Sunday November 15th saw a few awesome things come my way, my birthday, free beer, and a night out at a small gig with a few small bands like Megadeth, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and Sylosis!
The sold out gig itself was held at the O2 academy, Birmingham, and was the final of a 5 date UK/Ireland co-headline tour with Megadeth and Lamb of God, bringing Children of Bodom and Sylosis along for the ride as support. The tour was in support of Lamb of Gods latest album release ‘Sturm Und Drang‘ and Megadeth’s soon to be released Dystopia (expected release date of January 23rd).
Having travelled to Birmingham, we soon got ourselves checked into our hotel for the night before rushing off to the local Brewdog bar for a few pre-gig drinks before having to quickly rush off to the venue due to opening act Sylosis starting the show off early at 6pm. Heading off towards the venue at around 5:30, we came across the almighty line travelling from the venue, all the way back to the roundabout (and possibly further around the corner!) It seemed everyone had the right idea of getting in early to catch the opening acts, and they honestly deserve a full crowd to play to.
As soon as we sort our passes we are straight in and try and situate ourselves in a prime spot just off to the side giving us enough room to see everything, hear everything ok, and most importantly, not get caught up in what was bound to be an energetic crowd. Not long after, Reading’s very own Sylosis make their way on stage and instantly their presence is felt.
Sylosis for me is a band of great talent, Josh Middleton is a musician of superior quality. Originally the guitarist, he in recent years has also taken on vocal duties with no hindrance to his guitar needs. Opening strong to an ever growing crowd with most recent material ‘Dormant Heart‘ followed straight on by more classic track ‘Teras’, they have the love of the crowd. With people still filing in, and no messing about, Sylosis step the game up with the thrashy gallops in ‘Mercy’ creating a great circle pit, People are certainly going to be feeling the after effects of that come the morning! From one extreme to the other, Josh has the crowd in the palm of his hand, slowing them down and creating a sea of fist pumping fans with ‘Servitude’. Almost as though it was planned to get the people to hold onto some energy, and twenty minutes into their set, he splits the crowd down the middle. Everyone knows what is coming, and probably the best time for it before the place is too busy to move, Sylosis are set for a huge Wall of Death. My last wall of death came about at a Sylosis gig 5 or 6 years ago, resulting in a broken eye socket, cheekbone, and the bridge of my nose in two places. This is no place for me any more, but the energy in the academy and excitement of the faces in the two lines make me feel young again and spark a flame I haven’t had in a while and I find myself fighting the urge to stay out of it! ‘Empyreal, Part 1′ closes their set, showcasing Josh Middletons insane guitar playing abilities, and the crowd really celebrate the band as their set comes to a far too short close. Stand tall Reading, your city really should be proud to be the birthplace of such a talented act.
After a twenty minute set change, the next act are set to bring their own brand of hate to the stage. Formed in 1993, the Finnish melodic-death metal band Children of Bodom come out to huge cheers of fans spanning all generations. Like Sylosis, they too have a short set to get themselves across in and waste no time doing so, opening up with classic track ‘Silent night, Bodom night’, Alexi Laiho is on point and the band are playing fast and tight, with fast transitions between songs, and great crowd interaction. Not a moment of silence is heard from the ever chanting fans, screaming along with tracks like ‘Hate me’ and ‘In your Face’, the security gets its first taste of how busy they will be through the night with crowd surfers. As the end of the line from outside looks like its finally making it into the venue, the place is in full flow. Faces everywhere soaking up the flamboyant neoclassical skills of the Alexi on the fast and slick lead guitar. Even for those like myself that aren’t necessary fans of Children of Bodom, it’s hard not to take some amazement and enjoyment away from the experience. Having only six songs in their set, they songs from as many albums, only to return to their second album to close the set with regular set finale hit ‘Downfall’, and it seems to end all too soon for the younger generation of fans.
Now comes the business end of the show, with the first of the two headliners coming up. Lamb of God are no stranger to Birmingham, and have truly cemented themselves in the top leagues of heavy metal royalty.
Almost an hour between set changes, and with a very simple start with no intro, Lamb of God come straight out the block with ‘Walk with me in Hell’ and the place goes insane. Every single person has their fists and horns in the air, and barely a person has their feet on the floor as the place literally bounces in energy, beer is flying everywhere and you can see after the long wait that this is what the crowd has waited for.
Continuing on, Randy calls to the crowd to make their presence known, and soon the band break into ‘Now you’ve got something to die for’, causing Randy to fight his hardest to be heard over the almighty roars of the crowd which carry over into the track ‘Still Echoes’.
Randy then has a few words that no one can argue with in his love for Birmingham as the birthplace of heavy metal, and in doing so dedicated the next track off the latest album to the fathers of it all, Black Sabbath with ‘512′ show boating the musical maturity the band has grown through since earlier material, which carries over into the previous albums headbanging hit ‘Ghost Walking’, by this point the crowd are crawling over each other to get into the pit.
Going back in time album wise, Lamb of God revisit the early days playing tracks like ‘Ruin’, ‘Hourglass’, and ‘Omerta’ which always pleases the fans and has turned the building into a sweat box of a frenzy.
With all the heat, the amount of bodies, and the sheer size of the pit, there is always the chance of injury, and close to the end of ‘Laid to Rest‘. Cutting the song off, it soon comes to light someone is injured, across the pit it appears someone has gone down and apparently been caught up under the sea of people in the pit. Lamb of God have sadly gone through the worst of possible experiences with the loss of a fan in the past which has been well documented. Randy clearly concerned asks for the crowd to stop cheering, and repeatedly wants room to be made for the injured party. Both security staff and emergency services are quick to aid, and after a ten to fifteen minute break, the party is stretchered out of the venue, hopefully all is now well with that fan as the crowd applauded his sad departure.
After the prolonged break, the show must go on, and sadly the band have had to cut songs from the set, but they did have time for one last hit, and that one last hurrah would be ‘Redneck’. Always enough to drive the crowd back into a human tornado, but as soon as the bodies are warmed up to the speed, it’s over, as is Lamb of Gods time on the stage.
As with the long change over earlier, we are subject to another excessive change over. Bodies aching, this almost another hour long break, only much more tedious.
Megadeth take to the stage with the intro from ‘Prince of Darkness’ before beginning with the legendary hit ‘Hanger 18′, with the old guard standing strong and welcoming the two new members with wide open arms. Sadly to the side where we are stood, the sound isn’t as good as the previous bands, with an extreme amount of bass and drum overpowering the vocals and guitars. As the set continues on with what sounds like a Megadeth greatest hits gig, with ‘She-Wolf’, ‘Wake up Dead’, ‘In My Darkest Hour’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ all sounding off before a short break. Dave Mustaine’s unique voice is hard to hear over the euphoric crowd at full volume, and while the band plays the drums are still going strong, testament to Chris Adler’s drumming capabilities as he pulls double shifts behind the kit on tour. Moving further around towards the back of the venue soon made the sounds blend perfectly, and could only of heightened the experience of the other bands had there of been room to get there.
With bands of Megadeth’s calibre, it is soon easy to spot the age gaps in fans, with the older generations soaking up the atmosphere and living in the moment, while the young grasp onto the phones trying to use their cameras to get any video or pictures they can. By this point the crowd has started to thin too, some not interested and there for Lamb of God, others having to head home, some are just tired and can no longer put up with the sheer volume in the place.
Megadeth shred through more classic material with ‘Tornado of Souls’ and ‘Trust’ before giving a small treat from the yet to be released Dystopia album in the form of ‘Fatal Illusion’. The song is like a train thundering past you at speed, a real sign that Megadeth may well be back on form with this new release.
Finishing off much like they started, classic Megadeth is played to finish out the set, with an encore of ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’. For anyone that has seen the machine that has played such an important role in not one, but two of the Big Four, it was an expected, typical performance. Mustaine’s playing, and his playing ability are as good as they ever were, and age is not stopping a thing, for those that have never witnessed the redheaded, maniacal, guitar wielding machine that is Dave Mustaine before, and the constant back bone of the band that is Dave Ellefson on bass, they got a real treat, even if the hour long wait since Lamb of God got too much.
In all, it may not have been the most balanced of line ups, nor may it have been the greatest set up time wise, but to get such a diverse amount of musical genius of so many sub-genres of metal together on one tour, under one roof, you really can’t do much better than this!