Live: Lamb Of God @ O2 Academy Brixton, London (18/01/2014 )
Lamb Of God
Decapitated – Huntress
The O2 Academy Brixton is architecturally quite a nice looking building if you take the time to look. It’s the kind of thing you can ponder when in a queue that wraps itself right around the outside, head almost meeting tail in a manner reminiscent of that popular Nokia game. It moves about as slow as a round of Snake as well. Given the scene, anyone would think that this was Lamb Of God’s last hurrah. Actually it’s a welcome party, a sold-out celebration. (Interestingly just a few days after came the announcement that the band were in fact taking a break. Well played everyone, well played.)
Inside Brixton Academy’s sloping, and less architecturally appealing, floor gives a feeling of perpetual drunkness. Which is good if you can’t afford the fiver a pint bar prices. If you’re even old enough to drink that is, given that Jill Janus is purring about how “there’s so many young boys here tonight,” as Huntress (6.5/10) start banging the drum they brought all the way from California. (Probably borrowed the one they’re using in the set though). Anyway… that’s a road you don’t want to go down. We’re pretty sure she’s just playing up to her goddess-that’ll-rip-you-apart image though. Janus brings to mind a praying mantis – get into bed with her and you’ll probably have a good time, but be leaving without a head. Regardless, for a time all the ladies here wish they could nail that self-assured prowl and all the boys wish they were going home with her.
And that’s even though she screeches like the sound is being cut out of her. With a tin-opener made of cats. Sometimes it’s too much, the high-end screams becoming pure caterwauling. Behind her plough away the male element of the band creating that slightly doomy, classic metal sound alla ‘Spell Eater’. It’s good listening, but ultimately they can’t overshadow the huntress herself as the tackily-titled ‘I Want To Fuck You To Death’ (co-written by our Lemmy) demonstrates by slaying all those young boys in the front row.
With a soundcheck that consists of Pantera’s ‘Walk’, the slightly-less-sexy Decapitated (7.5/10) don’t just lay out their stall, they lead in the bloody horses as well. They’re here to break you. Polish style. The band are one of the best when it comes to tech-death, but you’d not necessarily know it tonight as at times the sound chews everything up so that the notes just fall out of the air. It’s heavy but in the way that concrete boots are, as opposed to anything else.
Frontman Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski growls on with feeling though, and songs like ‘Spheres Of Madness’ still make their mark, largely carried by the hardcore who’d know these songs even washed inside out. And when you can isolate them those guitars are a wonder. It’s a mark of a good band when you know you’re not hearing them at their best and they still can take you. Decapitated may not have ripped any heads from bodies tonight but they definitely loosened a few.
“Family comes first in this band, no questions asked,” says Randy Blythe by way of explanation for the absence of guitarist Mark Morton (who has personal stuff to attend to), and the standing in of Between The Buried And Me axe-man Paul Waggoner. Ain’t that the truth. Like so many others around the world, these fans have stood beside Lamb Of God through the band’s recent trials, because that’s what families do.
It’s not a night for speeches, qualifiers, tale-telling – that’ll come. Tonight is about Lamb Of God (8.5/10) and a sold-out crowd. It’s a night for unity, for coming together, and for strengthening once more those bonds of steel. From the opening crunch of “Desolation” to the mighty “Walk With Me In Hell”, Lamb Of God cast aside all baggage and show why it is that first and foremost theirs is a name well known. The latter is particularly poignant, loaded with the sense that those words have been reality over the last year.
With his slim form Randy’s roar is bigger than he is, but Lamb Of God’s roar is bigger than one man. It’d be easy for some passer-by to be dismissive, but it takes a band to create that bristling sound, any complexities at once both evident and hidden in the collective. It’s nice when the ear falls to what’s behind as on the glorious drums of “Ruin”, but as the sweat flies from his never-still form you can’t deny that Randy draws your attention like a moth to some destructive flame, whether it’s the absolute might of “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” or the darkly falling speech at the start of “Omerta”.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen us a million times or for the first time, you’re part of our family now” cries Randy as the band move into “Redneck” – that song that everyone will know, veteran or newbie. And the response is as expected, the chorus literally an invitation to let loose, although one was never needed. We got those the same day we got our tickets. The epic “Black Label” stamps a definitive end on proceedings. There is no more, only the hope of more.
It’s not quite perfect, maybe because without Morton it doesn’t feel quite like Lamb Of God. It’s a fairly safe set list, which is perhaps due to having a stand-in guitarist. It feels too short, too brief a time, with the band departing after what seems not much over an hour. But it is at the same time satisfying. There’s a catharsis to tonight, as though being in the same room has reassured everyone that everything will be all right, that Lamb Of God are still here.
Well they are, and on the strength of tonight, on the strength of the past year, on the strength of the fans, they’re not done yet. For these five are not lambs, they are lions, and we haven’t heard their last roar yet.
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