The blowback from the mighty Bloodstock Festival has brought Richmond, Virginia’s Lamb of God over to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre tonight. This historic building located at the heart of Dublin City since 1879 has played the host to many a dignified night of the arts over the years. To state that Lamb of God are less refined than some of the other troubadours who have tiptoed through the hallowed doors of the Olympia is like saying the Irish are fond of the odd alcoholic beverage – it’s an understatement of sizeable proportions. One of the few metal bands in recent memory to generate massive mainstream success without diluting their core sound, Lamb of God have slowly but surely grown out of the Pantera comparisons that have been inescapable since the band changed their name from Burn the Priest—a slogan that could take off in this country if the clergy’s sordid past rears its “pious” head any higher. With each subsequent release since the band’s 2000 debut New American Gospel, Lamb of God have played to larger and larger crowds and have amassed quite the fan-base across the world. However, it hasn’t been all Grammy Nominations and conducting wild circle pits for the band…
The past year has been a hellacious crossing for Lamb of God, in both the professional and personal lives of each band member. It came as a complete shock to the band and their families, friends and fans alike, when on the 27th of June 2012, the police authorities in the Czech Republic arrested frontman Randy Blythe and charged him with the manslaughter of a fan—19-year-old Daniel Nosek—who died tragically after their 2010 Prague show because of the head injuries suffered as a result of Blythe throwing him off the stage after an invasion. Following his arrest, Blythe spent a period of time remanded in custody while the rest of the band tried to raise $200,000 for bail, and when the trial date was set, Blythe returned to the Czech Republic and he was found not criminally liable and was acquitted of all charges.
Lamb of God
The manner in which Blythe handled himself throughout the entire ordeal has to be applauded. He displayed the utmost respect for the deceased and the severity of the charges cast upon him and his sympathies remained with the bereaving parents, even when the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence stared him dead in eye. Blythe’s strength of character, diplomacy, and determination to prove his innocence on a global news level, not only showed his worth as a human being to outsiders, it also alleviated some of the stigmas still attached to metal musicians and metal in general. His behaviour demonstrated to the public that the metal community is not full of barbaric Neanderthals who would sacrifice newborn babies to the Dark Lord if given half the chance (well, for the most part!) and that we are just as ethically minded and law abiding as any other sector of society. Proving Blythe’s innocence and changing the public perception of metal musicians has come at a cost for the band, however. The legal costs (purported to be over half a million dollars) and the inability to tour brought Lamb of God to the brink of financial ruin, but in an effort to put the past behind them and move on with their lives, the band have hit the road running to do what they do best: bring their brand of roughneck metal to their fans across the globe.
The queue outside the Olympia Theatre for Lamb of God tonight unfurls around the corner serpent-like, and if the buzz from the crowd is anything to go by, excitement levels are already running high. Inside the venue, merchandise is hustled with the skill of a street trader and the bar (separate from the venue’s floor) is at the receiving end of a sizeable wallop from thirsty folks trying to oil their wheels prior to tonight’s expected mayhem. In support of Lamb of God are Britian’s rising prog-stars Tesseract. Originally lumped into the ridiculously titled “djent” movement, Tesseract no longer fit in with the rest of the bands that continue to blatantly steal from Meshuggah’s polyrhythmic mechanics – if they ever did in the first place. After being plagued with singer problems since the band’s formation, Tesseract seem to have found their fit with vocalist Ashe O’Hara, who provides the pipes for the band’s second full-length album Altered State, released in May of this year. With this album, Tesseract have written a more melodic and refined collection of progressive metal songs than that of their exciting debut One, and O’Hara’s vocals are a major part of this development. Tonight O’Hara swishes and swoons on stage and his crystalline vocals match his movements with each note wafting as high as the Olympia’s ornate ceilings. Not your typical support for a band like Lamb of God, Tesseract start off timid but as each jolting riff and Devin Townsend-worthy melodic passage appears so too does the band’s confidence and it fills this large stage by the time the intransigent “Acceptance” ends their impressive set.
After headlining – and levelling – Bloodstock the night before, Lamb of God make their return to Dublin with the same objective for the Olympia tonight. A Resolution-heavy set-list was expected considering the band did not get the opportunity to fully promote their seventh studio album upon its release, but besides the opening one-two hammer-blow of “Desolation” and “Ghost Walking” – later followed by a teeth-rattling rendition of “The Undertow” – Lamb of God supply a career spanning set full of fan favourites. Before a pertinent airing of “Walk with Me in Hell”, Blythe speaks with grave seriousness with regard to what he’s been through and urges the 1,000 plus crowd to “take care of each other”. From here, though, the rest of the night it is all about the joys of Lamb of God’s back catalogue: “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” is dedicated to “the ghost of Shane MacGowan’s liver”, much to the amusement of the sweaty crowd who tussle and headbang their way through Lamb of God classics “Ruin”, “Set to Fail”, “Omerta”, and “11th Hour”; the breakdown during the latter being a prime example of Lamb of God at their destructive best. And with the exception of Blythe who tirelessly stalks the stage and rallies the troops, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell stand as a blur of lank hair and hefty beards as they, alongside the fleet-footed Chris Adler (who is seated behind his drums on a podium at the rear of the stage), drop taut, rhythmically audacious grooves that reach their peak during the encore highlight and bona fide metal anthem, “Redneck”.
“Redneck” receives the biggest reaction tonight and even those sitting down at the balcony level cannot help but to whip their necks furiously to the song’s “motherfucking invitation” in a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in an asylum. Yet there is an overall reserved feel around the Olympia that you wouldn’t expect from a Lamb of God show, as the mayhem expected isn’t fully realized – even when the band finishes with their trademark “wall-of-death” instigating “Black Label”. Whatever the reason for this may be, there is a sense of danger missing; although this is not the fault of the band who provide the kind of show that we’ve all come to expect from Lamb of God: professional, passionate, and armed to the hilt with some of the finest songs in contemporary heavy metal. Instead tonight has been all about celebrating the freedom afforded to Lamb of God now that the past has been laid to rest, and according to the cheers that echo around the Olympia, Lamb of God’s Irish fans are elated to have this vital metal band back resolute and on the road where they belong.