Lamb of God in Washington D.C.

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, November 19, 2009 @ 10:34 AM

At 9:30 Club

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Though looking a bit haggard from a two-month, 50-date run alternating headline club shows and opening slots in arenas and enormo-domes with Metallica - which capped a solid year of touring - Lamb of God nevertheless came to D.C. loaded for bear and provided 80 minutes of "pure American metal" that left everyone feeling a bit battered when it was over.

Boasting a bigger production than one generally sees at the 9:30 Club - with a rig of seizure-inducing strobes, twirling Vari-Lights and elaborate backdrops - and pegging the P.A. volume to a consistent 10, the band brought an arena-sized sensibility with them, yet wisely dodged the arena-ready clichés of rote singalongs, ceaseless crowd-baiting or tedious solos. With mad-dog frontman Randy Blythe leading the charge, Lamb of God were nothing short of punishing and, for the most part, unrelenting, only occasionally gearing down for "Omerta" and "Reclamation" before blasting off again.

Guitarist Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell seemed the most roadworn and weary - to quote The Supersuckers - and stayed rooted in their spots stage right, but that hardly mattered. As Blythe stalked the stage with guitarist Mark Morton - a bit fresher than the others after taking most of the summer off after his wife had a baby - and drummer Chris Adler kicked out beats like a Gatling gunner, the energy never ebbed. And Adler and Campbell certainly played just as hard, movement or no.

The crowd was certainly into it from the get-go, hollering lines from the furious openers "In Your Own Words" and "Set to Fail" and the thundering chorus of "Walk With Me In Hell" with little prompting from Blythe, who later barked about how much he enjoyed these off-date club shows because " I can see all you motherfuckers." He could hear them tonight as well, for sure.

Not surprisingly, Lamb of God drew the bulk of the set from their latest effort, Wrath, but the blistering "Grace," "Contractor" and "Dead Seeds" sounding right at home amid the more seasoned "Now You've Got Something to Die For," "Ashes of the Wake" and "Laid to Rest" with its concussive breakdown. The best, however, came last, as the band wrapped up the main set with the epic "Reclamation" that was transformed from something almost Skynyrd-esque on disc to a metal behemoth onstage thanks to Adler and Morton's hulking, heaving riffs. Awesome.

After "Redneck," the pit parted for the obligatory "wall of death" and slammed together with gusto when the band ripped into "Black Label," which closed the proceedings in brutally fine fashion. Even at less than 100 percent, Lamb of God brought it with an abandon few other bands of their ilk can match. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Wednesday evening.

D.C. thrash-core vets Darkest Hour got things started with an energetic, though terse set that had frontman Joe Henry whipping up circle pits and imploring the crowd to "mosh so hard, someone gets pregnant." Yet despite the fact that these guys are longtime buds of Lamb of God, and were playing a hometown gig, Darkest Hour got a measly half-hour to do their thing and were really just getting going when the set came to a quick end.

But between the venomous thrash of "The Sadist Nation" and the anthemic "Demon(s)" and "No God" that showcased the tandem guitar histrionics of Mike Carrigan and Schleibaum, Darkest Hour made the most of the time they had and delivered the goods with an authority that certainly warranted another 15 minutes or so. Next time, perhaps.

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