We all know the problems that Lamb of God have faced in the last couple of years (if you don’t then shame on you and go do some research; it’s been documented to death and doesn’t need repeating here). Their headlining set on the main stage at Bloodstock 2013, was supposed to be special – a return to glory if you will – but through no fault of their own, with the front barrier collapsing, it was instead slightly shambolic. Whilst it ultimately turned out to be a good show, unfortunately it wasn’t quite the triumphant return to the UK that we fans craved for our heroes, or that they deserved.
Following this, I’ve been somewhat impatiently looking forward to tonight’s gig and hoping, nay praying, that it will be great; that there won’t be any issues. Aside from this; as they’re are off home to Richmond, Virginia after this tour to write a follow-up to their 2011 release Resolution it’s probably going to be the last time I’ll get to see them live for some time.
We get to the venue early and, with the level of devotion the band’s fans usually demonstrate, I’m not shocked to find that at just gone 6:00pm there’s an already vast queue trailing right around the building. The atmosphere is super-charged and spontaneous chanting of the headliners’ name rings out. When doors finally open we get in pretty quickly, head straight into the auditorium and manage to get a great position at the front.
The first support band of the night are relative new-comers, female-fronted Huntress, whose debut album Spell Eater was released to critical acclaim in 2012 and was closely followed by their second offering Starbound Beast last year. Jill Janus’s vocal style of pitch perfect singing, growls and visceral screams, blended with a ballsy trill is delivered with a stage presence that says ‘watch out boys, I’ll tear you apart’ - I’m pretty sure she means it. This is the first time I’ve seen this band live and overall they give a pretty solid and enjoyable performance. 7/10
Polish tech-death metallers Decapitated get a rowdy reception and certainly do a sterling job of getting the crowd hyped-up ready for the main act but I found the sound far from perfect. Throughout I could barely make out any vocals or guitars, which for me is a huge shame as I consider axe man Vogg to be one of the best within the death metal genre. A great vibe, but overall disappointing 6/10
Anticipation builds and it seems like forever before Lamb of God take to the stage. They come out to an almighty roar from the packed out auditorium and as they pummel into ‘Desolation’ there’s a huge surge and my ribs take their first proper whacking on the barrier of the evening. This intensity continues throughout ‘Ghost Walking’ and a blistering performance of ‘Walk with Me in Hell’, which has everyone screaming along from start to finish.
There’s a huge void left by Mark Morton’s absence but it’s adequately filled by Beyond the Buried and Me’s Paul Waggoner, who (as Randy jokes at the beginning) has long hair and a beard so he certainly doesn’t look out of place. As always power-house drummer Chris Adler nails it and smiles the whole way through the show, brother Willie unleashes the riffs, whilst giving off his enchanting air of arrogance, and John Campbell pounds away at his bass; he too seeming to relish the atmosphere of this sold-out show every bit as much as his bandmates. As you’d expect, Randy belts out the lyrics in his own, inimitable, guttural style whilst maniacally flinging himself around the stage with tantalising vigour; consistently whipping the crowd up into a complete frenzy.
The set-list has a greatest hits vibe to it and as such includes favourites such as ‘Omerta’, ‘Redneck’ and ‘Set to Fail’, with classics such as ‘Hourglass’ (from Ashes of the Wake) and ‘Vigil’ (from As the Palaces Burn) thrown in for good measure.
If I was to pick out my favourite elements from a gig: great sound; well-pitched set list; subtle, yet atmospheric lighting; enthralling stage presence; crowd participation and enthusiasm etc. then this one (thankfully) had it all - and then some…
There are some shows you never want to end - and admittedly I’ve been privileged enough to have a few of those in my gig-going jaunts in recent times, but this one is extra special; this one demonstrates that in spite of everything Lamb of God are still on top.
The only thing missing for me was Mark Morton, other than that - an absolute blinder. 9/10