Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Russ Tierney
Lamb of God are just about as big as it gets. As if to emphasise the point, their current UK tour has attracted reviewers from such unlikely heavyweights as The Guardian and the Times. A tad surprising therefore, to see their latest Midlands show played out in front of a less than full Birmingham Academy. The joint was jumping but not quite heaving for the Richmond rebels although it was still a decent-sized crowd who turned out to welcome them back to the Second City for the ‘Resolution’ tour, named after last year’s album.
Unfortunately the opening Huntress were not quite what was required to get the party going. Jill Janus has a distinctive delivery but, with apologies, it’s not to this reviewer’s taste. With more high-pitched screeching than on a Formula 1 racetrack, songs such as ‘I Want to Fuck You to Death’ left me cold. I’m all for female vocalists but if you want to see real fire and passion check out the likes of Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow. While some punters showed their appreciation, anyone who prefers their metal a few notches heavier probably failed to connect with the Californians.
In contrast Poland’s finest purveyors of death metal, Decapitated, again showed why they can hold their own even in the most exalted company. Technically terrific, Decapitated played a short but sinew stretching set of juggernaut-like power.
Frontman Vogg, with dreads that would be the envy of many down the local rasta café, blasted through a storming set from which it was impossible not to be jaw-droppingly amazed by the intensity of the punishment they dished out on tracks such as ‘Spheres of Madness’.
Decapitated closed with ‘Carnival is Forever’ the epic sprawling title track of their last album, a song that builds steadily to a crescendo through a series of rampaging riffs with a sound getting tighter with every note.
The last time any UK punters caught Lamb of God was as Bloodstock headliners back in August, or their surprise Wulfrun visit just after their Catton Hall showcase.
Bloodstock had been billed as a kind of homecoming for singer Randy Blythe, coming as it did, on the heels of his well publicised Czech court appearance on manslaughter charges following the unfortunate death of a fan at a Prague performance in 2010.
Lamb of God’s first Bloodstock visit was not though without its problems, with the band having to leave the stage on a couple of occasions as repairs were carried out on the crush barriers which were being stretched to breaking point. Fortunately their return to the Birmingham Academy ran much more smoothly. The only downer, which fans knew of in advance, was the absence of guitarist Mark Morton who was unable to cross the Atlantic with his bandmates due to family issues.
A blinding white light picked out Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler who started to blast out the intro of ‘Desolation’ as the other band members gradually joined him on stage. Randy was last up, immediately emptying the contents of a bottle of water over his head to try and douse the fire before the touchpaper had scarcely been lit.
When you’re launching straight into colossal moshpit anthems such as ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost walking’ it’s fair to say it’s best to take precautions.
The first two tracks told us that stand-in guitarist Paul Waggoner, from Between the Buried and Me, had done his homework as the sound was as vibrant and defined as always allowing the band to thrash through a series of timeless grooves.
If John Campbell ever tires of playing bass with Lamb of God he could put in for a part in Lord of the Rings with his distinctive white hair and beard. The reality is of course that having had to effectively down tools for around a year due to the legal case hanging over their heads like a dark cloud, the band are now just delighted to get back to what they know and love and do best.
Randy, in trademark skater shorts and t-shirt, prowled the stage as a tiger would his cage, twisting and turning, and never pausing for reflection, demanding ever higher levels of passion and intensity from his fellow band members and crowd alike.
With the pit a swaying sweltering mass they did not have to be asked twice to ‘Walk With Me in Hell’ as the Virginian veterans launched themselves into one of their most terrifying numbers, the spiralling intro sending the diehards into overdrive at the front of the Academy stage.
Turning the clock back a decade or so Randy and co maintained the tornado-like tempo with ‘Hourglass’ and ‘Set to Fail’.
Taking a breather, having by this time got through more bottles of water than a cross desert expedition leader, the Lamb of God vocalist paid tribute to Birmingham’s proud metal heritage and in particular Black Sabbath, naming the four original members individually.
Having received a rapturous reception from the faithful he then steamrollered headlong into another immortal crowd-pleaser ‘Now You’ve Got Something to Die For’. ‘In Your Words’ from the album Wrath eventually signalled the end was near, although the fans’ appetite for more was sated with a four-track encore which included the irascible ‘Redneck’ before Lamb of God exited with another old favourite in the furious ‘Black Label’.
If anyone ever asks you what’s the appeal of a metal show then I guess this is as good a reference point as any.
2. Ghost Walking
3. Walk with Me in Hell
5. Set to Fail
6. Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
7. The Undertow
10. In Your Words
12. Laid to Rest
14. Black Label
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