discussions with Johan and the tour manager about the show and the band's history.
Discs 2 and 3 include more German performances on the "Fate of Norns" tour at Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, a record release show in Ludwigsburg, and Metal Blade Rrroooaaarrr in Stuttgart, which features an appearance by Metal Blade head honcho Brian Slagel. The Metal Blade set also includes a surprise in the form of a cover of SIX FEET UNDER's "Revenge of the Zombie". The Wacken set is the most intense of the four, the band performing at 2:00 a.m. and reveling in the glory of a still-rabid crowd. Each performance could stand on its own as a separate DVD release, as the quality is consistently high and the shows always entertaining. The "Fate of Norns" record release show at Rockfabrik is solid too, although the sound quality is not quite as high as the other performances; a minor quibble at best. The DVD packaging is exceptional and includes some fantastic shots from the Cologne show.
I cannot imagine watching this beast in one sitting, but AMON AMARTH fans (myself included) will love what is on offer here. The time and care that went into this release is impressive. As for the abundance of German performances, I think one can safely say that Germans love David Hasselhoff and AMON AMARTH.