Lamb of God/Trivium/Machine Head/Gojira in Washington D.C.

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, April 3, 2007 @ 4:49 PM

At the 9:30 Club

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It’s usually a good sign when you can feel a band before you can hear them — especially when said band is the first act on a four-band bill that included Lamb of God, Trivium and Machine Head. And as I turned the corner on U Street to make my way to Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club at 9th and V, there was a distinct rumble underfoot courtesy of French heavyweights Gojira. It wasn’t until halfway up the block that the band’s massive wall of sound actually became audible. By the time I got to the door, which was wide-open on this warm spring evening, it was positively deafening. Felt bad for the guy in the will-call booth, who actually seemed to be wincing as the band pounded away — even though they’d been on for all of five minutes.

But while the whole show didn’t quite deliver on the imposing promise Gojira initially presented — Machine Head’s set was disjointed and downright sloppy, whereas Trivium were just tedious — it was definitely a punishing evening overall that left ears ringing and ribs, among other things, aching. Gojira are positioning themselves to be underground metal’s next rising stars. The band’s American debut, From Mars To Sirius, was one of 2006’s most inventive albums, and on this their second tour of the states, they were mesmerizing, easily winning over the capacity crowd with their enthusiasm, effortlessness and sheer volume. Their bastard fusion of furious Morbid Angel-style death metal, Rammstein-y industrial pummel and Rush-like progressive flair was all the more astonishing live, with frontman Joe Duplantier’s infectious, carefree personality proving that extreme music can also be pretty damn fun.

By contrast, Oakland’s Machine Head were surprisingly sluggish and never seemed to really get it in gear. Truth be told, they deserved a higher slot on the bill, if not by sheer virtue of their history but because their magnificent new album The Blackening was due to drop the next day. A half-hour set following a hurried changeover is almost an insult. And by opening with The Blackening’s 10-minute-plus anthem “Clenching The Fists of Dissent,” it doesn’t leave much time to build momentum — especially when the set totals all of five songs. Even so, that’s no excuse for Machine Head not being in sync — and their timing was a wee bit off throughout, perhaps a side effect of frontman <>Robb Flynn’s incessant crowd baiting. And though the band was usually quick to recover, they were a far cry from the well-honed metal machine they proved themselves to be on their Elegies DVD. Be interesting to see how much tighter and determined they’d be in a headlining situation.

Florida’s Trivium are a mystery to me. Their debut, The Ascendancy, was a thrash metal revelation. But their latest album, The Crusade, may as easily have been titled The Cliché with its Metallica idol worship and arena-rock pretentions. Live they are probably the closest thing there is to a speed metal boy band: hunky dudes with lots of fancy gear that are all swinging hair, well-studied poses and flashy solos. In other words, all show and no substance. The act wore thin quickly on the 9:30 crowd who perhaps, like me, were expecting something a bit more genuine and who, by the end, were just glad to see them go.

As they hail from two hours south of D.C. in Richmond, this was the closest thing Lamb of God had to a hometown show on this tour. And like Gojira, they gave it all they had on this evening, and delivered an absolutely crushing performance.

The last time I saw them at the 9:30 was a Halloween night like six years ago when they opened for Gwar on a stage draped in plastic wrap. Singer Randy Blythe was wearing a cast on the arm he broke after drunkenly falling out a window and he freaked everyone out by continually mimicking a shotgun suicide. On this night there was no need for accoutrements or bizarre antics.

With Blythe having emerged as one of metal’s most commanding, and iron-lunged frontmen, and the band developing an intensity and aggression that recalls Pantera in their prime from years of constant touring, Lamb of God, simply put, is the shit live.

Theirs is the real deal: hairy, ugly, sweaty and loud as fuck. And the band’s laid-back, good ole Southern boy presence — the rat-on-crack Blythe, excepting — made it seem like they weren’t even trying, which is a scary thought.

Lamb of God’s 80-minute set was a full-on thrash metal beat-down that highlighted much of the recent Sacrament album — “Walk With Me In Hell” and “Redneck,” with Duplantier joining in for the “this is your motherfucking invitation” chorus lines, were immense — and was capped by the “wall of death” finale “Black Label” to give everyone some fresh bruises to take home with them. Thanks guys.

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