For those truculent folk who still require proof that red-blooded, beer-swilling, balls-to-the-wall heavy fucking metal is still in fine fettle, tonight’s show feels close to the definitive last word.
It certainly helps that openers GRAND MAGUS  are visibly enjoying their most successful year to date, buoyed by an album, Sword Songs, that boasts some of the band’s finest songs yet. Tonight, everything they play resonates wildly around the venue; a muscular, celebratory embodiment of the heavy metal spirit, the likes of Steel Versus Steel and Varangian confirm that the best ideas just need to be handled with love to remain relevant and effective. It’s a perfect start to a gig that feels driven by some insane, spectral momentum. TESTAMENT  have just released their best album in nearly two decades and are in no mood for twatting about. They may be middle-aged veterans, but the sheer venom they throw at every last riff and refrain is breathtaking. Driven forward by a powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Steve DiGiorgio, the Bay Area legends have never sounded better or looked more engaged, as everything from old classics Into The Pit and Over The Wall to gleaming new cuts The Pale King and Stronghold incites wild pits and mass outbreaks of full-force windmilling. Chuck Billy is on great form, too, although his air guitar skills still need some work.
AMON AMARTH  have earned this moment. Twenty years of dogged persistence and unwavering devotion to the cause have made a difference, of course, but it’s the steady progress of the band’s music and stage show that have ensured that they keep heading steadily upwards. Tonight they’re flawless. Never mind the Viking swordfights and other theatrical distractions; when Amon Amarth are in full flight, pummelling their way through Father Of The Wolf or custom-built metal hymn Raise Your Horns, they look and sound very much like heroic standard bearers for everything that metalheads hold dear. Ridiculously entertaining but also genuinely life-affirming, Amon Amarth simply make the world seem a better place, particularly when the closing Twilight Of The Thunder God threatens to take the roof off and the entire venue seems to grin in unison.