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Lamb of God w/ Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira Live Review

by Mark Hensch

There's an old saying that all the Irish can do is screw, fight, and drink. In honor of the almighty St. Patrick, The Orbit Room in Grand Rapids, Michigan tried their best to reproduce all three on that most Irish of holidays, March 17th. Selling out the roomy venue almost a month or two in advance, the star-studded lineup included French groove innovators Gojira, reinvigorated elder statesmen Machine Head, current youth sensation Trivium, and the invincible juggernaught that is Lamb of God. With booze being both green and dirt-cheap, the bands brought their A-games and utterly annihilated a rabid, fiery crowd, the majority of whom alternated between furious headbanging and equally violent moshing. As I write this mere hours later, broken and sore, I can't help but grin with glee as I recall the truly stunning concert I partook of. Here's what went down:

As more time elapses, France's Gojira become more and more revelatory just as they've so frequently been touted. Hailed by some as a band wholly without classification, such tags didn't seem to offend the crowd one iota. Gojira wasted no time in playing what was essentially one gloriously long-groove, ever shifting in tones, colors, and hues while the world collapsed around it. Skinsman Mario Duplantier was a whirling dervish of manic technicality behind the kit, and his equally pumped bandmates produced what is easily the best set by an opening band I've yet to see. Thanking the increasingly impressed crowd in broken English, frontman Joe Duplantier was absolutely majestic, constantly exalting in the almost-absurd levels of heavy music being churned out behind him. In what will be a favorite memory of mine for years to come, Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe also came out and helped the band out on their last song, his caustic howls adding a new level of torture to the already surreal groove. To sum it up, Gojira was so f***ing good that it is a veritable travesty they have yet to headline a tour stateside. Mark my words, it is only a matter of time before they do.

Up next were local faves Machine Head, who put on a particularly epic performance with Lamb of God back in 2004. Apparently many people remembered that show, as the response Machine Head got was well beyond what the band is apparently used to; frontman Robb Flynn stopped once or twice and expressed slack-jawed shock at the insanity of the crowds. And boy oh boy, did those crowds have reason to be so riled up! I'm admittably not a big Machine Fan, but the band seemed possessed by something well beyond their usual realm of performance tonight. The entire band attacked with a simply relentless level of energy, with Flynn in particular lacerating everyone with sizzling fret-work and a sort of confrontational, in-your-face attitude I thought the band had long since forgotten. Highlights included their surprisingly brutal cuts from the upcoming Blackening album, "Aesthetics of Hate" being dedicated to Dimebag Darrel of Pantera in a tense, emotional speech courtesy of Flynn, and a ripping rendition of "Imperium" off 2004's Through Empires of Ash. They might be getting up there in years folks, but check these guys out, there is still gas in the tank. Highly recommended.

Trivium were perhaps the only letdown, their increasingly bloated hype setting the expectation bar much too high. It doesn't help that the band's switch to early Metallica thrash on The Crusade has completely removed their sense of identity---melodic, shredding metalcore wasn't original either, but the plagiarism is fairly blatant now on their parts. Watching them play an earnest, technically-sound set, I couldn't help but feel that I was missing the point. Reactions were mixed, with many people seemingly too drunk to care, but a few loud catcalls were heard and a laser-pointer aimed at singer Matt Heafy drew angry ire from the stage. Speaking of him, Heafy seems to have developed a sort of ego to him; besides exercising his right to bitch at fans, Heafy felt free to pepper his stage banter with commands and clichιs towards the audience. The band's overblown orchestratal introduction was both unneeded and pretentious, and a forty-minute set draped in Trivium logo lights left me with a roaring headache. Needless to say I can't fault anything the band necessarily did, but they reek of trying-too-hard to meet some invisible standard of metal and it shows. Not my cup of tea.

2007 has been an excellent year for Lamb of God, the band earning Grammy nominations, Conan O'Brien appearances, and Billboard Charts recognition for new album Sacrament. Having ignored our fair city since around 2004, it was fairly interesting to guess whether or not the guys still had it in them to blow the Orbit Room away. Much to my joy, Lamb of God laid down one of the sickest beatings I've ever seen, and as an avid concert-goer I've surely had my share. Nothing and no one was spared, the band using an arsenal of Sacrament haymakers alongside the occasional cut from New American Gospel, As the Palaces Burn, and Ashes of the Wake. To name a highlight is almost impossible, the band being on such a level of exhibition that describing it would be absurd. Regardless, the set was almost a tailor-made sequence of mosh classics, with the one-two punch of "Ruin" and "As the Palaces Burn" tearing the place apart. "Walk with me in Hell" was met with a lively response, and I've yet to see a band produce as much violence as they did with "Vigil," "Laid to Rest," and "Bloodletting (from the old Burn the Priest album)." "Descending" pummeled with a sort of reflective fury that worked very well live, and "Blacken the Cursed Sun" had the crowd roaring with abandon. Especially choice was "Again We Rise" and "More Time to Kill," both of which alternated between massive moshing and breathless, cathartic crowd participation. Much like any good asskickers, Lamb of God knows how to BOTH start and finish something, and this night was no exception. Sending the crowd home battered, broken, and pleased, Lamb of God busted out current Sacrament single "Redneck" and then New American Gospel's "Black Label" to close things off. As has become their gory trademark, the band encouraged a "Wall of Death" pit for "Black Label," and let me assure you that it hurts as much as it looks like. Violent and pissed, the band flew through a ripping set, wished everyone a great holiday, and left to the oft-repeated "Lamb of God" chants which had been circulating all night.

Few shows have had such upper-echelon acts as this, and as far as St. Patty's day events go, I can hardly think of anything better than a show like this. If you had the luck of the Irish on your side, you were probably there and already know what I'm talking about---if not, well, guess you had to be there. Don't make a mistake, see the last legs of this amazing tour while you still have a chance!

Gojira can be heard at www.gojira-music.com
Machine Head can be heard at www.machinehead1.com
Trivium can be heard at www.trivium.org
Lamb of God can be heard at www.lamb-of-god.com

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