12 months ago Randy Blythe, vocalist for Lamb of God, was sitting in a jail cell in Prague after being charged with the death of a fan at a Czech concert in 2010. At that point, he and his bandmates could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel and turning to the next chapter in their lives. But the experience instead steeled the band and, after Blythe was cleared of all charges, they jumped straight back onto the touring circuit, bringing their show to Australia and inviting Swedish prog metallers Meshuggah along for the ride.
Sweden’s best exponents of experimental metal would lay the foundations for a pulverising night at Melbourne’s Festival Hall by delivering a punishing set full of double kicks, crunching riffs and dealthy growls. Illuminated Alex Grey-inspired backdrops adorned the stage as Meshuggah’s five-piece lineup let loose on the crowd, highlighting their 2012 release Koloss as well as select cuts from their 20+ year career.
Vocalist Jens Kidman lurched about the stage with a pained and contorted expression, like a man undergoing an exorcism. While Meshuggah’s Soundwave 2012 performances didn’t do their complex sound any favours in an open-air environment, the spacious Festival Hall provided the perfect setting for the band to do what they do best. It was huge sound, delivering crunching sound with their technical mastery clearly on display as they nailed songs like Bleed and New Millennium Cyanide Christ.
As the Meshuggah banners came down, and a single giant Lamb of God banner rose from behind the drum kit, the expectation was palpable amongst the crowd, perhaps due to the recent notion that fans would never again see Lamb of God live on stage. Whatever it was, when finally took the stage and exploded into Desolation off their latest release Resolution, Festival Hall simply erupted into carnage.
Blythe, hair limp and soaked with water, paraded the stage with the energy of a man given a second chance at life, delivering his trademark growls in rapid fire intervals. Ghost Walking and Walk With Me In Hell followed up in quick succession, giving the crowd little respite as bodies were flung in all directions in the heaving mosh.
Not since Rage Against The Machine had fans moshing in the balconies had Festival Hall seen such energy from an audience, and with the uniform bouncing of the floor section reaching all the way to the sound desk, it was impossible not to get involved. All the while, Blythe, being careful not to preach, made sure the audience got the message of crowd safety. “If you see someone fall down, pick them up” he asks, a small task the audience are only too happy to oblige.
“This is a song about drinking beer!” Blythe declared as he introduced 11th Hour off LOG’s As The Palaces Burn album, and soon the breakneck Contractor delivered similar devastating results. Chris Adler’s drumming was exceptional, constantly pushing the limits of his body to both ground and elevate Lamb of God’s set.
The brief intermission before the encore wasn’t enough time to recover before the final thrash of brutal riffs and demonic growls, which saw the earlier years of their back catalogue given a thorough examination. In Your Words and Redneck lit up the crowd before the infamous Black Label was once again given the honours of closing out their set.
The entire night was a masterpiece performance of contemporary metal. Whilst the wall of death that Lamb Of God used to so often employ throughout their closing song was notably absent, it was an understandable approach given recent events. The sea of stiff and aching bodies pouring into West Melbourne after the show proved that you can still show your appreciation and exhaust yourself in the mosh while taking care of your own safety and that of those around you.
Gallery: Lamb Of God + Meshuggah – Festival Hall, Melbourne 22/09/13
(Photos By Samantha Thomson)