Live Review: Lamb of God - O2 Academy, Birmingham
10th March 2023
Support: Municipal Waste, Kreator
Words: Matt Noble
Photos: Tim Finch
Municipal Waste are first on. Their Anthrax-style party thrash is a fun start to the night, and with a gnarly, punchy guitar attack led by Tony’s snarling vocals, the first circle pits of the night get up and running very quickly after the start of opening track ‘Demoralizer’. The energy through the room - onstage as well as on the floor - is crazy, particularly as ‘Breathe Grease’, the first real high-octane number of the night, receives an intense reception. As one of nu-thrash’s biggest exports, it’s not even been six months since they were last in this room, but they are welcomed back raucously.
‘High Speed Steel’ gets the crowd ‘woah’ing back in response, and ‘Wave of Death’ has crowdsurfers galore at the band’s request - so it is assuring to see Tony Foresta appreciate the graft of the security afterwards. Stood near the back for most of the set, then going in for a mosh for closing number ‘Born to Party’, I see two sides to the crowd tonight - away from the front, the audience are either fist-pumping and chanting along or completely disinterested, while the crazed devotees are some of the wildest pitters you’ll ever meet. Nevertheless, Municipal Waste earned their high-profile support slots after bringing crossover thrash to a new generation, and their set of short, sharp, beer-chugging bangers is a lively start to the night.
‘Run to the Hills’ blasts over the PA, getting the crowd warmed up again after a brief interlude between sets, then Kreator launch without hesitation into the super-thrashy, super-fast ‘Hate Uber Alles’. They bring such an intense and angry energy with them, that the crowd can barely keep up at times. The shredding from Mille and Sami is astonishingly tight. It’s an effective tool, though, that they switch up the aggressive material with plenty of groovy numbers, making the faster tunes come across even more intensely when they do bust them out.
With those epic, uplifting numbers flanked by the violent and aggressive ragers, it’s an hour of true Teutonic thrash glory. ‘Hail to the Hordes’ has a nice melodic undercurrent and the tolling bell for ‘Satan is Real’ is powerful. There’s quite a few references to the Devil throughout their set, which maybe feels outdated by now, but Kreator wouldn’t care less - they’re here to inflame their fans with unapologetically old-school thrash metal, and the loud swarm chanting their band name and clapping along is the living proof of how legendary they really are. Kreator are good with the stage visuals, such as the chilling impaled figures on the wings, or Mille’s ‘Flag of Hate’ for the crushingly intense track to go with it. The iconic tom intro for closing song ‘Pleasure to Kill’ reverberates through the room for one final frenzied pit, and then they leave with the last snare hit ringing out like a gunshot. Legendary.
‘Get your metal horns in the air!’, shouts Randy Blythe, mid-’Ruin’, the headliners’ second song. The room is already absolutely wild and virtually hasn’t stopped moving since the Lamb of God’s intro tape began to play. No, Randy probably didn’t need to do that, but that’s part of why he’s such a commanding and effective frontman, one of the best of his generation, one of the best in all metal, one-fifth of one of the best live bands you’ll see in 2023. Randy is happy to stop a song for an injured mosh pitter to ensure their safety - I remember something similar happening at this very venue when they toured with Megadeth in 2015. I can’t explain what it is about Lamb of God that seems to awaken the most primal instincts in the room full of metalheads tonight, and most nights. At one point, I can see at least five circle pits going in the room simultaneously, and the amount of beer and cider being lobbed around the venue in such a carefree way would probably knock out an elephant.
There’s plenty of highlights. The red light over ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ is really cool, creating a visual element that’s indeed very hellish. ‘Contractor’, from the criminally underrated ‘Wrath’, has a juxtaposition of thrashy speed and sludgy breakdowns to really dictate the energy in the room. I admit that I don’t know the last two Lamb of God albums so well - my tastes have evolved since they released the one before that - but ‘Resurrection Man’ from the self-titled record absolutely crushes, with some glorious groovy riffing in a lower guitar register to the band’s usual. ‘Omens’ also rouses a huge response, particularly from a legion of fans near to me who are a generation younger to myself. Of course, the classics such as ‘Omerta’ and ‘11th Hour’ open up the room, with pits going even wider than where the balconies are. Almost half the set comes from ‘As The Palaces Burn’ and ‘Ashes of the Wake’, but is anyone complaining? We’re really quite lucky to witness two of the most recent Bloodstock Festival headliners on the same bill, and the sold-out venue reflects this.
Lamb of God are as tight and solid as a live unit as you’d expect by now, but Randy Blythe’s presence at the front really is the cherry on the cake. When ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ is paused for the injured crowdmember, he’s unruffled, poking fun at British English words such as ‘quid’ or ‘wanker’. He acknowledges the three year wait between the initial planned date - which would have had Power Trip and the late Riley Gale open proceedings. The famous musical heritage of Birmingham is paid tribute to, and he forces the crowd to sing half a line of ‘War Pigs’ before closing song ‘Redneck’ is performed. Some bands, you feel, play the same show every night, polished down to every last sentence. Randy allows his dry wit to come out, even jokingly comparing the viciously cold British weather outside to be almost as miserable as his time in prison, which birthed latter-day classic ‘512’. It’s hard to imagine the band being as beloved and successful without his ability to lead a performance, without his intelligent lyrics, without his distinct vocal snarl.
By now you know what Lamb of God are going to deliver when they perform, and deliver they certainly do.