I’m not going to go into the details here, because frankly, you know them already. Suffice to say, Randy Blythe from Lamb of God was involved in some legal disputes that resulted in him being incarcerated in a Czech prison for several months. He was acquitted and tonight was the band’s first visit to Sydney since all that went down in mid-2012. The black-clad masses descended upon the Roundhouse to not only welcome Mr. Blythe back, but to bear witness to the opening band Lamb of God had brought with them: the one and only Meshuggah.
The Swedish co-headliners took to the stage first and holy shit. Just, yeah. Holy shit. When they open with “Swarm”, you know you’re in for a good night. I’m not entirely sure they’re actually human, what with their glorious polyrhythms and seemingly perfect musicianship. I honestly didn’t hear any mistakes in their entire 80-minute set; I mean, there must have been, but I wasn’t aware of any. Skinsman Tomas Haake showed us exactly why he’s the best drummer in the world, his technical skill, speed and precision setting the standard for drummers everywhere, while the second member of the rhythm section, Dick Lovgren, added his crushing low end to the party. You know the one. Don’t play that game. If you’ve heard any Meshuggah records, you’ve heard his bass tone. It’s almost a crunching noise. Yeah, that one!
Meanwhile, guitarists Fredrik Thordendaal and Marten Hagstrom were just bullshit. Unbelievably tight and skilled, they showed what real talent can do when it’s given free reign to throw down, and frontman Jens Kidman rounded out their unforgettable sound with his Robotosaurus vocals. The man is a machine. I refuse to believe that any human being could possibly reproduce those kinds of sounds and not have at least some basic circuitry.
Anyway, they played a set with a good spread of their back catalogue while focusing on their career-defining obZen and Koloss records while Randy Blythe stood on the second level, photographing them and headbanging at the completely wrong times. Finishing with “New Millennium Cyanide Christ”, I assumed they’d finished before “Mind’s Mirrors” from their one-big-track album Catch Thirtythree slammed its way through the PA. As soon as it finished, the Swedes came back on stage and played the one-two punch of “In Death – Is Life” and “In Death – Is Death” from the same record.
After an 80-minute set, a glorious mix, perfect musicianship, a flawless light show and a dominating stage presence, they set a standard that no other band could possibly hope to attain – unless that band is Lamb of God. Chris Adler walked up on stage and played the drum outro from “Straight for the Sun”, before the band came on stage and kicked straight into “Desolation”. Or at least they would have, if the guitars had worked properly. That was an awkward opening couple of seconds. Anyway, they recovered like the seasoned professionals they are and threw the fuck down harder than any band in the world, because they’re Lamb of God and this is what they do best.
Chris Adler is a drumming god, second only to Haake from Meshuggah. His rhythm partner, John Campbell, was tight as a fish’s arse but all I really took away from his performance is that he looks EXACTLY like Saruman from Lord of the Rings. Seriously, it was uncanny. Willie Adler on guitar was a beast, as usual, but Mark Morton, while obviously playing his guts out, was let down by a shoddy mix that left his lead guitar almost entirely inaudible. Doesn’t really matter, though, because he gave it his all and killed it nonetheless.
Then, of course, we have Mr. Randall Blythe, handling the demented pterodactyl duties. His experience in prison aged him physically, but his sense of humour had not diminished one iota. He addressed the crowd after “Ghost Walking”, saying “We had some legal issues last year. I’m not gonna go into that, but I will ask everyone that if they see someone fall, could you just pick him up? Look out for each other out there!” to which the crowd roared its assent. Playing a set that featured only three songs from Resolution, the older material was greatly appreciated by the faithful in attendance. One song, “11th Hour”, had never even been played in Australia before, and received a huge response from the
Finishing with Wrath‘s “Contractor”, they left the stage before returning for the obligatory encore. They played “In Your Words” and the classic “Laid to Rest”, but that’s when shit got awesome. Randy was introducing the next song when a man wearing his own body weight in Lycra walked up on stage and started taking the piss out of Randy. It was the one and only Michael Starr from glam-rockers Steel Panther! Apparently he was in Sydney for some reason and decided to come to the show. I could see the roadies laughing at the pure shock on Randy’s face, a look of genuine surprise and confusion adding to the hilarity of the situation. Michael gave Randy his vest, saying “Wear it! You lost the bet! That chick had a dick, wear the vest!”, which Randy grudgingly put on. Michael then just started taking over the entire show, so Randy called the security guards over who hauled Michael Starr’s shiny-as-the-sun ass out of there.
Crazy. At this point, Randy did a little speech about how they were so glad to be back in Australia, saying, “I don’t bullshit you guys, I don’t tell every audience they’re the best. I don’t like bands who do. I’m telling you the truth right here: outside of our home country, Australia is our favourite place to tour, bar none.” Of course the crowd went apeshit, and Lamb of God kicked right into their best song, “Redneck”.
Wrapping it up, as Randy took off his blue, glittering vest (“Thank God the eighties are over, am I right?”), there was only one song left. Only one song could possibly be next, and it was, of course, “Black Label”. The wall of yeah opened up, people were broken in half, there was blood everywhere and everyone took the ‘last chance to dance’ call like a battle cry. The floor was literally shaking and suddenly it was over.
As the bloodied and bruised (but elated) punters left the auditorium, I reflected on what I’d just seen. Every gig has a standout band. That’s just how it works. This show was unique in that neither Lamb of God nor Meshuggah outshone the other. Meshuggah’s music is theoretical at best. They play songs that defy conventions, because they invented their own. Conversely, Lamb of God are all about the groove. Some of their songs are so melodic, you could play the exact same notes with banjos and it would be a bluegrass song. Further, Meshuggah are a band that where the music is on display. They don’t move much (except for Jens Kidman’s underwater car crash headbanging style), but they don’t have to. Lamb of God, on the other hand, are all about crowd interaction, energy, excitement and Saruman on the bass. Two such different styles of music and performance shouldn’t go together, and yet this may well have been the best concert I’ve ever attended.
Horns. Fucking. Up.
Do Not Look Down
The Hurt That Finds You First
I Am Colossus
New Millennium Cyanide Christ
In Death – Is Life
In Death – Is Death
The Last Vigil
Lamb of God Set
Walk with Me in Hell
Set to Fail
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
In Your Words
Laid to Rest