Lamb of God
by: Paul Piazza
Lamb of God rocks the Fox, but COC pulls off the night’s biggest surprise
There was a palpable buzz in the air as people began heading into the Fox Theatre in Oakland the night before Memorial Day. The Lamb of God/Clutch/Corrosion of Conformity triple-header had intrigued many heavy music lovers for some time. Anticipation was high. The trio of groups had joined up for a wildly successful tour run that had just killed at the legendary Red Rocks a few night’s earlier. Each of the bands was on a high of it’s own.
Lamb of God (L.O.G.), having fully recovered from the potentially devastating situation with frontman Randy Blythe in Prague, had released a wildly acclaimed album called VII:Sturm and Drang. The track “512” had been nominated for a Grammy and they were in the midst of a very successful tour.
Maryland rockers Clutch, who have been aptly described as “the quintessential American rock band,” have been on a roll as well. The band’s latest album Psychic Warfare, which they released on their own record label, had entered the billboard charts at #11.
Meanwhile, Corrosion of Conformity (C.O.C.) had recently welcomed Pepper Keenan back into the fold after touring as a trio for a while. Keenan had been spending most of the previous decade with Down. C.O.C. were prepped to do a set that featured much of their strong work with Keenan from the 90’s. There was also a rumor going around that one of the members of Metallica, who is good friends with Keenan, would come out and join them for a jam.
C.O.C. opened up with the doomy track “Bottom Feeder (El que come abajo)” and things were set in motion for a heavier than hell set. Drummer Reed Mullin set the pace with his pounding work behind the kit and guitarist Woody Weatherman rocked the sleeveless work shirt like nobody’s business. On the other side of the stage bassist Mike Dean was working hard, thrusting his bass towards the overwhelmed and happy Fox rail riders. In the middle of it all, Keenan was all New Orleans swagger.
By the fourth song things had gotten pretty worked up on the stage. Then the band took this opportunity pull their ace card out and bring Metallica’s James Hetfield onto the stage.
After the crowd got over the initial shock, a frenzy kicked in as Mullin rolled into the beginning of “Seven Days” and Hetfield, Keenan and Weatherman wailed into one of the dirtiest guitar riffs of the 90’s. Keenan handled most of the vocals, but Hetfield lent him a hand on the brutal chorus echoing Keenan’s “Spike right through my head!” Most agreed-it pretty damn EPIC. Later in the set the band played another grinder, the broad winged riffer “Albatross.”
Clutch was up next and came out ripping with a couple of their recent tracks from “Psychic Warfare.” Vocalist Neil Fallon was in top form, stalking the stage and gesturing with his hands like a manic Italian storyteller at the dinner table in his unique swaggering style. He relies on rhythm more than pitch and his movements give make each tune come alive. Meanwhile, guitarist Tim Sult, who plays with a raw aesthetic, is one of the most concise players in the land. He plays catchy riffs that resonate with potency and when he applies vibrato, the Earth trembles.
By the third song, the group had settled in and surprised with the rarely played track “Sea of Destruction” which was a grinder that fit right into the night’s theme. Later in their set, came another big surprise as C.O.C’s Keenan joined Clutch for the legendary intergalactic tripper “Spacegrass.” As Fallon created the universe the song is built upon like a staggering poet, Clutch, Sult and Keenan traded feedback barbs until the song launched full-tilt into one of the heaviest face melters on record.
Without giving the crowd much time to recover from that one, Clutch then launched into the go-go vibed “D.C. Sound Attack!” which had their exceptional drummer Jean-Paul Gaster setting up a groove over the percussive break in the middle of the song Jean-Paul Gaster while Fallon vibed away on a cowbell and Sult and bassist Dan Maines chewed up the rhythms. Needless to say, the crowd was warmed up and ready for L.O.G to hit the stage.
Lamb of God came out giving 110% and never let up. From the opener “Ruin” to the closer “Redneck,” the band was firing on all cylinders. Drummer Chris Adler had a particularly impressive show. The drummer, who recently began splitting time between L.O.G. and Megadeth, has evolved into one of the most renowned players of his time. His amazing dexterity and footwork are a sight to behold.
Vocalist Randy Blythe, who was also in top form, gave props to the influence of Bay Area thrash metal on he and his bandmates. The singer had gone through a particularly challenging period a few years ago. During a show in Prague in 2010, he had shoved a 19 year-old fan who had jumped onto the stage and the young man fell badly and sustained fatal injuries. When the band returned two years later, he was charged with manslaughter and put in custody. Blythe was ultimately not held liable during a trial in 2013, but the incident was a challenging time for everyone involved.
But after the success of VII: Sturm and Drang, the band, who have been together since 1994, seem poised to rise up the ranks of metal again. Guitarists John Morton and Willie Adler tore it up while bassist John Campbell held down the groove. The trio raced along as Adler set tempos than ran at breakneck speed and slammed it on home many amazing breakdowns with catchy licks filling the spaces in between. They are one tight bunch.
While the band’s dramatic music and visuals often explore the horrors of the world (violence, nuclear threats, human suffering), the band also honored veterans with images of troops during a couple of songs on this Memorial Day evening.
During the show, a fan in the balcony Face-timed a couple of Lamb of God’s songs to a buddy who is stationed overseas. That was a good thing to see, because this night at the Fox turned out to be an unforgettable one.