November 2, 2013
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
Photos by Paul Wilkins
Lamb of God - Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Huntress, Testament
Lamb Of God On Tour With Metal Disciples
It was a great night to be a metal fan. In a "Christmas Carol"-sort of way, the past, present, and future of heavy metal assembled on one bill to completely annihilate the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, TX.
Huntress kicked things off with their pagan-metal as frontwoman Jill Janus prowled the stage like a phantom. Seriously, this woman's onstage presence is very ghost-like with her hair and clothing rippling through the air of the fans below her. Moreover, her vocal style runs the gamut from classically-trained to the screeching metal of King Diamond, Dani Filth, and even Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, making her petite stature more intimidating than one would expect. The tarot-themed "Eight of Swords," pot-friendly "Zenith," and Lemmy-penned love song "I Want to Fuck You to Death" all connected with those adventurous enough to arrive early and catch their set, which was quite enjoyable given its 15-minute length.
By the time Testament hit the stage, the venue had filled to near-capacity as anyone who knows their metal roots knows that Testament is as brutal a force as any of their thrash metal peers. Erupting from the darkness with "Rise Up" off their latest Dark Roots of Earth album, their stage came alive with animated props during the audience response cry of "WAR!," but it wasn't until The New Order classic "The Preacher" that the audience returned the favor. The New Order, arguably one of the greatest albums in Testament's impressive catalog and the entire history of thrash metal, supplied the bulk of their killer set. "Into the Pit," "Disciples of the Watch," and the title track all got the pit swirling despite the often-muddy sound system that threatened to derail their momentum. As "Over the Wall" closed the set, it was obvious to everyone in the room that Testament is thankfully not going away any time soon. These metal veterans, especially guitarist Alex Skolnick, were on top of their game at all times and were not going to be outdone by anyone.
Killswitch Engage always stand out on every bill they are a part of because of their tight playing and excellent visuals, but mainly because lead guitarist/songwriter Adam Dutkiewicz turns every performance into a comedy show. His antics famously got the band kicked off a tour with Slayer almost a decade ago for being too "un-metal," but he definitely provides something original every time they play. This was KsE's second time in Dallas this year with original singer Jesse Leach at the helm and the crowd couldn't have been happier to welcome him back. Their set drew mainly from 2003's excellent Alive or Just Breathing and last year's Disarm the Descent with only a few Howard Jones-era favorites like "Rose of Sharyn," "My Curse," and set-closer "The End of Heartache" thrown in. Their playing could not have been any tighter, which is amazing given the band's-and especially Dutkiewicz's-energetic stage presence, which at one point saw him doing Jane Fonda-style aerobics. This was also one of the most visually appealing KsE shows I have ever seen because the light show was so brilliant you could see it when you closed your eyes. It sometimes threatened to upstage the band by obscuring the members behind beams so bright they cut through everything in their path, but KsE are not easily upstaged... except maybe by the night's headliners.
Lamb of God's impact on the state of metal today cannot be overstated. Simply put, they are to music in 2013 what Pantera was in 1994: an adrenaline-filled shot in the arm of a pop culture scene over-polluted with mainstream garbage. To be clear, I am not saying Lamb of God is the next Pantera; there is and will ever be only one Pantera. What I am saying is that Lamb of God has managed to break through the mainstream by playing honest heavy metal that combines aggressive vocals and a signature groove very much like the Cowboys from Hell did twenty years before them and believe me, this comparison was not lost on anyone assembled at the feet of Lamb of God on Saturday night.
Pummeling the crowd with "Desolation" and "Ghost Walking" from last year's Resolution album, the adrenaline level was set high from the first brutal note. The band then went back a few albums to play fan favorites like "Walk With Me in Hell" and "Hourglass" before dedicating an emotional "Now You've Got Something to Die For" to the troops and their families while pictures of actual servicemen and women killed in action were projected on the two video screens behind them. These screens were also used to disturbing effect during "The Undertow," showing people in various stages of drug addiction and near-death.
The unsettling mood created by these two songs and their accompanying visuals was a perfect complement to the brutality of the music that was being churned out behind them, but in the middle of all the seriousness came the Virginia-based band's first jab at their audience of Cowboys fans. During a pause in the music, the Washington Redskins' logo appeared on the screens as Randy Blythe yelled “REDSKINS!” and continued the song before the audience had a chance to react, as if nothing had happened. It was a much-welcomed and unexpected joke in the midst of the band's serious message.
The next block of songs was dedicated to the old-school Lamb of God fans as Blythe reminded us that their album As the Palaces Burn turned 10 years old this year. The band then tore into "Ruin," "11th Hour," and "Vigil" to celebrate its longevity, with each song sounding even better now than the first time I heard them 10 years ago. If anything, Randy Blythe sounds even more pissed off and venomous now than he did then, and everyone on the room knew why.
Blythe's overseas incarceration last summer and acquittal in the subsequent murder trial was the elephant in the room that night. The band was doing no press on this tour, and there was an air of "Will he talk about it?" that hung heavily over the crowd all night. But talk about it he did, albeit briefly so as not to dampen the mood too much. He discouraged any applause that the crowd offered him, saying that he did his duty as an American and as a human being before personally thanking Vinnie Paul for coming to his aid as a character witness during the trial. He then dedicated "Redneck" to Vinnie and the "pink beard in the sky" before closing the set with "Black Label".
Having seen Lamb of God several times over the years, I can honestly say this was the best I have ever seen them because it marked the arrival of Randy Blythe as a heavy metal icon and it was invigorating to witness. Despite all that he has been through over the last year-or maybe because of it-he has emerged a commanding and admirable figure in a world that always seems to be on the short path to Hell. His actions over the last year made me proud to be an American and his command of the stage on Saturday night made me proud to be a fan.
To Randy Blythe: now more than ever, you've got something to die for.