Lamb Of God Makes Triumphant Return To India

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

May 26th 2012, Clarks Exotica, Bangalore, India:  The buildup and countdown to Lamb Of God’s second performance in the Indian city of Bangalore finally came to an end. Unlike their 2010 show, this one took place at Clarks Exotica, an open-air venue near Bangalore International Airport. The support acts for the show were Skyharbor from Delhi, Bhayanak Maut from Mumbai, and Escher’s Knot from Bangalore. The last time I saw Lamb Of God as a headline act was at the Hollywood Palladium in 2009, just after “Wrath” was released. The opportunity to see a Lamb Of God headline set again, coupled with my curiosity towards the Indian support bands made this event an exciting prospect.

The doors were opened at around 4.45 PM, and the show started almost immediately with Escher’s Knot hitting the stage at 5 PM. This is a band I had only heard of by name, and I wasn’t familiar with their music, at all. I knew that they were going to play this show, but I actually kept myself unfamiliar with their music on purpose, as I wanted to get a first-hand experience of it through their live performance itself. And based on what I saw at this gig, I have to say, the way this progressive death metal band presented their music was pretty impressive, and the vocalist managed to get an excellent response out of the crowd. I was allowed to stand in the photo pit for their entire set, and from there I could see the entire crowd. I noticed that more and more heads started banging as Escher’s Knot progressed in their 40-minute set.

They definitely came across as a talented group of musicians, and a very tight live band. Of course, they sounded heavy throughout the set and laid down some solid riffs, but it wasn’t only about that. Guitarist Anshuman’s melodic interludes provided great variation in the set, and prevented the band’s set from hitting a plateau. Overall, Escher’s Knot created a great first impression on me, and even though I still need to decide whether theirs is the kind of music I’d be inclined to listen to at home on a regular basis, I definitely dig them as a live band and would recommend people to check them out at their next gig.

After their set, I got a chance to look around and gauge the atmosphere a little bit. Even though I attended numerous gigs during my time in Los Angeles, almost every one of them took place in an indoor arena or club, and I got to see only two real open-air festivals. But both of those were headlined by Metallica, and weren’t the greatest experiences of my life by any stretch of imagination, to be honest. Having said that, I really missed being part of this kind of open-air festival setting, and I felt like I found my happy place at this gig. There was just something in the atmosphere that made me feel fucking awesome. But this happiness was about to disappear temporarily, because metalcore superstars Bhayanak Maut were getting ready to hit the stage.

Bhayanak Maut was one of the very first bands I got to see live. They headlined the first ever metal gig I went to, in 2005 at Chennai’s Unwind Center. I must admit, at that time I enjoyed their performance, but that was because I was simply excited to be at my first metal show. But this time, things were completely different, and I absolutely despised Bhayanak Maut’s 45-minute set. The venue’s sound setup was so awesome that you could get the experience of the on-stage artist’s full sound, regardless of where you were positioned. Whether it be the photo pit, the front few rows in the crowd, near the soundboard or at the very back, there was no getting away from it. Obviously, that’s great when you actually want to listen to the band, but not when a ‘Bhayanak’ wall of noise is coming straight at you.

I simply don’t understand the need for the two vocalists, the ‘gutteral twins’ as they are lovingly called, and that’s my biggest problem with Bhayanak Maut. When both of them are doing the same style of vocals, why can’t just one of them do it? Agreed, one “sings” in a slightly lower pitch than the other, but that’s definitely not reason enough to have two vocalists. The guitar riffs were actually not that bad, and the drumming was decent, but I could hardly even hear any of that over those needlessly double-layered vocals. To make things worse, the bass was turned up way too high in the mix, and the overall sound was horrible, to say the least. There were a couple of very tiny passages of appreciable music, but other than that, Bhayanak Maut did not turn out to be my cup of tea.

Their fans seemed to love it though, and the band got a great response from them. I have nothing against anyone in the band. I’m sure they are all great guys, but I’m just being honest. It’s admirable that they set out to be a unique Indian band and succeeded in building a fan base for themselves, but I just wish this uniqueness came from something else, and not the twin vocals. If they continue in the same style, I can say with certainty that unless they are opening for a band I want to see, I won’t be rushing to see Bhayanak Maut again any time soon.

Thankfully, they were done, and ambient progressive metal band Skyharbor came next, starting at 7 o’ clock. Their musical style was almost in complete contrast to Lamb Of God, which wasn’t a bad thing at all in my opinion. It allowed people to preserve their energies, which they could let out later during Lamb Of God’s set. But personally, I enjoyed Skyharbor’s set a lot. I thought they presented an excellent mix of mellow segments and heavy grooves, and there was a very noticeable flow in their songs. They had a Dream Theater kind of thing going on. As compared to the studio recordings, they did tweak a few things here and there, and it wasn’t the exact same thing. Frontman Dan Tompkins delivered an amazing performance, and it was a treat to listen to his vocals in a live setting and to watch how he expressed himself.

The mastermind behind the band Keshav Dhar never really took center stage, and remained in the background to focus merely on his guitar play. Devesh Dhayal on the other guitar did a good job laying down the solos, and drummer Anup Sastry proved exactly why such great things are said about his skills behind the kit. I feel Skyharbor’s debut album “Blinding White Noise : Illusion & Chaos” is a soothingly powerful piece of music to listen to at home, but in a live setting, it takes a form of its own, and its impact is enhanced even further. If you’re into ambient or progressive music at all, I’d suggest you to catch Skyharbor the next time they perform at a place near you.

With all that said and done, it was time to experience the moment everyone had waited for. Amidst deafeningly loud chants of “Lamb Of God! Lamb Of God!”, our headline act hit the stage at 8:15 and went straight into their newest album Resolution by playing the tunes “Desolation” and “Ghost Walking”. The crowd went absolutely nuts, to say the least. The energy level of the band members, as well as that of the crowd was top notch from the very first note, and never faded away. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the new album, but I think these new songs sound better live than they do on the album. The band certainly picked the right songs to represent the album in the set list. ”The Undertow” and “The Number Six” were the other new songs played, and those came later in the evening, but it was the third song in the set, “Walk With Me In Hell”, that sent chills up my spine. It has always been my favorite Lamb Of God song, and the sheer excitement of hearing it live after a long time, along with the excitement of the entire crowd behind me singing along with the chorus made it quite a special moment.

In fact, the entire set was filled to the brim with Lamb Of God’s finest and most popular tunes, and the fans were loving every minute of it. Tunes like “Set To Fail” and “Contractor” from the Wrath album sounded killer, and blended really well with the old stuff. While the Wrath and Resolution material was very well received, the older tunes brought the best out of the fans, and the place was engulfed by unbridled amounts of madness as they headbanged, sang along and indulged in insanely huge circle pits. “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” was one of the highlights of the evening, along with the likes of “Ruin”, “Hourglass” “Omerta”, and of course “Laid To Rest”, which ended the main set.

After a few minutes, “The Passing”, the intro track from Wrath, rang loud on the PA, and the band reappeared for an encore performance of three more songs. I thought “In Your Words” sounded better as the first encore song here than it did as the first song of the main set on the Wrath tour three years ago. The circle pits then increased rapidly in size, as the crowd-favorite “Redneck” was played, and to end the evening, the band played “Black Label”, a song Randy jokingly described as Lamb Of God’s own version of the latest Bollywood hit.

Performance-wise, I thought the band sounded great, barring a couple of minor mishaps. While as a reviewer I must point out that the band made these little mistakes, they didn’t really bother me, because I think it adds to the dynamic of the live show, and that’s what makes it different from the studio recording. Randy Blythe was absolutely flawless though, and proved himself as one of the most powerful frontmen in modern-day heavy metal. During his interactions with the crowd, he carried himself perfectly and came across as genuinely humble. He confirmed that the band is indeed filming a documentary on this tour, and that it will feature the fans more than the band itself.

In terms of the set list, yes, the so-called critics might complain about the lack of change from the previous touring cycle when it comes to the pre-Wrath tunes, and that the set consists of the same old songs, but I don’t need them to change it just for the sake of doing so. Those songs have stayed in the set for so long for the simple reason that they’re great live tunes loved by crowds everywhere. So I’d keep most of it as it is, but perhaps I would add “Choke Sermon” from Wrath and may be one more song from New American Gospel.

Besides the band’s performance, the crowd played an equally important part in making this a memorable event. Despite the change in venue from Palace Grounds to the relatively far-off Clarks Exotica, all of the fans made it to the show. They were really up for this, singing along to almost everything, headbanging in perfect rhythm, knowing when to circle pit and when to do the wall of death. Normally, a sizable portion of crowds at these big shows is made up of posers, but as far as I could see, there were none here at this show, and everyone was totally indulged in the activities I just mentioned. I wasn’t here for the show in 2010, but judging by what I heard from people who attended that show and comparing it to this one, I’d say the Bangalore crowd outdid its previous effort, and has ensured that Lamb Of God will have strong desires of revisiting our country.

All in all, this gig marks a triumphant India return for Lamb Of God in every sense of the term, and further enhances their reputation of being one of the most intense live bands going around today.

Set list:
1. Desolation
2. Ghost Walking
3. Walk With Me In Hell
4. Set To Fail
5. Now You’ve Got Something To Die For
6. Ruin
7. Hourglass
8. The Undertow
9. Omerta
10.Contractor
11.The Number Six
12.Laid To Rest

Encore:
13.The Passing
14.In Your Words
15.Redneck
16.Black Label

Overall rating for the entire gig: 9/10

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