Lamb of God
With Anthrax, Deafheaven and Power Trip
The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Friday, February 5, 2016
For all intents and purposes, Friday night's Lamb of God concert at The Bomb Factory was a perfect heavy metal show. From the killer lineup, to the oppressive sound system cranked to 11, to the crowd’s display of deeply imbedded loyalty and even the free after party at RBC, there wasn’t a single reason to walk away disappointed. Well, except maybe if you were the guy who passed out in the pit — nah, he’s probably still smiling.
Local hardcore heroes Power Trip kicked things off promptly at 7 p.m. with an energetic half-hour set. Singer Riley Gale took his time between songs to profess his love for his hometown profusely and give shoutouts to the dearly departed Lemmy Kilmister and Dimebag Darrell. He urged the crowd to forge the night’s first mighty ring of pain, and they duly obliged.
If this show had a heart (figurative, not anatomical), Deafheaven was it. Frontman George Clarke gestured like a possessed composer, orchestral and commanding. His soul-piercing howl shot right through the group’s crushing melodic overtures. Like a metal messiah, Clarke tossed bottles of water to headbangers in need of hydration and reached out to touch the hands of his following. When a young man was launched toward the stage, the singer helped the lad up to let him cannonball back into the crowd.
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In the aftershock of the more experimental blackgaze offerings, some crowd members expressed weariness over why they hadn’t heard Slayer yet. Thus, 20 minutes passed and Anthrax became the crowd pleaser. You can't help but love them like you would a drunk older brother as they scratch that Slayer-era thrash itch. Sound issues were a shrill distraction, but Joey Belladonna could not be derailed from his enthusiasm. Scott Ian and his infamous beard hammered out the hits, like throwback favorite “In the End” — and the fans did not miss a beat even as they performed new tunes from their forthcoming 11th album, For All Kings. The only hiccup was a moment when Belladonna paused to give attention to someone who was sitting on the floor in the middle of the moshpit, who received medical attention and hopefully a mental evaluation.
And then Richmond, Virginia’s hellions Lamb of God took over at 10:15 — early for a headliner on a Friday night, though not so surprising at The Bomb Factory. The audience chanted the band's name as giant screens on stage showed video of building demolitions and visions of death. As they started their set, the drummer put on a Batman mask, which he wore all evening. Singer Randy Blythe was wearing camouflage cargo shorts, while bassist John Campbell performed as old man winter; his white beard and nipple-length, silvery hair surrounded him and flowed together as one with each rhythmic head bob.
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As expected, the headliners wrung out the strongest display of devotion from the crowd. Blythe bestowed compliments on his army with a hearty, “You motherfuckers go hard in this fucking town.” He found a pedestal to elevate himself above his stagemates as he switched vocal stylings with guttural grace. Smoke machines sprayed in intervals like pyrotechnics. The band spent an hour and a half and a several-song encore damaging the crowd's already battered eardrums.
As the set was waning, signs of self-inflicted exhaustion began to show on the harder-hitting attendees. A grown man vomited liquid on the floor and held his arms up like a crucifix as at least 20 people stomped through it — including a man who was shoeless and carrying only one sneaker. Several moshers retreated to the walls to catch their breath. Someone was limping and leaning on the bar to alleviate his pain and someone else was allegedly kicked in the head.
One of the best things about a perfect metal show is the interaction between the performers and the audience. The frontman pummels the crowd with expletives and insults while he strokes its ego with praise at the same time. Metal music makes you feel big. It fills you with power. But what is it about people having no issue with just pushing you out of their way or making sure a part of their body hits yours as they pass? If they are two feet taller than you, they station themselves three inches in front of you, replacing your stellar sight with a view of their hairy neck — as if it is protocol.
There was a dab of confusion around the possibility of Kylesa on the bill instead of Power Trip, but the show went on without any mention of them. It's a shame they didn't play. It would have been refreshing to see Laura Pleasants inject a little variety in the male-dominated lineup. Women made up at least one-third of the crowd, but not a single one was represented on stage.
Regardless, the performance was perfect in the eyes and ears of the Lamb of God battalion as they marched out into the icy night.