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Lamb of God w/Killswitch Engage, Devildriver, and Soilwork (12/06/07) Review

by Mark Hensch

Detroit's legendary Fillmore Theater presents a unique dichotomy for the concert-goer. On the one hand, the venue's operatic roots lend it a classical and elegant air; on the other, its location in Detroit, crime capital of the United States, makes it a place where violence can and does often occur.

The December sixth show of Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Devildriver, and Soilwork explored this idea perfectly. All four bands were professional, obviously there for strong performances and memorable evenings. However, each and every one craved chaos, all with the primal bloodlust metal in its basest form incites.

Sweden's Soilwork opened the show, the band's blend of intense melodicism and chugging riffs providing for a loud combination. Though they are often cited as purveyors of the melodic death metal sound out of Europe, the band seems to be moving in a more cathartic hard rock direction, focusing on edgy build-ups leading into soaring climaxes. Though a bit poppier than I would personally prefer, Soilwork won me over with an energetic performance. Frontman Bjorn "Speed" Strid delivered a flawless performance in both clear and growled arenas, while the rest of his band seemed content to play to the crowd while laying down finely-tuned yet catchy destruction. Interestingly enough, Soilwork focused on newer material, drawing soaring numbers "Nerve" and "Stabbing the Drama" off 2005's album of the same name. At least two or three numbers from the new Sworn to a Great Divide where unveiled, and all were well-crafted mixes of focused aggression, shimmering keys, and schizophrenic vocals. All-in-all, I'd say that Soilwork did a pretty sound job of getting things started.

Devildriver, meanwhile, took things to the next level. I had last seen Devildriver on a tour with Opeth; the band was supporting 2005's decent but unfocused The Fury of Our Maker's Hands. On this night, however, Devildriver seemed determined to put on a headlining caliber performance. Attacking with "Not All Who Wander are Lost" and "Black Clouds Over California" from new album The Last Kind Words, the band immediately launched into a breathless set of fast, pummeling, and memorable melodic groove. Frontman Dez Fafara was animated and clearly on a tear; he worked up the crowd into expertly-made levels of wildness. Speeding through a mere half-hour or so, the band crammed number after number in to please as many people as possible. It seemed to work---by set's end, Devildriver was getting a hero's welcome from the Detroit crowd. It now looks like Devildriver will be ready for their just announced tour with Napalm Death early next year, at least if shows like this are any indication.

Killswitch Engage took the stage next, sharing alternating headlining duties with Lamb of God. I ended up truly thankful Lamb of God was last on that evening, simply because if Killswitch had ended the show I would have gone home sorely disappointed. Though they culled songs from virtually every album in their back catalog and then some, the band's huge stylistic changes over the years have rendered them terribly inane. At times working the tough, brutal metalcore aspect, at others playing to the driving power-ballad one, Killswitch seemed a band divided. Musically, everything was airtight; it just seemed as if the band was a little bipolar over its own setlist.

Perhaps it is because I'm a devout fan, or maybe Lamb of God didn't really have such issues. The band assaulted the crowd with ripping hit after hit, all while frontman Randy Blythe ranted, roared, and raved. The man is seriously a rabid wolf on stage, and nothing short of intimidating. Furthermore, this band has the tightest live rhythm section I've ever seen and dual guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton aren't exactly lazy either. It all made for a grand finale of carefully orchestrated violence. Cuts played included the fist-pumpers "Ruin," "Redneck," and "Now You've Got Something to Die For." In an interesting twist, the band played through the instrumental "Ashes of the Wake" in its entirety. After this, a beautiful candlelit moment of silence occurred during the opening of "Vigil" before the band whipped up more frenzied violence. Easily the highlight of the evening was Randy reciting his bloodthirsty credo from "Omerta" to dead silence, only to have the band lacerate the venue with the song's crushing slams immediately thereafter. With abundant circle-pits, perfect musicianship, brutal music, and a Wall-of-Death for "Black Label," Lamb of God sent me home one happy camper. The band promised a new album in 2009, declaring it would knock everyone's "dick into the dirt." I can't wait.

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Lamb of God w/Killswitch Engage, Devildriver, and Soilwork (12/06/07)


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