Live ReviewReview

Live Review: Machine Head/Amon Amarth @ Wembley Arena 10/09/22

Live Review – Machine Head/Amon Amarth @ Wembley Arena, London, 10/09/2022

The UK has always been kind to Machine Head.  Whenever they’ve touched down on British shores, the Oakland bruisers could rely on a devoted crowd of headbangers turning out to see them, even when touring their less popular albums. And true to form, the Head Cases are out in force tonight. A legion of enthusiastic, black-clad fans has descended on Wembley Arena to drink, mosh and have a good time.

There’s a good reason to be excited too. It’s only a fortnight since they released the incredible Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn, a stunning album that ranks alongside their best material. Plus, after years of playing solo shows with no support acts, they’ve got the preposterously macho Amon Amarth as co-headliners.

The Halo Effect

Opening proceedings are Swedish hopefuls The Halo Effect. Comprised of five ex-members of In Flames, they deal in traditional Gothenburg melodeath with a big emphasis on galloping guitar leads and burnt-larynx vocals. They treat the growing crowd to several cuts from their Days Of The Lost album, with the anthemic ‘In Broken Trust’ and furious ‘Last Of Our Kind’ going down very well. The biggest cheers are reserved for the closing ‘Shadowminds,’ and they win several new friends in their all-too-brief set. It must be a little strange to play your first UK shows in an arena, but they hold their own and get the night off to a rousing start.

Photo by Rebecca Marshall

Amon Amarth

Then Amon Amarth turn up and proceed to blow up the world. Mere seconds into ‘Guardians Of Asgaard,’ jets of flame blast into the air, and for the next hour, Wembley Arena becomes a massive sweat box. Barely a song goes by without explosions of sparks and fire, and the enormous hammers and sword-fighting Viking re-enactors only add to the spectacle. It’s an enthralling feast for the senses and if there was ever any doubt that death metal belongs in arenas, it died on the blade of a rune-encrusted axe tonight.  

It also helps that the songs themselves are killer. ‘Raven’s Flight,’ ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ and ‘Pursuit Of Vikings’ all sound huge. There’s a spontaneous bout of rowing during ‘Put Your Back Into The Oar,’ and an especially violent ‘First Kill’ is a savage, pit-igniting highlight. By the time the show ends with Johan Hegg fighting a gigantic inflatable snake, we’re covered in sweat, there’s confetti everywhere and it’s impossible to stop smiling. Amon Amarth deserves to headline arenas on their own next time around because that was awesome.

Photo by Rebecca Marshall

Machine Head

In comparison, Machine Head’s stage show is relatively sparse. There’s some pyro, but they rely more on Robb Flynn’s jovial banter and the odd alcoholic drink being tossed into the crowd than eye-popping set pieces. Make no mistake though, Machine Head are worthy headliners. The setlist is terrific, the pit rages constantly and no matter where you look, everyone is having a good time.

If there’s one criticism, it’s that we barely get anything from Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn. ‘Become The Firestorm’ is a furious opening salvo, but once it’s finished, that’s it for the new material. There’s no ‘Rotten,’ or ‘Slaughter The Martyr,’ and while you can’t fault them for sticking to the hits, it would have been nice to have maybe one more newbie in there. ‘Nø Gøds, Nø Masters’ especially is made for arena-wide singalongs, but they stick stubbornly to the classics.

In fairness though, those classics are bloody good. ‘Imperium’ triggers utter carnage, while ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ and ‘From This Day’ make all the thirty-something dads in attendance lose their minds. ‘Darkness Within’ is as emotive as it always is and there’s a welcome appearance of the ever-underrated ‘I Am Hell.’

By the time the night ends with the one-two punch of ‘Davidian’ and ‘Halo,’ Machine Head have Wembley Arena in their sweaty palms. For ten songs and ninety minutes, they put all the doubts to rest. The line-up changes, the dodgy albums, and the slam poetry are all forgotten as several thousand voices let freedom ring with a shotgun blast. Machine Head reclaimed the critics with Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn, but the live crowds never left them. Tonight was a triumph, long live Machine Head.

Photo by Rebecca Marshall

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