Author: Lana Harris
The afternoon brought with it dark clouds that took away the light but not the heat, and those of us wrapped in black shuffled through the cyclone wire fence that surrounds Riverstage dripping with something a bit more corporeal than anticipation.
High on Fire began as soon as the gates opened, which meant they finished while I was still trying to fuel up on full strength beer before entering Riverstage’s mid-strength terrain. High on Fire are rumoured to have a huge sound, structurally destructive to smaller venues, and I had been keen to watch that sound explode in the open air of Riverstage. But with four bands scheduled, and only four hours to fit them in before Riverstage’s 10pm curfew, I should have known better.
Shadows Fall were second up, and put on a short, powerful set which showcased the blistering guitar solos the band are known for.
Brian Fair (vocals) was in constant motion across the stage, fist pumping, throwing his lyrics across the crowd, and swinging those dreads (that fall to his knees naturally) into a windmill capable of generating enough electricity to power the whole tour, if only that energy could be captured. When he stopped circling the hair, he’d circle his mike, drawing hypnotic loops above his banging head, and at one point it came upon him to run the gauntlet between the audience and the stage after humping and devil horning behind one of the guitarists. There was a tribute to Dimebag with about a minute’s worth of Pantera’s ‘A New Level’ (I thought we were going to get a cover, damn!), with the show’s finale Fair inciting the crowd to replicate a moment Shadows Fall had first created in Russia, with the audience chanting, ‘Shadow mother fucking god damn fall!’
DevilDriver, by contrast, demonstrated their work hard, play hard philosophy by getting up and ramming through a punishing set with little banter and even less antics, letting the music drive the show. The relentless pummelling of the drums by John Boecklin and guttural growls of Dez Fafara smacked the audience in the face on tracks from their latest album such as Fate Stepped In and the title track, Pray for Villains.
The hillside was full and the mosh pit deep by the time Lamb of God took the stage. They opened instrumental, showered by a light show casting multi coloured beams across the stage, mimicking stained glass. The whole stage resembled a cathedral, with Chris Adler and his drum kit perched a level above the rest of the stage like an altar above the preacher. Randy Blythe (vocals) quickly had the crowd singing the choruses for ‘Walk With me in Hell’ and ‘Now you got Something to die for’, thrusting the mike into the crowd as he strode across the stage. An ever growing circle pit of tattooed black spiralled in front of him. Lamb of God drew heavily from their back catalogue, with the warped morality of ‘Omerta’, victim’s tirade ‘Laid to Rest’, and ‘Ruin’ baring their teeth amongst newer tracks from the 2009 album Wrath.
Lamb of God was here (as were Devildriver) only ten months ago for Soundwave; they blew a speaker stack half way through the set. There’s a chasm between that show and this one. This time the speakers stay intact, the sound mix allows the syncopation the band favours on certain tracks to be revealed, and Adler’s rhythmic assault is particularly emphasised. Playing tight and complex, Lamb of God demonstrated why they’re synonymous with the forefront of American Metal.
They played solidly for over an hour, winding up the show with ‘Redneck’, the Grammy nominated single off 2007’s Sacrament, and classic ‘Black Label’. Blythe berates the audience for only losing two shoes to the stage, and the crowd responds by chucking at least 100 shoes at the band as they thrash through the final song. Blythe leaves the stage chuckling, incredulous and impressed by the audience’s offering. Right back at ya, Blythe.