Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lamb of God with Darkest Hour, Periphery and This or the Apocalypse

9:30 Club
Washington D.C
November 11th, 2009

This marks the first (and probably not the last) time since initiating this project that I’ll be reviewing a band more than once. Taking a break from their stint on the Metallica tour (see Metallica with Lamb of God and Gojira), Lamb of God made a pit stop in DC to play a show that had all the makings of a true homecoming. To commemorate the occasion, the boys from Richmond, VA tagged local favorites Darkest Hour as openers in addition to two other regional acts, Periphery from Bethesda, MD and This or the Apocalypse from Lancaster, PA.

This or the Apocalypse
Who knew that the land of the Amish could produce a solid metal band? I have to hand it to the guys in This or the Apocalypse, they have a good time onstage. I don't think any of the five members in the band stopped bouncing and hopping throughout the entirity of their half hour set. Playing standard metalcore, replete with non-stop breakdowns and harsh vocals, TOTA proved to be a perfect opener for the evening, if a bit unoriginal. When the band's vocalist said "I want to see the stupidest circle pit the 9:30 Club has ever seen", I thought...whoa fella, those are some big words considering the impressive list of acts who've played this joint in the past. But I'll give it to the kid, the ensuing mayhem that opened up on the floor was impressive to say the least. Apparently these guys are playing with Machine Head tomorrow night in Long Island, NY. They've obviously done enough to get onstage with some real heavy hitters, so it'll be interesting to see where they go from here. A solid opening act.

Periphery, featuring guitarists Misha Mansoor, Alex Bois and Jake Bowen (yes, that would be three guitars), bassist Tom Murphy, drummer Matt Halpern and vocalist Chris Barretto, would prove to be the surprise of the night. Hailing from DC suburbia (Bethesda, MD), the guys stormed the stage and acted as though they belonged in front of the near capacity 9:30 Club crowd. Sporting a very impressive afro, Barretto did his best angry guy/sensitive guy know, growling one minute and harmonizing the next. The style provided a nice change of pace and an interesting dynamic to the band's pummeling music. The vocals alone allowed Periphery to avoid the trap of monotony that can often accompany one trick pony metal bands who think the faster they play and the lower they growl, the better they sound.

The singer's choice in attire was a bit confusing however as he sported a t-shirt that read "New York Fucking City"...seemed an odd choice given the local nature of the show. Regardless, the band sounded phenomenal and in addition to This or the Apocalypse, I was extremely impressed with the lineup that Lamb of God had assembled for their evening in DC. On a side note, the pits continued to be a swirling mass of brutality during Periphery's set, a definite sign that the crowd was eager to bring the house down for the headliner.

Darkest Hour
Washington DC's Darkest Hour are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated and underappreciated metal bands on the planet. They helped to invent the aforementioned metalcore sound that has been popularized by bands like Killswitch Engage, All That Remains and As I Lay Dying. So with that said, I was extremely excited given that this was my first opportunity to see them live.

As much as I wanted to like them, I unfortunately found myself disappointed after watching Darkest Hour's set. Blame it on high expectations or the fact that they've been off the road for about three weeks (as was explained later by Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe when thanking Darkest Hour for opening), but something just didn't click for me. The band's songs all seemed to blend together without much to distinguish one from another (the exact thing I praised Periphery for avoiding).

The real highlights occurred when vocalist John Henry showed his humorous side (example: "Mosh so hard that somebody gets pregnant"...hahaha) or when he took a backseat and let guitarists Mike Carrigan and Mike Schleibaum step onto the risers at the front of the stage to play dualing guitar solos. Darkest Hour is rounded out by the rhythm section of bassist Paul Burnette and drummer Ryan Parrish who are solid, but didn't ease my feeling that something was missing. Still, Henry's sense of humor shined through as he leaned out over the front row of the crowd, threw his hair out of his face and asked "everyone here likes metal, I presume?"...very funny.

Perhaps the band would do well to take a few notes from their influences (one guitarist sported a Pantera shirt and the other a Down shirt) and slow it down a little bit. Part of my problem with Darkest Hour's set was that they seemed as though they were in a rush, like they needed to fit as many songs as possible into their 45 minute set. By the time they launched into "Doomsayer", their finale, I was ready for it to be over. As John Henry walked off the stage, he thanked everyone "for coming out to this show and supporting heavy fucking metal". You're very welcome John...but take a breather next time and give us a chance to enjoy it!

Lamb of God
"We are Lamb of God from Richmond fucking Virginia" said vocalist Randy Blythe as he and his band took the stage and rolled right into "Walk With Me in Hell". This is true grit heavy metal my friends, the kind that is not for the squeamish. As crazy as the DC crowd was for the three openers tonight, they reached another level when the headliners arrived, the floor turning into a swirl of humanity and the balcony a sea of fists and devil horns...a true sight to behold.

Blythe is a commanding heavy metal frontman. Not since Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, etc.) have I seen a guy who can work the stage and his audience in such an adept manner. The guy is a general out there and the audience are his troops. When he says to put your fists in the air, you do it and you do not ask questions.

Randy doesn't deny the true soldiers out there either as he makes sure to dedicate "Now You've Got Something To Die For" to the men and women of the armed services (something he did a few weeks ago at the Metallica gig as well). The singer continued by saying, those guys are "doing a dirty job in a shitty place...don't forget about them"...and then looked into the pit and screamed "this place is a warzone". Later, when guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler launched into "Laid to Rest", I looked down at the pit, saw an umbrella go flying through the air and had to admit that Blythe was right, this place is a warzone.

Lamb of God have apparently been on tour for about a year in support of their latest album "Wrath". Blythe mentioned that it has been great being on the road with Metallica, but that the "off-dates are a lot more fun where I can see all you motherfuckers"! Having just seen them in the arena environment, I have to admit, the band reaches a new level of energy and enthusiasm playing in a smaller venue in front of their own crowd. The place was truly alive.

Towards the end of the show, as the audience waited for the band to return for their second encore, the 9:30 Club was aglow with lighters (not cellphones!). Lamb of God returned to the stage to do a stunningly brutal rendition of their fan favorite "Black Label". When the smoke cleared, Randy looked out at the crowd and said "We are Lamb of God, we'll see you next time...Fugazi is up next" before dropping the mic to the floor (if you don't get that last quote, then do a little research on Ian MacKaye and the boys). A perfect coda to a night of local metal in DC's finest venue.

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