LAMB OF GOD UNLEASH HELL UPON THE ROSELAND BALLROOM
You could tell the moment you walked into the venue: the older crowd hanging in the back, chugging beers and Jägermeister; the abundance of dudes who looked like they’d never even heard of a shaving razor; the chick with the shaved head and skull piercings, the dude with tats all over his face, the guy jumping up and down before the show even started, commenting on how metal everything is (“SMOKE IS METAL! BEER IS METAL! METAL IS METAL! AAARRRGGGGHHH!!!”): this was not the crowd that had filled the Roseland just three weeks prior for metalcore mavens Killswitch Engange. There would be no screamo tonight, no senstivie admission of hurt feelings and broken hearts- this crowd was hear to see LAMB OF FUCKING GOD, and they were going to rip this place a new asshole. And as soon as LOG took the stage, that’s exactly what they did, giving the band the kind of reception rarely seen for any group that isn’t the almighty Slayer.
Our shitty day jobs prevented Vince and I from arriving in time to see the crazy French fuckers in the pummeling outfit known as Gojira, which is too bad, because they absolutely killed the last couple of times we caught them; instead, we made it just in time to see the second half of Machine Head’s criminally short set, just as they were ripping through the new song “Aesthetics of Hate.” Even though the band’s new masterpiece, The Blackening, doesn’t come out until next week, the crowd seemed to be incredibly well versed in the song already, and pumped their fists in perfect time with the band. Robert Flynn and company headbanged their way through the classic tune “Old” before rounding out their set with a ferocious rendition of “Davidian,” which had the entire venue screaming along with the band: “LET FREEDOM RING WITH A SHOTGUN BLAST!”
Then it was time for Trivium. After an epic, excessively over-the-top intro (complete with giant light that project the letter “T” in the band’s logo-font onto the venue walls, Bat Signal-style), Roadrunner’s hopefuls for Future Leaders of American Metal burst onto the stage, playing a set that relied more heavily on material from their recent release The Crusade (set opener “Entrance of the Conflagration,” “Detenation,” “To the Rats,” “Unrepentant”) than their breakthrough, Acsendancy (“Like Light to the Flies,” “A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation,” show-closer “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr”). Yet something is amiss with these young whipper snappers; the band somehow continues to fail at creating a live experience that lives up to the full power of their recordings. It’s not for lack of trying: the band’s sound was super crisp and the guitars had just the right amount of crunch, and frontman Matt Heafy, bassist Paolo Greogletto and lead guitarist Corey Beaulieu certainly know how to run and jump around the stage like old pros- Beaulieu’s whiplash-fast windmill-style headbanging is especially entertaining to watch, and Gregoletto’s head-bobbing is eerily reminiscent of the late Cliff Burton. No, the fault here appears to lie primarily with drummer Travis Smith, who often seems to be playing a different song from his bandmates. I’m all for fast drumming, but Smith is completely incapable of staying on the beat, and the rest of the band’s performances suffer severly as a consequence of trying to keep up with him. Little wonder, then, that while the crowd seemed intially responsive to Trivium’s set, their very name was met with loud booing later in the night when Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe asked the crowd to give props to all the supporting bands.
No one will have such negative memories of LOG’s show. Opening with the brutal “Hourglass” from 2004’s Ashes of the Wake, the band then wasted no time tearing into renditions of numerous tracks from last year’s Sacrament (including “Again We Rise,” “Walk with Me in Hell,” “Pathetic,” “More Time to Kill,” and “Blacken the Cursed Sun”) and tracks from their older discography as well (“Laid to Rest,” “As the Palaces Burn,” “11th Hour”). Even slower tunes, like “Descending” and “Vigil,” saw the audience going completely apeshit, and a mid-show power outage that brought the gig to a temporary halt did little to dampen the crowd’s taste for blood. For “Ruin,” Blythe cajoled the floor to create what was surely one of the biggest circle-pits in the history of metal, and bringing Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier on stage to help turn recent single “Redneck” into a death-duet proved an effective way to get everyone foaming at the mouth.
The band itself is truly something to behold. Blythe’s screams, screeches and growls are never weak or tired, demonstrating that, unlike some, he is fully capable of duplicating his recorded performances for a live audience; furthermore, he’s a man who knows how to take full advantage of the stage, running and jumping from side to side without ever seeming winded, all the while encouraging maximum chaos for his willing congregation. Rhythm section John Campbell and Willie and Chris Adler are church virgin tight, and Willie’s headbanging and Campbell’s windmilling are always incredibly entertaining to watch; meanwhile, lead guitarist Mark Morton’s blues-shred continues to mark him as a true guitar god.
How amazing are Lamb of God live? Even though they’ve stopped asking the crowd to create a “wall of death” for their traditional show closer “Black Label” (the only track from 2000’s New American Gospel performed), last night, the crowd went ahead and did it anyway, recreating the most horrific war scenes from the movie Braveheart right there in the middle of the Roseland. With so many bands clamoring to be the next Metallica or Slayer, Lamb of God seem most likely to actually pull it off, as they inspire an almost religious fervor amongst their fans, and do it without sacrificing any of their own originality.
These dudes just keep getting better and better; Ozzy should be genuinely frightened to follow them on this year’s Ozzfest.