Monday, 16 November 2015

Megadeth/Lamb of God - London Review

This monster of a metal show at London's prestigious Wembley Arena was one of the best bills I have ever seen put together! All too often it seems you are standing around waiting through a couple of tedious support bands with awful live sound before the main event; but this show was clearly designed with the audience in mind. Four excellent metal bands on the same bill, all performing stunning sets with some of the clearest live sound I have heard at a metal show for a while. I thought that Wembley Arena might be a little ambitious for the bands, as Megadeth played the smaller Brixton Academy when they last toured the UK in 2013, but I was proved wrong as the place was near to capacity as the evening moved on. While this undoubtedly Megadeth's show, it had more the feeling of a co-headline tour about it as Lamb of God played for well over a hour and entertained the crowd just as much as Megadeth. Other supports Children of Bodom and Sylosis also went down really well, and the energy from the crowd never let up throughout. Although this was a metal show, I am glad that I decided to go for seats rather than standing. It was a long evening (doors opened at 5pm) so by the end I would have been very tired. Plus, the view from where I was sat was excellent and probably much better than if I was on the floor!

Sylosis were the first band on and, although the arena was still slowly filling up during their set, went down really well with the crowd. I had seen the Reading metal band three times previously, and had been wanting to ever since the last time - which was when they supported Killswitch Engage in 2013. A drummer change and fourth album Dormant Heart has happened since then, and the band are on top form. Their six song, half an hour set was the perfect warm-up for what was to come, and the three songs culled from Dormant Heart were the highlights for me. The stunning title track opened things up, and the doomy Mercy shook the venue with it's slow, heavy outro. Josh Middleton (vocals/guitar) was on excellent form both vocally and with the guitar. His harsh vocals are improving constantly, but his guitar playing is what really makes Sylosis stand out. He is not afraid to solo, and they are all done with precision and melody. The closing number Empyreal - Part 1 was the best example of this, and ensured their set ended on a high. The setlist was:

Dormant Heart
Stained Humanity
Empyreal - Part 1

Despite being a much bigger band with a large fanbase of their own, Finnish melodic death metal band Children of Bodom also only had half an hour to play with. Like Sylosis, they played six songs, and like Sylosis they went down well with the crowd. They were one of the first 'heavy' bands that I got into when I was experimenting more with metal, so it was great to finally see them live; despite the fact I do not listen to them nearly as much as I did back then. They played some of their best-known songs, and sounded huge as the sound mix was on point. Alexi Laiho (vocals/guitar) shredded his way through the set, and his duels with Janne Wirman (keyboards/vocals) were some of the best musical moments of the evening. Their heavy, neo-classical sound really benefits from Wirman's fast fingers, and adds something different to their sound that makes them unique. Highlights were the melodic opening older number Silent Night, Bodom Night and the slower Morrigan from the band's latest album I Worship Chaos. Their status should have probably granted them a longer set, but they did well with the time they had, and I hope to see a full-length show from them in the future. The setlist was:

Silent Night, Bodom Night
Hate Me!
In Your Face
Hate Crew Deathroll

By the time Lamb of God hit the stage, the venue was pretty full, and the crowd were ready for one of the biggest modern metal bands on the planet right now. At just over an hour in length, their set was not much shorter than the headline set I saw in Bristol last January. That show was plagued with bad sound, but this time they sounded great. Even frontman Randy Blythe's vocals were pretty audible, and he was in good form throughout the set. The setlist was also quite similar, with the addition of a couple of new songs from their latest album VII: Sturm und Drang Their set was pretty much relentless, with the groovy Walk With Me in Hell starting things off well, and the band included a good mix of faster, thrashy songs; with the more mid-paced riff-based songs. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler locked in really well together, each song reeking of that trademark southern groove in their riffs and snaking leads. New number Still Echoes was one of the highlights of the set, and made me wish they included more newer songs in the set (the only other one was 512). Other standout moments were Hourglass, always a personal favourite of mine, and Set to Fail which has an amazing riff. All the band's classics came out at the end. Laid to Rest and Redneck saw some huge circle pits, which I had great views of from the seats; before Black Label brought the set to a raw and thrashy close. The setlist was:

Walk With Me in Hell
Now You've Got Something to Die For
Still Echoes
Ghost Walking
Set to Fail
Laid to Rest
Black Label

Megadeth are another band I have seen previously that suffered from poor sound. However, from talking to other people, this unfortunately seems to be par for the course with Megadeth these days; allegedly due to Dave Mustaine's (vocals/guitar) weakening voice. This gig proved however that: a) Mustaine's voice is still pretty strong and often sounds like he does on record; and b) that Megadeth do not always have poor live sound! What followed their heroic first song Hanger 18 was about 75 minutes of thrash metal excellence from a member of the Big 4. Megadeth have always been the most melodic of the four, and this showed tonight as guitar lead after solo followed one another, as Mustaine and new recruit, Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro, traded guitar parts throughout the set. The majority of the set came from the band's classic 1980s/1990s albums, but one new number, Fatal Illusion from upcoming album Dystopia, was played also. Special mention must be given to new drummer Chris Adler, who did double duty performing with his main band Lamb of God and then a full Megadeth set straight afterwards. If ever anyone needed proof that he is one of the best drummers in the world at the moment, then this was it! His drum kit during Megadeth's set seemed oddly mic'd up though, as some drums and cymbals were totally inaudible, which was jarring at times. Lots of the songs from Rust in Peace were played live, with the best of the bunch being the fast Tornado of Souls, in which Loureiro nailed the complex solo. Other highlights were the guitar workout of Wake Up Dead, and the slow, methodical Trust which has an infectious chorus and some amazing smooth guitar work. Symphony of Destruction and Peace Sells saw the biggest crowd reactions though, with plenty of moshing, jumping, and singing going on throughout both of them. Instead of leaving the stage for their usual encore break, Loureiro performed the French protest song La Marseillaise on his guitar in tribute to those killed in the terrorist attacks in Paris the day before. This was a nice tribute, and the crowd reacted accordingly. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due rounded out the evening in fine style, as the crowd roared a roar that was fitting after seeing four great metal sets in one night! The setlist was:

Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
In my Darkest Hour
Sweating Bullets
Dawn Patrol
Poison was the Cure
Tornado of Souls
Fatal Illusion
Skin o' My Teeth 
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells
La Marseillaise [French National Anthem]
Holy Wars...The Punishment Due
Silent Scorn 

Overall, this was one of the best shows that I have seen all year, simply because all fours bands played blinding sets and the sound was so good. Promoters should think about putting together more great bills like this in future, as it certainly gets people through the doors and a great time was had by all!

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