Amon Amarth For President

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:11

    ITS NOT NEWS that it’s bad news. No matter where you turn—the economy, the ecology—we’re either in or headed into the pooper. In a month I’ll know who I’m voting for, but I’m still not necessarily what I’m voting for. I can’t see the future, but I can see we need one—and quick. There’s even more turbulence before we level out, and in unstable times people often turn to music that soothes them. But instead of putting on Jenny Lewis, Matt & Kim or Sufjan Stevens, I turn to Viking metal.

    It’s true, I can’t get enough of bands such as Scandinavia’s Amon Amarth, a quintet that balances melody and menace, draws its name from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and is touring on a new album, Twilight of the Thunder God. No doubt the boy in me would be ecstatic to see Thor brandishing his hammer, Mjöllnir. But the man in me can’t contain himself in the face of Swedish synchrobang, staring into four stringy pinwheels of hair and guitar harmonies. Amon Amarth is a band that plays hard and, were it the late eighth to early 11th century, they’d slay. Hard. What do I see in Viking metal? What don’t I see in Viking metal? There’s not a common emotion not found in the genre: the desire to rape, murder, pillage, everything we grapple with on a daily basis.

    It’s primitive and progressive. Unlike the modest mice and weekend vampires on the indie-rock scene—self-absorbed characters feeding into a world of relevance entirely in their heads—Viking metal bands offer an outlet, their concerts a forum for war cries and disrupting the status quo. Whereas R.E.M. said you’re not the only one who feels, Viking metal says you’re not the only one who bleeds. But instead of dwelling on it, draw on it. Let’s look at the music in light of the economy. Vikings may have eaten raw meat and battled naked (save for tendrils of gore), but they’re responsible for some of the most wealthy nations in the world. For all that frenzy, they had society. The best investors stay the course, and Vikings weren’t ever swayed.

    Insular indie rock, however, changes with the time. Is it punk-ish? Folk-ish? What does the artfully rumpled guy on the J train think this week? Who cares, he traded his prized trucker hat for a Keffiyeh without a second thought. And those unkempt indie beards... now that ultra-tight jeans have been usurped by the emo kids, is chin bristle the only way to say, “I’m a man” loudly enough in a culture that rarely prizes masculinity? Amon Amarth aggressively shows pride in the band’s indigenous culture, while many American indie bands, for example, channel a British postpunk yelp, the rural pop of South Africa-via-Paul Simon, or some sort of Americana-meets-Tropicalia, at least this year. You never know what will happen to the influences portfolio on that sophomore release. Invest in metal, though, and you will see a return, a no buyouts forecast. Metal, a culture of solidarity, is the original independent genre, a home for corporate pariahs as dynamic today as when it was founded 40 years ago. Let’s look at that another way. Viking metal: May brandish a pitchfork. Indie rock: Afraid of getting a bad review on Pitchfork. Too much peer pressure and self-reflection takes away from the fun. If metal is a horse, indie is a cow. A horse is a companion, a comrade. A cow is delicious, but it´s not something you can depend on. Me, I’d rather spend an hour adventuring through Asgard, journeying deep into the land of the runes before returning recharged to face my struggles, then spend an evening in my bedroom strumming a guitar and stressing over the cultural zeitgeist. -- Oct. 20, The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Pl. (at 15th St.), 212-777-6800; 7, $25. --