Far Beyond Metal
Lamb of God, Devildriver & The Agony Scene @ The Mean Fiddler, December 6, 2005
by: Jackie Smit
With the exception of a bevvy of buxom ladies writhing their way across the stage, and an arsenal of Rammstein-esque fireworks, the Lamb of God live experience ticks just about every box a self-respecting metalhead could possibly wish for. Since their inception, this hard-rockin' quintet from the boothills of Richmond, Virginia have proven a consistently intense, aggressive and invigorating live proposition; a fact most definitely not lost on the London audience who tonight have packed out the Astoria to the point where the building's foundations are virtually heaving. And fair dues to them -- any band that can open for Slayer and not be greeted by a deafening chorus of boos must have something just a bit special going on.

Up first tonight is The Agony Scene, and it doesn't take them long to illustrate that they possess more than enough talent between the five of them to be headed down the same pike as this evening's headliners' in the future. Their only let-down -- and it does become something of a sticking point past the twenty minute mark -- is a tendency to rely too much on typical metalcore beatdowns to flesh out a song, rather than sticking with what they are clearly capable of doing very well. There's no faulting their energy however, and for the better part of forty minutes, frontman Mike Williams thrashes around on stage as though someone has poured lighter fluid down his boxer shorts and set it alight. "Screams Turn to Silence" and "Procession" hit with every bit of accuracy of a scud missile. It's a shame when their momentum takes a knock at the hands of an insipid "Prey".

"If you want to kick and punch at a show, then go fuck yourself. Fuckin' martial arts at a show... I hate that shit!" Dez Fafarra appears to be in no mood to mince words as he admonishes tonight's nu-core contingent who have been making the hapless souls stood around them feel less than comfortable. Truth be told, for all the flack and criticism that the former Coal Chamber singer has taken since his decision to ditch for former bandmates and ramp up the extremity factor in his musical endeavours, his new band pack a heck of a wallop on stage. Their last effort, _The Fury of Our Maker's Hand_, may not quite illustrate this as well as it should, but on stage songs like "Driving Down the Darkness" and "Knee Deep" sit right up there with some of the grooviest, downright pissed off monsters you're likely to hear a band perform. Closing off with a devastating "Meet the Wretched", it's clear why these guys were able to make a certain Swedish "supergroup" sound like overrated twats in the same venue last year.

When it comes to Lamb of God, most bands of a similar ilk just don't quite come up to scratch by comparison. Lumped into the same steaming pile of muck as the rest of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal by the popular press, dual openers "Laid to Rest" and "Hourglass" illustrate with some authority that this band most definitely isn't another Trivium or Shadows Fall -- far from it. Lamb of God are to present-day metal what Pantera was to it in the Nineties; an equally dangerous and thrilling spectacle, devoid of any of the cliché trappings of their so-called peers. This may be high praise, but it's thoroughly deserved, and in the face of tonight's performance, not at all a case of exaggeration. Across the board, the band's intensity and technical delivery rates off the scale, giving the audience very little chance to catch their breath, as they bludgeon their way through stunning renditions of "Now You've Got Something to Die For", "11th Hour", "Ruin", "The Faded Line", "Omerta" and "Pariah". Randal Blythe -- a decidedly intelligent alternative to your average knuckle-dragging singer -- cuts a particularly sinister presence, as he directs the flow of some of the most outlandish audience mayhem I have been a witness to.

To expand on the band's ninety minute set any further would be to overstate the obvious. Truly, tonight is the epitomy of everything that's great about this music, and judging by the mix of exhaustion and excitement that marks the majority of facial expressions as we all head back into the cold London night, I'm not alone in my thinking.

(article submitted 2/1/2006)

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