Lamb Of God / Decapitated / Huntress Hot

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Lamb Of God / Decapitated / Huntress - Guildhall, Southhampton (UK) - 12 January 2014

My reason for being here on Fireworks/Rocktopia duty was for the Iron Maiden inspired Huntress. But to be honest, I would probably have come anyway to see the modern heavyweights Lamb Of God.

Jill Janus, front-woman extraordinaire of Huntress is an amazingly determined, vibrant and sophisticated intellectual who embodies total purity when it comes to looking after herself. No Rock ‘n’ Roll debauchery or excess for this smart lady, and when she talks, you listen. Huntress have been on the scene since 2009 when the New York native relocated to Los Angeles and met the band ‘Professor’. After the usual member merry-go-round, Huntress are currently Janus on vocals, band manager and lead guitarist Blake Meahl on lead guitar, former rhythm guitarist Ian Alden on bass, and my namesake Carl Wierzbicky who has been on drums since 2010. For live purposes they’re currently utilising a friend of theirs called Jordan Ryan at the rhythm guitar position.

They opened with ‘Senicide’ from their debut album ‘Spell Eater’ the chunky riffing and ballsy bass and drums came driving out of the speakers and then Janus started singing and it was immediately obvious why a lot has been written about her vocals as she has incredible power and delivery, going from growls to screams much like Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow. ‘Destroy Your Life’ from recently released ‘Starbound Beast’ was next up with its Maiden styled intro. Janus’ growl–like vocals throughout this mid-paced song mixed with some guttural screaming really got the audiences’ attention, whilst Blake pulled out a decent, interesting solo. The heavy title track of debut album was again a mid-paced song with some old school Thrash guitar playing that the front row audience really got into and then Janus announced they are going to play a song that was co-written with Lemmy Kilmister – ‘I Want To Fuck You To Death’ which was also from their new album. Its galloping riff is not too dissimilar to Motorhead but also in keeping with Maiden albeit with a melodic chorus. Their short set was rounded out with the driving fast-paced and melodic ‘Zenith’ from ‘... Beast’ and then the song that got them noticed via its video ‘Eight Of Swords’ – it opened with Janus’ extended guttural scream before a typical pounding rhythm and Metal stylised riffing with Janus’ by now familiar growl-like singing. Throughout the show, Janus had crouched down with her arms extended in order to deliver the guttural screams and this made for a very unusual sight, but the Death Metal die-hards in the audience, some who may already have been familiar with Huntress, really took to them.

I must admit I didn’t know too much about Decapitated apart from having heard a few songs and being intrigued that they were from Poland. I was however familiar with their tragic story. Band leader and guitarist Waclaw Kieltyka lost his twenty-three year old band-mate and drummer brother Witold when their tour bus was involved in an accident with a truck in late 2007 that also caused vocalist Adrian Kowanek to end up in a coma from which he’s making a slow recovery but hasn’t sung since. They were also involved in a Polish airplane crash landing when the landing gear failed.

The re-formed band now comprises of Kieltyka, vocalist Rafal Piotrowski, ex Vader drummer Pawel Jaroszewicz (who was absent for this tour) and bassist Filip Halucha who’s still a member of Polish Symphonic Black Metal band Vesania.

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As Decapitated arrived on stage, my attention was drawn to their mast head which read ‘From Pain To Strength’; no doubt a reference to the bands past experiences. Their brand of technical Death Metal was a warm-up for the real heavyweights although they showed what a powerhouse band they are. From a mellow opening intro they were soon into an incredible intensity with stand-in Michal Lysejko’s furious double bass drumming, and the whole sound was at times brutal. Vocalist Piotrowski patrolled the stage, wrenching deep growls from within his chest, dreadlocks whirling furiously, Kieltyka and Jaroszewicz head-banged away whilst laying down some furious riffs; this was technical Death Metal at its purest and finest. Kieltyka’s soloing was exceedingly intricate but his playing was almost lost in the wall of sound if you didn’t pay attention but there were some neat subtle time changes amidst all the heavy intensity. Final song was very Slayer like in its structural nature as it built its intensity to pummel the audience into absolute surrender. Time for a sit down after Decapitated had laid to waste the Southampton audience.

Enough has been said about Lamb Of God vocalist Randy Blythe’s moral responsibility in the death of a fan at their Prague concert in 2010, suffice to say he’s a different person since that incident but he hasn’t let it affect his intense performance on stage. With Lamb Of God being one of the new wave of powerhouse American bands gaining a worldwide reputation and doing great business commercially they are here to assert their growing dominance in the Heavy Metal field. They began with their second single from latest album ‘Resolution’ and seemed to allow their audience to build up to a fever pitch with controlled aggression from Blythe, metronomic riffing from Between The Buried And Me’s guitarist Paul Waggoner (founding guitarist Mark Morton was absent due to family reasons) and Willie Adler and technical drumming from Willie’s founding brother Chris, whilst fellow founding member bassist John Campbell got a meaty rumble sound that came from the backline.

Turning it up a notch with ‘Ghost Walking’ with some fluid soloing, Blythe was growling with ferocity into his mic as the heavy dark rhythm rumbled around the Guildhall’s walls. ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ from 2006’s ‘Sacrament’ was suitably heavy with its melodic undertow and ‘Hourglass’ with its technical riffing was pretty intense.

There was an interesting aside as Blythe quipped that it was nice to be kicking off the tour in Southampton as he grew up in Southampton County, West Virginia.

‘Set To Fail’ with its machine gun drumming, the sub-Slayer ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’ with Blythe spitting the words out and ‘The Undertow’, also from latest album ‘Resolution’ (again featuring incredible technical drumming from Chris Adler and heavy as fuck riffs from Waggoner and Adler with Campbell’s bass resonating around the hall) were next up. The chugging riffs of ‘Omerta’ signalled the first mosh pit of the night (sort of). The lack of a proper mosh pit was probably due to Decapitated having slaughtered the audience earlier in the evening but the venues rules and regulations were also an added factor. The fact that barely anyone was attempting to crowd surf was due to the large signs either side of the stage saying “No Crowd Surfing" and knowing it was straight out of the fire exit door if you did.

The heavy, Slayer-like intensity and melodic soloing of ‘Ruin’, with its technical tempo change mid-section, had Blythe urging the crowd at the back to “let’s see your horns in the air”. This neatly segued into ‘In Your Words’ from 2009’s ‘Wrath’ where Blythe also encouraged the fans to “get a circle started”, considering the lack of any meaningful one up to this point. The at times brutal intensity of Lamb Of God on stage was at odds with a large part of the audience and the overall sound in the auditorium which seemed to be just lacking that extra ferocity and power. However, the band showed no sign of letting up giving us the brooding and heavy as hell ‘Vigil’ and the melodic, technical ‘Laid To Rest’ after a rather unusual 1970’s themed ‘Starsky and Hutch’ style interlude before retiring from the stage.

No surprise when first encore turned out to be the terrifically brutal ‘Redneck’ which started another mosh pit and an equally fierce ‘Black Label’ from their 2000 ‘New American Gospel’ album.

Southampton was suitably slaughtered and Randy Blythe and his crew were happy in the knowledge that the rest of the UK would follow suit.

Carl Buxton

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