Tonight was a very special gig for me. I’ve been working with Machine Head for over 30 years now (thank god for botox!), and here we are, getting to see them in a new incarnation and returning to iconic arenas they so richly deserve to play. Thousands of us Metal Headcases swarmed to Wembley Arena to witness the mighty juggernaut that is The Halo Effect, Amon Amarth and Bay Area giants Machine Head.
Machine Head – Amon Amarth – The Halo Effect
Wembley Arena – 10 September 2022
Words: Sara Harding
Photography: Robert Sutton
Making it very special was to take the nearest person to a daughter I have, Jasmine, who I blasted Burn My Eyes to when she was just 12 years old. A decade later, she’s back with me in London to see MH live for the first time.
The Halo Effect
Tonight’s gig openers are The Halo Effect, from Gothenburg, composed of ex-In Flames members. Although they might be a new name in Metal, their members certainly are not. It’s in their DNA, and they easily justify their slot on this titanic tour. Their riffs are melodic and everything you would expect with a band of this calibre.
The Halo Effect have a setlist that provides a really good warm-up for the behemoth that is about to take place. They are a very classy Scandi band, and kudos to them for packing out the arena so early.
As we sit close to the stage, we experience the huge production that Amon Amarth has. They really have bought in the big guns. As the pyros explode and our eyebrows are singed, frontman Johan Hegg cries, “Heathens of London, we are here to do a massive battle with you.” And battle they did.
These dudes are showmen but have the stellar setlist to carry off these insane visuals. Flanked by huge, inflatable Viking paraphernalia, Amon Amarth have one of the most involved stage set-ups featuring live battles, glowing-eyed Loki, Viking ships, a gigantic sea serpent, which Johan beats the ever-loving shit out of with a massive Mjolnir.
And the fans join in, dropping to the arena floor to row a mighty invisible Viking ship. Hegg owns this gig – strutting up and down stage whilst remaining pitch-perfect.
Even if you’ve seen Amon Amarth before, this gig is like a highlights reel of everything brilliant about these Swedish Viking obsessives. Amon Amarth have got to where they have with an incredible arsenal of anthems. Raise Your Horns, Get In The Ring, First Kill and Shield Wall are our favourite Nordic singalongs. Live debuts of Heidrun and Put Your Back Into The Oar prove Amon Amarth were not done building massive anthems into their set.
With the apocalyptic Twilight Of The Thunder God finishing their set, Amon Amarth depart as the Heavy Metal conquerors we know them to be, more than worthy of these arena-sized venues.
As the huge Nordic statues are taken down, we can all feel the distant rumble of the mighty Machine Head. By now, Wembley is packed to the rafters with everyone chanting ‘Machine Fuckin’ Head’.
It’s a more stripped-down stage set which gives us the full sonic MH experience. No holds barred, Robb Flynn et al rip straight into Becøme The Firestørm. If anyone in a box has not heard the new album, it is a tour de force and to see this anthem live and unleashed for the first time was epic.
The circle pits are in full force, and it’s like watching a pulse of fans. The atmosphere then whips up another notch as the band break into Imperium, followed by Ten Ton Hammer. A song that really resonates to us is next on the setlist – the band’s truly magnificent ode to the late great, Dimebag Darrell, Aesthetics Of Hate.
Robb is on full frontman duty with his brilliant Brown Eye throwing into the audience. He knows his fans, and they are loving this, all battling to catch a cocktail from Flynn. Darkness Within, Locust and From This Day are up next, and we are all standing up. The beers are flowing, and the crowd is throbbing with hair flying.
Flynn’s vocals are totally on point, singing the softer stuff and then breaking out the badass rage-driven songs – goosebumps time.
Then we hear the unique opening chords for Davidian. I was there in Oakland when I heard this track being recorded 30 years ago, and for me, it was life-changing. That unique Machine Head sound, that ripped backline and those clear, crisp notes.
Robb Flynn is blown away. You can see the emotion on his face as thousands of us chant and cheer – it’s been too long. Robb gives a stunned me a shout-out and made the whole crown laugh by saying, “Sara Fuckin’ Harding used to be at MTV when it was cool before we had to watch pregnant schoolgirl reality shit”. It was very emotional, and I still get a tear in my eye thinking about it and what we’ve all been through in the last couple of years.
I looked over to my stepdaughter, who is in the next generation of Heavy Metal fans. Seeing her pure joy is a testament to how incredible and impactful Machine Head are to everyone here at Wembley – all ages, creeds and diversity.
As Halo ends our Machine Head journey through ‘Old’ and new, and the ticker tape covers us, we have been treated to something very special.
Although the band tour a lot, every single gig is unique to us, and that’s because this band care. Yes, I missed seeing my old buddies – Phil, Dave, Adam and Logan, and we know they are rocking it in their band projects.
Things have to change and evolve. But the future of Heavy Metal is very safe with Machine Head.
Huge thanks to Joseph Houston, Jasmine Tearne and Michelle Kerr.