Published 15/08/2013 | 05:00
lamb of god
If scientists were to calculate the point in the universe that is the furthest possible distance from a One Direction concert they would find themselves in the front row of a Lamb of God gig. There are virtually no females (the ladies' loo has been converted into a temporary gents); black t-shirts and ritualistic tattoos are de rigueur; from the balcony the mosh-pit that explodes as the band make their appearance resembles a human vortex, a whirlpool of flaming arms and whiplash hair. Tonight, no headbanger cliche will be left unturned.
As per the genre's obsession with categorisation, Lamb of God's sound is described as 'groove metal', a reference to the slithery bass lines and sludgy riffs which constitute the bedrock of 90pc of their songs. The cathartic, parent-hating loudness is a given but at moments the music is sinuous, almost slinky, a sensibility that may well be lost on the hardcore fans busy bumping into one another, with that mixture of aggression and 'we're all in this together' bonhomie particular to heavy metal.
Singer Randy Blythe simultaneously lives up to and subverts the stereotype of the heavy rock frontman. With his cargo shorts and short hair, he looks like he should be a roadie for an early 80s American punk outfit rather than leading a cult metal act. His voice, though, is a thing of exquisite loathsomeness. Squealing like a Klingon who has just had a root canal go badly awry, he delivers lyrics such as 'Walk With Me In Hell' and 'Now You've Got Something To Die For' with the glint of a true believer.
He is flanked by an ensemble that might have walked out of a casting session for a fantasy movie: guitarist Mark Morton has perfectly cultivated viking hair; sporting a long grey beard bassist John Campbell seems to come dressed as Gandalf from The Hobbit.
It's standard for metal vocalists to conduct themselves as if the entire weight of the world is balanced on their shoulders. Blythe, however, has known some genuinely dark times. He was charged with manslaughter in the Czech Republic last year following the death of a 19 year old he was alleged to have pushed off stage in Prague (he was found not guilty).
Even amongst a partisan crowd, an incident like that has elephant in the room qualities and Blythe sensibly deals with it early on. "That young man was a fan just like me, just like you," he says. "I'm not going to preach but if somebody next to you falls down tonight pick them up." There's an outbreak of applause and it is obvious the singer has a lump in his throat. Then the lights go down, the guitars kick in and the chaos resumes.