Live Gig Report by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Just two short weeks after the all-star Deathcrusher show in Vicar Street, another stellar line-up of metal bands are performing in Dublin’s 3 Arena on a stormy winter’s night. Kicking off their European co-headlining tour, both Megadeth and Lamb of God had been spotted hanging out around the Irish capitol in the preceding days; sight-seeing, chilling-out, and unfortunately getting assaulted by local trouble-makers. But more on that later. Also joining the bandwagon on this leg of the tour are Children of Bodom and Sylosis, making the show high on every metal fan’s must-see gigs of the year.
Everybody hates Mondays. The weekend is over. The traffic is terrible. And tonight the wind is blowing the rain sideways along the river Liffey. Little wonder then, that the cavernous 3 Arena is noticeably quiet when British melodic death/thrashers Sylosis start proceedings at 6pm sharp. Bright strobes and spotlights illuminate an otherwise darkened arena as they open with the title track of Dormant Heart. And with only enough time for half a dozen tracks, they don’t waste much time in between. One can’t help but feel like they deserve to be playing in front of a bigger audience. MyGlobalMind saw Sylosis at Download Festival this summer in a crowded big top tent and the energy and atmosphere were incredible, probably partly because the band were better known locally than here in Dublin. After a few tracks however, the crowd began to limber up and when frontman Josh Middleton asks for a circle pit, a handful of volunteers oblige. The audience may have been tame, but worthy cheers and applause indicate that the band’s efforts were not in vain, and Sylosis proved to be a welcome show opener.
By the time Children of Bodom take the stage, numbers in the 3 Arena have increased to a much more respectable level, and the melodic death metal Finns seem to have attracted their own fanbase. Their latest album I Worship Chaos was released just one month ago, and both the band and fans seem to enjoy the two songs ‘Morrigan’ and the title track from the album. A video display backdrop is used to display still images of the Grim Reaper in various incarnations as featured on their album artwork, and the venue is bathed in a red and orange glow accompanying the intricate guitar solos courtesy of frontman Alexi Laiho. Unfortunately, the vocals do not come across quite so clear, but that doesn’t seem to bother the fans already familiar with their lyrics (known as the Children of Bodom Hate Crew). “Thank you for having us in your country. We are Children of Bodom and we’re from mother-fucking Finland” Laiho proudly announces. You’re welcome back any time Alexi! Hopefully soon and with a full set.
Lamb of God may not be on the scene quite as long as their co-headliners, but still have a strong and significant fanbase as is evident by the sheer number of T-shirts in the crowd, and the anticipation and excitement is palpable as the arena darkens for the third time. Having recently released VII: Sturm und Drang, their highly acclaimed seventh album (or eighth if you consider Burn the Priest), Lamb of God have overcome controversy and complications that could easily have triggered their demise. Their high octane set explodes with the opener ‘Walk with Me in Hell’ followed quickly by ‘Now You’ve Got Something to Die For’. On the backdrop video screen, a static image of a skeletal American eagle is framed by the words “Pure American Metal”, while two large side screens bombard the audience with a mix of emotive and violent imagery throughout the show. ‘Still Echoes’ is the first of surprisingly just two tracks from their new album and it feels like being pummelled in the chest by the thundering drums and contagious riffs.
Vocalist Randy Blythe takes a few moments before the next track to introduce themselves and to describe his unfortunate welcome to Ireland at the hands of a group of “feral youths” who attacked him while taking some photos of Dublin landmarks on Saturday night. He dedicates ‘512’, the second new track of the night titled after the Czech cell in which he was imprisoned in 2010, to “the little shits who sneaked up on me. I hope you get your fucking asses kicked”. The screams of “My hands are painted red” echo through the arena as graphic videos and stills of abuse and violence flash on the big screens.
There is a 50/50 split of attendees who have already seen Lamb of God live and those who are first-timers, at least according to the results of Randy’s impromptu poll, and both camps seem to be relishing every moment of their jaw-dropping performance. Turbulent circle pits form spontaneously, particularly during fan favourites including ‘Omerta’, ‘Red Neck’ and set-closer ‘Black Label’. Blythe wraps it up with some thankfully light-hearted parting words; “Enjoy the rest of the show. And be careful walking home. There’s hooligans about”. Perhaps only fifty percent of those buying tickets for tonight’s show were fans of the band, but by now that number must certainly be nearing the hundred mark.
The final changeover seems to take forever, apparently due to dodgy smoke canons, which gives guitar techs plenty of time to make sure everything is in tune and sounding as it should. Fifteen minutes later than scheduled, ‘Prince of Darkness’ plays over the speakers and an animated introductory video builds the name Megadeth on screen to massive cheers from the patient fans. The video ends and the iconic opening riff of ‘Hangar 18’ blasts out as the two Dave’s (Mustaine and Ellefson) take to the stage along with new guitarist Kiko Loureiro. Anyone who is a fan of either of tonight’s headliners already knows that Lamb of God founding member Chris Adler assumed drum duties on Megadeth’s upcoming fifteenth studio album Dystopia after the sudden simultaneous departure last year of both Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover. It’s no surprise then that Adler is double-jobbing on this European co-headlining tour. And with two 75 minute sets each night, that dude is playing his ass off.
The lengthy guitar solos of the opening track immediately give Kiko the opportunity to prove that he is meant to be in Megadeth, and there is little doubt in anyone’s mind. Megadeth sound as good live as this reviewer has ever seen, and the current line-up certainly seems to be working well. The first four tracks are rapid-fire with quick transitions into ‘She-Wolf’, ‘Wake Up Dead’ and ‘In my Darkest Hour’. Dressed in a neat black shirt, Mustaine is usually in the spotlight but Dave Ellefson gets to be centre stage occasionally like during ‘Dawn Patrol’, and even Loureiro gets to woo the audience during the mostly impeccable solos.
The music is interspersed with brief movie clips in which the Megadeth name has been dropped, thus providing an unusual but mildly entertaining way to distract the fans during guitar changes. Mustaine doesn’t spend too long chatting, but does relate a tale of trying to explain Dystopia to a man in a Dublin bar. Dave’s attempt at an Irish accent is instantly forgiven when he announces that the next track is totally predictable, and launches into the Thin Lizzy classic ‘Cold Sweat’ which they covered on Supercollider. Unlike the rest of the tracks which are accompanied by elaborate custom video graphics, this one features a still image of stacks of Marshall amps, hinting that this track is indeed a special treat for the Irish fans. Gone are the days when Megadeth’s treat to the Irish was ‘Anarchy in the UK’ which always saw the crowd yelling the line “Is this the I.R.A?”.
Another treat is the brand new ‘Fatal Illusion’ from the upcoming Dystopia, which is met largely with blank faces and trips to the bar by the crowd, making it clear that they are mostly interested in the classic Megadeth tracks. And unsurprisingly, save for the afore-mentioned cover and new song, the setlist is comprised entirely of gems from 1997’s Cryptic Writings and earlier. The last pre-encore track is the sing-along ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying’, and of course, Vic Rattlehead makes his customary appearance dressed in a suit and tie to give a wave to the crowd. After a few minutes of silence, Mustaine returns to the stage and eggs on the cheering fans, before launching into the epic finale of ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’ which is one of the definitive Megadeth tracks in this reviewer’s opinion. During the track, Dave introduces the band members one by one and afterwards they take a group bow, and leave the stage with ‘I did it my way’ playing over the PA while the credits roll on-screen. Yes, you read that right. Even the tour manager gets a mug-shot!
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable event, not likely to be bettered this year. If you missed it, you definitely missed out.