This year brought the heavy metal scene a treat, one of the most exciting tours of the year featuring Behemoth, Lamb of God and Slayer. Three completely different metal bands from different parts of the world that have all made their own mark on the genre and the music world. The tour made its way to NYC at Madison Square Garden on July 27th.
Opening up the early show were Behemoth from Gdańsk, Poland. Formed by members Ptryk “Seth” Sztyber on guitar and backing vocals, Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski on bass and backing vocals, Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński on drums and Adam “Nergal” Darski on lead vocals and guitar. Although Behemoth has gone through various lineup changes, Adam “Nergal” Darski has remained the one sole original member of the band. Behemoth has acquired a following and developed a strong presence in the controversial metal subgenre, black metal, dating back to their inception in 1991.
Credited with being one of the first bands to establish the Polish extreme metal scene, their significance in the history of the sub-genre has not been forgotten and continues to expand to newer generations and fans of heavy metal music. Their latest album The Satanist was released in 2014 via Nuclear Blast and was met with acclaim from publications such as Loudwire and Pitchfork. The album shows a growth in songwriting, exploring the many critiques of religion that are often present in black metal.
Although my personal knowledge of their material from the early days is absent, the reviews and comments from die-hard fans I’ve read and heard all point to Behemoth as being one of the artists to stand out the most under the larger heavy metal umbrella. Their theatrical shows, their makeup, their costumes, the holy water; all if it adds to an already energetic performance in part of the band. The audience members, who age in the range of older parents to younger teenagers all seem to understand the music for more than what black metal is considered to be exteriorly. What speaks to them is the overall aggression the music is conveying, not so much the lyrical content. Yes sure, there are those who follow the band for their occult affiliations, but they aren’t all that you will see in the audience or the stage.
Having seen them play twice before over the last two years (this being my third), I know firsthand that a Behemoth show is a promised experience of raw emotion and aggression. It never dissapoints. As Behemoth often does, they opened up the show with the aggressive “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifier”, which kicks off with the perfect melody to start up a chant in the crowd. Playing through tracks from The Satanist and older songs dating back to their debut Satanica (1999), the short setlist was enough for the audience to feed on until Lamb of God hit the stage.
While Behemoth brought Polish black metal along with lots of its history, Lamb of God would bring a modern take on the heavy metal genre. Considered to be one of the most successful heavy metal bands to ever exist, Lamb of God gives the headliners a strong competition.
Lamb of God has solidified its place in heavy metal history not only due to their musicianship, but for also becoming one of the most favored and loved within the genre. Their albums have done what very few heavy metal bands have been able to do: pushed real heavy metal back into the mainstream. Lamb of God has received three Grammy nominations, earned one album that has been certified gold and is continuously booked as one of the main headliners for major music festivals such as Download, Sonisphere, and Mayhem. They are considered to be one of the most important artists of the New wave of American heavy metal.
Lamb of God consists of Randy Blythe on vocals, Willie Adler on rhythm guitar, Mark Morton on lead guitar, John Campbell on bass and Chris Adler on drums. The guys all met while attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia and were originally called Burn The Priest. They released their first self-titled album under that name in 1999, which helped ink them a deal with Prosthetic Records. New American Gospel was released in 2000 and received immediate critical acclaim. Combining musical elements of grove and death metal, New American Gospel put Lamb of God in the scene as an emerging new metal band to look out for.
Their second album (under the name Lamb of God) As the Palaces Burn grounded Lamb of God under the groove metal sub-genre. Produced by Lamb of God and Devin Townsend, As The Palaces Burn did away with a lot of the death metal influences heard in the first album, and features a slowed down aggressive sound that would become Lamb of God’s signature. Their third release Ashes of the Wake, released via Epic Records in 2004, debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200, a rarity for metal bands to accomplish. It is praised as one of the best metal album releases and has been certified gold.
Sacrament (2006) and Wrath (2009) continued the exploration of groove metal within a modern context, while their sixth studio release Resolution (2012) began a new era for the band as they expanded to sounds outside of the groove metal sub-genre. Resolution saw a new addition of metalcore elements to their catalog. Their latest release VII: Sturm and Drang (2015) displaying an entirely new side to the band, such as Blythe’s clean vocals, marking yet another turn for the band. Like many other artists who change their sound from heavy to softer melodies, Lamb of God has begun to explore a new, unheard side of their career. It’s questionable how much longer Lamb of God will be around, considering past statements by Blythe in which he discusses his unwillingness to continue into his later years. Their shift in sound may also indicate their exploration into their older, heavier sound may be over.
With a 45 minute set, which is relatively short, it’s a question how much longer the boys will continue in the game. Regardless of future plans and the love/hate response they’ve received on their latest musical change, it’s clear at every live performance that their fans are loyal to them no matter what. Lamb of God will continue to rely on the support of their fans who continue to make them one of the most successful acts within metal.
As for Slayer, their fame and impact is felt as soon as the name is said. Even if you are not familiar with heavy metal, chances are you’ve heard the name. Of course, with the new trend of wearing band t-shirts as a fashion statement, you’ve probably seen their logo being worn around. Truth is, the band is more than a logo. They’re more than a genre. They’re part of music history, one that continues to influence musicians within and around heavy metal.
Formed in 1981 in Huntington Park, California, original members Tom Araya (vocals), Kerry King (guitar), Jeff Hanneman (guitar), and Dave Lombardo (drums) came together and through their underground music impressed Brian Slagel, creator of the then new Metal Blade Records. Their 1983 debut Show No Mercy was fully self-funded and although critiqued for its poor production, it became Metal Blade’s best selling release and spawned off some of Slayers best known songs. In 1986, Reign in Blood proved their significance in the heavy metal world, helping to define the 80s thrash metal sound. It was their first collaboration with producer Rick Rubin and their first release on Def Jam records. Reign in Blood also helped catapult the band into the mainstream, with the album peaking at number 94 on the Billboard 200 charts and certified gold in 1992.
Their third release Reign in Blood developed some of their most recognizable material (“Raining Blood”, “Angel of Death”, “Aggressive Perfector”), displaying their aggressive thrash signature. Their fourth album South of Heaven (1988) took a new direction and developed some of their slower paced material. Songs like the opening track “South of Heaven” display the tone of the entire album: slower tempo’s, clearer vocals. Their fifth release Seasons in the Abyss (1990) was the last of their prime era in the late 80s to early 90s. It was also the final studio album to feature drummer Dave Lombardo until a later release in the mid 2000s.
Slayer’s most well known material and what is often played on live appearances is mostly the work produce during this era of their career. Their impact on heavy metal and their membership to the big four of thrash has carried on over decades and generations, influencing new musicians in and out of metal. The distinct sound of Slayer within thrash has shown to be an influence in the sound of recent bands like Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying and Bullet for My Valentine. Although the death of Jeff Hanneman in 2013 left a void that’s irreplaceable in Slayer, their continuous attempt to continue the bands history is admirable. The band may not ever be what it was in it’s prime, but they are continue to be respected for their impact in music. The sold out crowd and their ability to sing along to every song proves that Slayer’s importance has not faded away over the years and they are still recognized as one of the greatest bands in the genre nearly 40 years later.
Lamb of God: