But once just ain’t enough when it comes to these Richmond hard rock heavyweights. Founded in 1994 by Virginia Commonwealth University students Chris Adler (drums) and John Campbell (bass), Lamb of God has been bulldozing through the metal community for over two decades now and wowing fans with the skull-crushing grooves on 2004’s Ashes of the Wake, 2006’s Sacrament, 2009’s Wrath, and 2010’s Resolution.
The group was thrust under an international microscope in 2010 when singer Randall “Randy” J. Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic in connection with the death of a fan who leaped onstage during a Lamb of God concert in Prague. Blythe was ultimately acquitted of manslaughter, but his gloomy five-week Pankrac Prison stay derailed the band’s tour and deflated his spirits.
A 2014 documentary film chronicled the band’s legal turmoil. A year later, Blythe shared his own thoughts and reflections in the autobiography Dark Days: A Memoir. Putting the debacle behind them, Lamb of God steamrolled ahead with 2015’s VII: Sturm und Drang, whose lyrics were fueled in part by Blythe’s emotional fallout.
So let it not be said that Blythe and his LoG cohorts are quitters. The band’s hits—and history—have repeatedly demonstrated the tenacity of its members…and the loyalty of its global audience. In an era where rock icons like Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), and LoG pal Dave Brockie (Gwar) succumb to drugs and depression with shocking regularity, Blythe and friends keep bludgeoning the masses with their cathartic musical chaos.
Here are five reasons to catch Lamb of God on tour this summer with Slayer.
1. Blythe and the guys are pulling out all the stops for this warm-weather endeavor
We saw the band open for Slayer last night (June 7) at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where Lamb of God assaulted a packed pavilion (and lawn) crowd with an 8:00 p.m. set that touched on all points in their ear-pummeling past. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler conjured razor-sharp riffs and serrated solos on openers “Omerta” and “Ruin” while Blythe flailed his dreadlocks. Then LoG unleashed tracks from VII in the forms of “512” (Blythe’s prison cell number) and “Engage the Fear Machine.” Other highlights included “Walk With Me in Hell,” and “Blacken the Cursed Sun,” whereon bassist John Campbell drilled sturdy grooves over Chris Adler’s pneumatic percussion. Lamb of God's latest album is the covers disc Legion: XX (released under the band's early moniker, Burn the Priest).
2. Slayer may never pass this way again, so see ‘em now
Final World Tour headliners Slayer have said this go-round will be their last. The quartet got its start in Huntington Park, California in 1981 and (notwithstanding a couple of live albums and a box set) hasn’t really looked back since—even when longtime guitarist Jeff Hanneman died suddenly in 2013. So while Chilean-American singer / bassist Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King may still have ample fuel left for the fire, they’re using it all to ignite North American stages this June / July with hyperkinetic hits from throughout their storied career. Joined once again by co-guitarist Gary Holt (of Exodus) and drummer Paul Bostaph, the Slaytanic senors ripped through the title track of their 2015 album Repentless before pillaging the ‘80s and ‘90s vaults for “Blood Red” (from Seasons in the Abyss), “Disciple” (God Hates Us All), “Mandatory Suicide” (South of Heaven), and “Hate Worldwide” (World Painted Blood). Yes, there were the usual numbers about murder, the occult, and war (“Jihad,” “Postmortem,” “War Ensemble”)—all accompanied by dense stage fog, belches of flame, and grim lighting. But Araya, Kerry and crew always make it so much fun to be fiendish. So never mind the tough guy tattoos on Kerry’s forearms (and scalp) or the industrial-sized wallet chain dangling from his hips. He’s there to have a good time…and hopes you do, too. Even if it's "Raining Blood." Araya just celebrated a birthday, incidentally, and looked slimmer on this occasion than he has in years (and younger, too, with most of his grey beard shaven away).
3. Anthrax are still righteous regal thrashers
Along with Slayer, Anthrax are one of metal’s “Big Four” bands (the others being Megadeth and Metallica). The NYC ensemble has been breaking the sound barrier for at least as long as their pugilistic peers, and continue to release frenetically fast, cinderblock-heavy albums (like 2011’s Worship Music and 2016’s For All Kings). They’ve cycled through guitarists and bounced between singers (hello, John Bush) for a while, but longtime vocalist Joey Belladonna’s been back for some time now—and he sounded great in Ohio on classics “Caught in a Mosh,” “Madhouse,” and “I Am the Law.” Guitarist (and actor / author) Scott Ian raked his Jackson with co-shredder Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall) over drummer (and coffee connoisseur) Charlie Benante’s busy beats on “Evil Twin” and “Indians.” The infectious Anthrax set also included a cover of Trust’s “Antisocial” (as heard on 1988 Anthrax classic State of Euphoria), and bassist Frank Bello put in his two cents on Joe Jackson’s throbbing “Got the Time” (from 1990 effort Persistence of Time).
4. Testament makes a perfect concert accomplice
Hailing from Berkeley, California, Testament (est. 1983) makes the case for metal having a “Big Five” rather than Big Four. Fronted by ferocious singer Chuck Billy and deriving its maniacal melodies and leads from guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, Testament continues to practice what it preaches (pun intended) by dishing out distorted glory from its 2016 release Brotherhood of the Snake alongside vintage cuts “Rise Up” (from 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth), "The Pale King," and “Into the Pit." Drummer Gene Hoglan and six-string bassist Steve DiGiorgio comprised a pulsating rhythm room for Testament’s tympanic terror in Cuyahoga Falls, and the band as a unit treated its 5 p.m. opening slot like a 9 p.m. headline gig. So if you’re going to see Slayer and Lamb of God this summer, be sure to arrive early for Alex, et al.
5. Polish metal mavens Behemoth are on the bill, too
Parents may worry about their teens seeing diabolical dudes like Slayer in concert, but the group to truly fear on this outing is Gdansk-based Behemoth, whose four members (led by long-timer Adam “Nergal Darski” on vocals / guitar) write Luciferian epics with Latin lyrics for albums with medieval alchemist titles like Satanica (1999), Demigod (2004), Ezkaton (2008), and Evangelion (2009). Moreover, Behemoth’s bad boys go by the nicknames “Inferno” (drums), “Orion” (five-string bass), and—deep breath now—“Seth” (guitar). Darker and more “extreme” than their peers, Behemoth turned the screws on Thursday’s bangin’ bacchanalia with “Wolves ov Siberia,” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000.”