MEGADETH, Lamb Of God, Children Of Bodom, Sylosis @Academy, Birmingham 15/11/15


Dave and the boys bring their Euro tour to a close

It’s a mark of the quality of this bill that Sylosis are opening up, in front of everyone else’s gear at the ungodly metal hour of just before 6pm. The Reading band can comfortably headline the middle sized venue at the Academy on their own, but moving to the big room is clearly a chance they have to take when Megadeth come calling. The fact they have a very decent fanbase of their own ensures there’s a reasonable amount of punters who have come down to this sold-out show to catch them. They aren’t disappointed. A circle pit breaks out for “Stained Humanity” and is large and enthusiastic, and songs like the closing “Empyreal” show the talent this band has always had. Their short set includes three from the new “Dormant Heart” record, and the staccato riff attack of a title track in particular sounds excellent. They leave the stage as their name is being chanted. The job for Sylosis, you suspect, is very much done.

Speaking of bands that are too big to be on this early. Finnish heroes Children Of Bodom know what it’s like to tread these very boards with their name on the top of the poster. They aren’t overly bothered, though and for half an hour they tear at Birmingham as though lives depend on it. They have been doing this death’n’roll thing for a long time and are exceptionally good at it. And if Janne Wirman’s keyboards add a kind of symphonic feel to things, then make no mistake Children Of Bodom are still a Hate Crew with matters visceral in mind. There’s an air of menace when Alexi Laiho suggests that “I don’t give a flying fuck, motherfucker” in “In Your Face” – and casually gets 3000 of his closest friends to join him. He’s had the crowd eating out of his hands for longer than that, in fairness, right from “Silent Night, Bodom Night” CoB have meant business, and the one song they play from just released record “I Worship Chaos”, the single “Morrigan” is far from out of place and whets the appetite for a full length return.

What’s the saying about “if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all”? Sometimes you wonder if Lamb Of God feel that’s their theme tune. Take tonight, for example. By any definition, the North Carolina natives have slayed it. And they are approaching the home strait when a section of the crowd begins frantically waving and the show is paused for ten minutes or so while a stricken audience member is treated and led away to the ambulance. Most bands would suffer from a loss of momentum at this point, but most bands wouldn’t reconvene with “Redneck”. It really is the only invitation you’ll ever need, still. The set up to that point had essentially been one long high point. Any hour with “Ghost Walking” and “Set To Fail” in would be. Randy Blythe is still the convivial, potty mouthed host, but he possesses a mean streak too. Older material like “Ruin” is heavier, and while “Omertà” can still summon all kinds of hell, Lamb Of God these days are just a superior groove metal band. They prove with a brilliant version of “512” from their latest record “VII: Sturm und Drang” released in the summer, dedicated here by Blythe to Black Sabbath, because, says Blythe, “anyone who doesn’t think Black Sabbath are the first heavy metal band is a wanker”. Quite.

If the drummer looks familiar when Megadeth take the stage, it’s because Chris Adler has just been thumping the tubs in Lamb Of God. These days he’s also doing the same for Dave Mustaine’s metal royalty, which means that the Megadeth roster has changed yet again, as back in the Spring the notoriously volatile sacked half of the old guard. Also in on guitar is Kiko Loureiro, the former Angra man does a fine job here, as does Adler behind the kit, and this line-up has just recorded a record. “Dystopia” is out in January next year, but towards the end of this 70 minute set they play a track from it, the single “Fatal Illusion” which does seem that the band have rediscovered the energy that was largely missing from its predecessor “Supercollider”.

And there is a sense of purpose throughout a collection that is heavy on material from the classic “Rust In Peace” and “Countdown To Extinction” records. One of them starts things here, “Hangar 18” remains fantastic, as is “Sweating Bullets” which is turned into a singalong here. Older work like “In My Darkest Hour” is rapturously received too.

Blessed with a light show that is flashier – literally – than they have had in the past, as a series of big screens display animations and film clips, the show feels bigger than the usual acts in the Academy. Big acts need big songs and the last three here are huge. “Symphony Of Destruction”, “Peace Sells” – which features an appearance from Vic Rattlehead – and “Holy Wars …..The Punishment Due” are about as good as it gets. The last one is particularly poignant given the events of Friday night in Paris, and noticeably the changeover between Lamb Of God and Megadeth was bathed in the colours of the French flag.

Just as important, though, is the song that plays as they exit the stage. Sid Vicious’ take on “My Way”. It seems to symbolise Mustaine’s vision for his band. Even if they – like three of the big four aren’t really thrash anymore – but, whisper it, to this reviewer they are the best of that bunch – they are a band that will do what it likes. They are Megadeth, and they are unique. They proved it here.

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