FROM: RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
My beginner's fear of death quickly subsided as I got in the doors just after 8pm, to be greeted by Sweden's pounding Meshuggha. Hailing from one of the world's metal/hardcore hotspots, Meshuggha loosely align themselves in the streams of extreme and experimental metal, as evidenced in their complex and constantly shifting patterns. Visually, their design and artwork owes much to art metal heavyweights Tool, whom they never manage to meet sonically in terms of being consistently engaging. While much of the set could be observed and appreciated well enough, their lighting design looks like it might have been operated by a hyperactive child and rarely settled into anything other then a flashy mess for the duration of the 75-minute set. The whole thing was like a pair of gladiator trucks covered in floodlights and machine guns falling down a hill. For first-timers like myself, the lack of familiarity with the band and what they were doing made detailed comprehension difficult and I only found myself able to identify with them in short bursts.
By 9:45pm, only seconds into the primary set, it became evident that this was Lamb of God's party. Beginning with 'Desolation', a punishing single from their most recent album 'Resolution' (2012), the American outfit quickly whipped Festival Hall into a howling frenzy. Frenetic riffing, astonishingly rough and powerful vocals coupled with gut-pounding drums left Meshuggha sounding almost lackadaisical. All this came at you with such speed and ferocity that even though this reviewer had been fairly determined to keep the chaos at arms length, it became impossible not to get swept up in the excitement. The band were in fine form, having shaken off some confronting legal issues and a colourful performance history to return as a lean and tightly focused machine, capable of tremendous power. These boys, some of whom were now resembling aged wizards, had come to play. Juggling an even spread of material from their six post-'Burn The Priest' era records, Lamb of God stormed through crowd favourites from their commercial highs; 'Sacrement' (2006) and 'Ashes To The Wake' (2004) alongside older cuts like 'Ruin' and their typical wall-of-death (youtube it) soundtrack, and 'Black Label' to thank their longtime fans. Blythe's banter was both affirming and humorous as a man who clearly loves his redneck roots and sees plenty in common with his fans from all those “weird ass towns” around Australia that he can't pronounce.
This was a communal event and spectacle that I would recommend every physically sturdy music fan attend at least once in their life, even if the harder stuff is not your usual palette. There's a neat catharsis to be found as you feel yourself being slowly deafened, and thrusting your “horns” in the air with everyone else is not without its boyish charms. Even white-shirted me was welcomed into the fold with open arms and bobbing heads to a place where “if someone falls down, you pick 'em the fuck back up again.” Boom. Crash. Repeat. Wake up with metal neck.