By Elena Whidden, October 31st 2012, The Palladium, Hollywood CA: Halloween night is always a night for celebrating, but this year was special: Wednesday night marked the second show of Lamb of God’s first United States tour in two years, and all present at the Hollywood Palladium exalted at the return of vocalist Randy Blythe from his incarceration in the Czech Republic. They, along with supporting acts Sylosis, Hatebreed and In Flames, made for a show that had to be the best Halloween party in Hollywood. Definitely the most metal.
The first band up was Sylosis, out of England. Apparently Lamb of God specially requested this foursome to tour with them, and Sylosis made it very clear why with their impressive opening set. This band produced an incredibly full sound for a group of four guys, a sound which is also very hard to describe—melodic death metal might come close, but their music contains elements of everything from progressive rock to metalcore. The expressive and melodious lead guitar playing of Josh Middleton, which was especially striking during the introductions to a couple songs, set this group apart from the other bands on the bill, as did the conspicuous lack of breakdowns in their music. Middleton by the way, had his hands full, as he performs vocals for the group too. Sylosis are touring in support of their third full album, Monolith, although their set contained songs from their previous albums as well. I picked up Monolith at the merch booth after the set (best $15 I’ve spent in a while), and it seemed many other people at the show did the same. I can’t say this surprised me though; many horns were raised as Sylosis left the stage.
Hatebreed came next, a band which emerged seventeen years ago from the formerly thriving hardcore/metalcore scene in their (and my) home state of Connecticut. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of metalcore in general, but Hatebreed really won me over with their live show: they played all their songs incredibly tight, and frontman-since-’94- Jeremy Jasta got the whole floor riled up. During “This Is Now,” he pitted left and right sides of the auditorium against each other in a contest to see who could be louder and more vicious, declaring drummer Matt Byrne—who played excellently, despite a flight through Hurricane Sandy to get to LA—the judge. “Everyone Bleeds Now” off the band’s 2009 self-titled album came next, and during its breakdown the band sounded like they were working, straining even to rein in and hold back the speed of the music: the result was a fantastic sort of tension, just the kind breakdowns are meant to create. In the middle of the song, Jasta told fans how he liked seeing “unity in music bringing people together,” a great message (true, coming from anyone an ounce less genuine, it might have seemed cheesy, but not from Jasta). Hatebreed dedicated “Perseverance” to Randy Blythe, before ending with “Live For This,” that paean to hard core and heavy metal fans that earned the group their 2004 Grammy nod. I understand why Hatebreed fans are “As Diehard As They Come” after seeing this band’s performance, and the amount of energy they pour out for all who support them, old fans and new.
Sweden’s In Flames was the final band to play before Lamb of God. The biggest treat from this group were the shredding twin guitar harmonies of Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin, which were absolutely beautiful to hear, and which brought an almost power metal vibe to the show. I think my favorite moment from them was when they faced each other and played a solo together which tore through the middle of “Deliver Us.” The band switched things up with “Take This Life,” featured a fast-paced thrash beat interlude, after playing a couple heavy songs. I thought the keyboard samples on some of the songs were interesting, but I guess In Flames don’t consider the keys a big enough part of their sound to warrant a live keyboard player. After vocalist and front man Anders Fridén jokingly told the crowd to shut up when they started a ‘Lamb of God’ chant, in Flames closed their set with “My Sweet Shadow,” one of the singles off of Soundtrack To Your Escape. Shutting up the crowd was far from the weirdest thing he did though: he compared following Hatebreed to “a small morning fart,” which my friend Avinash and I decided was meant to be complimentary, and he called out a guy named Jack in the front of the pit from falling asleep, which resulted in a hilarious ‘fuck Jack!’ chant from the crowd.
After a short break, the Palladium went completely black. Two large monitors on stage flickered, and began playing clips of buildings collapsing and of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Daisy Girl nuclear weapons PSA from the 1960s. As strobe lights started up, Chris Adler ascended his drum kit amid manic chanting. He played a short solo, which was nonetheless louder than anything all night, as John Campbell, Willie Adler and Mark Morton took the stage. Finally Randy Blythe made his entrance, his face streaked with vertical stripes of black paint. The lights had gone completely red by now, four columns of fog blasted upward from the front of the stage, and in that atmosphere Mr. Blythe looked positively demonic as Lamb of God started into “Desolation.” Willie Adler’s hysterical Kenny Powers costume (as in, the jerry-curl-sporting pitcher who is the main character in HBO’s comedy series Eastbound and Down) kept things from getting altogether too brutal.
Blythe cued the crowd and they shouted for “Walk With Me In Hell,” one of my favorite songs of the set. Fires blazed on the monitor for the fast-paced “Set To Fail,” before Lamb of God flew into “Ruin,” during which the animations of fires switched to images of Pentecostal healers and the crowd chanted “Fear! Pain! Hatred! Power!” After this song, Randy Blythe spoke ever so briefly about his incarceration. It was the only time he touched on it all night, and all he said was that he “had a brief stay in a gated community,” and that he was “glad to be back here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.” No ranting, no whining. It was such a stoic way of dealing with what happened- the crowd went absolutely wild.
This preceded the introduction to “Now You’ve Got Something To Die for,” a song which included a tribute to U.S. soldiers, their photos flashing on the video screens. I think my buddies who are Marines would have been absolutely thrilled to see this, and would have found it appropriately badass. “The Undertow” featured mean guitar parts from Adler and Morton, and after this followed the menacing spoken intro to “Omerta,” awesomely threatening live: “Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward, whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both, for a wounded man shall say to his assailant, ‘If I live I will kill you, if I die you are forgiven.’ Such is the rule of honor.” “Contractor” followed, and because it is such a fast song the pit in the center of the Palladium started whirling again, so fast that a helpless crowd got stuck in the middle (this happened several times during the night, in fact). The double bass drumming was so fast on this song that it seemed at times to fit in time with the assault rifle fire on the video screens.
A giant black and white Lamb of God flag dropped from the ceiling for the band’s encore, which consisted of “In Your Words,” “Laid To Rest,” “Redneck”—the crowd sang most of this one—and “Black Label.” Blythe’s voice stayed strong throughout the entire seventy-five minute set, and during the breakdown on this last one, he tore back and forth across the stage in great spirits.
Lamb of God Set List:
2. Ghost Walking
3. Walk With Me In Hell
4. Set to Fail
6. Now You’ve Got Something To Die For
7. Eleventh Hour
8. The Undertow
11. In Your Words
12. Laid to Rest
14. Black Label
All in all, it was an awesome night, and it is so cool to have Lamb of God and Randy Blythe back in the states. My one qualm might be the price of tickets, which were reasonable on their own at $35, but prohibitively expensive when internet service charges were added on, bringing the price up to about $50 per. The great lineup and the show all the bands put on was certainly worth the money in my opinion; simply put, Halloween next year has a lot to live up to.
Overall gig rating: 10/10
[Lamb Of God setlist courtesy of Setlist.fm]