The first time I saw Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God live was back in 2003, when they appeared together on the Headbanger's Ball Tour. They've shared many bills in the ten years since, including their current co-headlining run with support from Testament and Huntress. I attended the sold out Boston, MA stop at the House of Blues on November 23.
I thought Killswitch might headline given that it was their homestate, but instead Lamb of God took the honor. Their tight performance, vocal fanbase and arena-style production showed why they were the closers. The stage was equipped with a large platform - off of which frontman Randy Blythe jumped nearly every song - along with two large video screens. The screens displayed a mix of live cameras and footage evoking imagery of the bands lyrics (war, religion, death, politics, etc.), making each track feel like a live music video.
Visuals aside, the band's performance was on point. Blythe is a certified madman, while the technical skills of guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and drummer Chris Adler (who celebrated his 41st birthday at the show) are always impressive. Bassist John Campbell had to leave the tour due to family emergency, but friend of the band Aaron Patrick (formerly of Massachusetts' own Bury Your Dead) stepped in to fill the void.
The setlist was made up of about 75 minutes worth of material from all six Lamb of God records. All the hits were accounted for, including "Laid to Rest," "Redneck." "Walk With Me In Hell" and "Ruin." This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fan favorite album As the Palaces Burn, so they included a couple of extra cuts from it. Per usual, the band closed with the hard-hitting "Black Label." The song is known to incite a massive wall of death, so much so that the band no longer needs to call for it it. Blythe simply announced, "If you don't know what's gonna happen, get the fuck out of the way!" before the song kicked in and all hell broke loose. It was a nice exclamation point on which to end the evening.
Even for a band as good as Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage is not an easy act to follow. As if they needed to get more pumped up, the hometown heroes entered the stage to the tune of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." They opened with the crushing intro of "A Bid Farewell" and continued for a solid hour of top-notch metalcore through the closing of "The End of Heartache." The crowd's enthusiastic response included moshing to the breakdowns, singing along to the soaring choruses and headbanging to the endless riffs.
I've had the pleasure of seeing the band twotimes since the return of vocalist Jesse Leach, but this was my first time since the release of their new album, Disarm the Descent. I was interested to hear the new material live, and I'm happy to report that it sounded great. In fact, the band seamlessly transitioned between new songs and old favorites, including a healthy dose of material from Howard Jones' tenure as vocalist - and Leach and company nailed them all.
Not only is guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz a great musician (and producer, to boot), but the seemingly boundless energy he brings to the stage never ceases to amaze me. Scantily clad in his signature short shorts, Dutkiewicz could be found running back and forth on the stage - literally - throughout the set. He also ventured into the audience during "Fixation on the Darkness" and played half of "Life to Lifeless" with a beer bottle in hand. It's impossible to tell if his antics are meant to keep himself, the band or the crowd entertained, but it works on all three levels. He and Leach both expressed their appreciation for the audience, the band's supportive fanbase and the Massachusetts music scene.
It was a bit strange to see thrash metal legends Testament so low on a bill, especially considering they inspired (perhaps indirectly) the bands playing after them. Aside from the abridged time, however, nothing about their set felt like that of a support band. They showed no signs of age as they plowed through 40 minutes of breakneck thrash. Even the stage had a larger-than-life feel, with skull-embossed pentagrams atop the amps, intense strobe lights and tons of smoke.
Female-fronted metal band Huntress warmed the crowd up with an opening set. Vocalist Jill Janus took the stage like a hellcat. A standout of the set came in the form of "I Want to Fuck You to Death," a song co-written by Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister. The band's van was in an accident a week prior, so it was good to see them unphased. Between this tour and an opening slot for Danzig earlier this year, Huntress have proved themselves as a band to watch.
The tour wraps up today, so hopefully you caught a show when it came through your area. For my money, it's one of the best metal line-ups of the year. I wouldn't expect any less from Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God; they've been at the top of the genre for a decade now and show no signs of leaving the throne any time soon.