So, to make up for the kind of lame night of metalcore the week before last, here's a review of a solid night of killer metal (and metalcore). Although none of these are among my favorite bands, I knew that Lamb of God would put on an intense show, and both the openers had things going for them that made me curious to see them, so this promised to be a solid night.
I thought the Ram's Head website said Decapitated was going on first, so we were surprised to see The Acacia Strain come out out just a few minutes after we got to the venue (they started 15 minutes late, though). I had been hoping to see them live for some time, cause they are quite heavy and brutal (and that's pretty much all they are.) Their sound was very low and heavy, a churning maelstrom. The first song was basically like one
long breakdown, slow, crushingly heavy, the vocals kind of in the background. The vocals were utterly incomprehensible anyway (which I don't mind; I read some of their song lyrics a year or two ago and then decided I didn't want to know what their songs are about). Every couple of songs, the singer would go on a half-intelligible rant, telling us things like, "Don't hate yourself; hate everyone else," and "There's too much positivity going on in music today." I thought they were good as an opener - a nice heavy start to the evening - but I don't think they would have held my interest for a headline-length set. I started to get bored of the plodding heavy parts where they weren't doing anything besides being really heavy. They had a very few different moments like a few seconds of melodic guitar (omg, a solo?!) or increased tempo, but mostly it was just constant breakdown (ironically, a guy near us in a shirt that said "No breakdowns...no karate..." etc was bobbing his head during the breakdowniness).
So Polish technical death metal band Decapitated had the second slot, of which I was glad - I would much rather hear more of them than TAS. My first introduction to Decapitated was hearing "404" on the radio about a year ago, and I did not dig it at all. But I mean, they're from Poland, the land of Behemoth and Unsun, so I figured I must be missing something, and got intrigued at the prospect of seeing them live. Turned out they were great. Their guitar work and drumming was very complex, but still groovy enough for headbanging. I am pretty picky about drumming, but I enjoyed the unpredictable drum rhythms in their songs (the thing I hate most in metal is nonstop banging on the same drum over and over). Even "404" sounded good (I didn't realize what song it was at first because the singer called it "Four hundred and four" and I didn't hear the last word clearly; I've always thought of it as "four-oh-four"). The strange rhythms and guitar squeals that I found so grating when I first heard it were not as prominent. Overall, their sound was a thick, nonstop barrage peppered with fast rhythms, so it was a good thing they paused every few songs and we got a breather. I didn't really notice any solos, except for one short one that was rather slow and atmospheric. The singer was stalking about the stage, throwing about his Chris Barnes-esque dreads, and sometimes doing a repeated cobra-like motion that made me think he was spitting on the crowd. Obviously, I never saw the original Decapitated live, so I can't say how they compare to that, but they certainly sounded heavy and technically capable. And since I've seen Lamb of God before, Decapitated was the gem of the night - the performance that really made it worth it.
After an "intermission" where decades-old movie theater commercials for popcorn and corn dogs were shown on screens on the stage, Lamb of God came out thundering. They also delivered a solid set - I realized that I actually know a lot of their songs, at least the popular ones. Their guitar riffs are aggressive yet accessible, like a cleaned up version of thrash riffs, and Randy's low vocals and the thundering bass bring a bit of death metal brutality. We got much closer this time than last time at the Fillmore - we were about five rows back, but off to the left, off the actual floor and nearer the bar. Which was fine - we could still see great, and didn't get caught in the meatgrinder that was the jam-packed floor (if the show wasn't sold out, it was pretty damn close - B market be damned). Randy called for moshing a couple times and seemed impressed by the crowd-surfing wheelchair guy, which cued us in that he wasn't the one behind the "No moshing" and "No crowdsurfing" signs at the venue. The venue didn't seem to intend on enforcing this policy either, because wheelchair guy crowdsurfed to the front no less than three times.
They put on an intense show, delivering a fine-tuned aggressive sound, with great energy - Randy was running around the stage - and with strong, roving lights and videos on the aforementioned screens adding to the effect. Some of the videos seemed familiar from last time, such as the animated one for "Ghost Walking," but some seemed new, such as the one for "Now You've got Something to Die For," which showed photos of their fans in the armed forces (of course they dedicated that song to servicemembers like usual). During the encore, the drummer from Decapitated (they called him "Polish Pauly" and kept flashing the image of his face on the screens in front of a Polish flag) played a song with them.
I think I enjoyed seeing them even more this time than last. The sound was better - we could hear the vocals more clearly - and being closer to the stage, we could see the band a lot better. S discovered later that they actually played the same setlist as in the fall, and we found out later that their tour last year hit the "A" markets, since they were not sure how long they would have Randy, and now that he's back they did a tour of the "B" markets. Nice to know that bands consider Washington, DC an important market - now if only tours like Helloween and Godflesh would hit it up!
Next show: Maybe Holy Grail on 7/1 or maybe Amaranthe on 7/18. We shall see.