Had heavy metal been around in 1912, I’m convinced that both Slipknot and Lamb of God would have provided the soundtrack on the night the Titanic sank. Each group embodies the rhythmic Sturm und Drang that social catastrophes are made of while never expressing any creative qualms about making audiences feel as if the End Times are already upon us.
Their styles, while dissimilar at times, are still rooted in the same tried-and-tested philosophy of “Us vs. Them” with a profusion of premeditated socio-political antagonism to boot, which continues to drive conservative America crazy every time another one of their children is corrupted by the chaos. It doesn’t even matter if the critics possess a tangible understanding of what either band is really about, because the agenda is simply to discredit anything that dares to challenge our pre-existing mores.
Hence why Wednesday night’s pairing at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center was such a masterful move in the ongoing chess match against the conformist culture. Parents and politicians alike are so perplexed by the fact that adolescents are willing to follow these bands into the inferno that they never stop to examine the evidence directly in front of them.
Here were two of America’s leading metal collectives performing their tails off for a community of fans whom are savvier than anyone ever gives them credit for. They can spot a fake from a mile away, and I don’t think any amount of holier-than-thou preaching from the pulpit is going to change how they feel about the music they live for.
Slipknot general Corey Taylor, sporting a new mask eerily reminiscent of R.L. Stine’s “The Haunted Mask,” led the troops through 105 minutes of sheer ecstasy, as metalheads of all ages screamed along to “Psychosocial,” “Wait and Bleed,” and “The Heretic Anthem” like they were auditioning for a Sam Kinison biopic. People often cite the group’s grotesque, doom-laden visual inventory as being somehow indicative of the type of message their songs convey, but, if writing lyrics that embrace individuality and call out political and religious hypocrisy is wrong, then perhaps our species is further gone than I originally thought.
Contrary to what you may have heard, “If you’re 555, then I’m 666” isn’t a satanic rallying cry meant for those who kneel at the altar of Anton LaVey. Taylor penned that line in response to record executives pressuring the band to release songs that were more radio-friendly, which, in Slipknot’s world, is akin to career suicide. Everything they have done since dropping their eponymous debut album in 1999 has been part of a conscious effort to rattle as many corporate walls as possible, so delivering their message with earth-shaking volume and outrage comes with the territory.
Whenever someone questions why I would choose to cover such a dark and depressing bunch of guys in masks, I have to laugh, because seeing an amphitheatre lose its collective mind during the celebratory surge of “Before I Forget” and “Duality” is anything but depressing. It’s empowering.
Lamb of God also seeks to empower the masses with an aggressive form of neo-thrash predicated on vocal and instrumental brutality. Their 10-song set was a brilliant return to the stage for a band whose life has been a living hell ever since vocalist Randy Blythe was unjustly thrown into a Czech prison in 2012.
Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler are seismic shredders with riffs that get more foreboding with each change, especially during the bulrush of “Still Echoes” and “512,” where those souls brave enough to venture into the pit were fair game for a flurry of elbows flying from all directions.
Being able to decipher what Blythe is saying isn’t nearly as important as allowing yourself to be swallowed up by the overall wallop administered by the band as a whole. They’re arguably the heaviest, most violent American metal act to emerge since Pantera, and Blythe’s authenticity as a person and performer is just an added bonus.
I was admittedly on the fence about them prior to the show, but what they did on the Darien Lake stage was nothing short of extraordinary given what has happened in recent years.
Welsh metal veterans Bullet For My Valentine whetted the crowd’s appetite with an impressive, all-too-brief set of tunes pulled from their five-album career. Not even the remaining daylight could make “Your Betrayal” and “Waking the Demon” any less uplifiting in a live setting, but then the sun began to set and everyone in attendance realized that things were about to get very, very serious.