Unholy Alliance Tour
Thursday, July 13, 2006
General Motors Place
Vancouver, BC Canada
**Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
First it was Ozzfest, then Sounds of The Underground, then Gigantour. The latest entry in the crowded North American metal juggernaut is the Unholy Alliance Tour featuring Slayer, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom and Thine Eyes Bleed. As the bill rolled through Vancouver, I realized not only how out of place London, Ontario’s Thine Eyes Bleed was (Tom Araya’s brother plays bass, but apparently it was just a “coincidence” the band ended up on the bill…yeah right) but how increasingly commanding the other four bands are as live acts. Despite seeing all the bands many times over the years, it was still exciting to witness Children of Bodom’s new-school guitar wizardry, Mastodon’s ultra-heavy quirkiness, Lamb of God’s charismatic beatdowns and Slayer…well, nothing even needs to be said there.
Rumors were abound that the Vancouver show was being recorded for a DVD release and sure enough, the boom cranes and camera crews quickly confirmed that. Backstage, the usual chaos ensued as people with serious-looking faces scurried about and the endless wagon train of roadie cases, press people and other “why are they here” cronies only added to the frustration and turmoil that goes into a production of this size. Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton could be seen pacing the halls while conducting a phone interview, Children of Bodom guitarist Roope Latvala circled the venue on his bicycle and Slayer’s Kerry King chatted with Metaleater.com chief Tony Antunovich. Everything was buzzing for what was sure to be a hot night of metal…
At the stroke of 5:00PM, while waiting by myself in the holding area under the bowels of General Motors Place—an 18,000 seat arena that is home to the Vancouver Canucks—it became obvious that an over-crowded press pit was not going to be an issue for Canadian thrashers Thine Eyes Bleed. Their debut album, IN THE WAKE OF SEPARATION, came out last summer to little fanfare other than the fact that bassist John Araya is of the same blood as Slayer frontman/bassist Tom Araya. Oh…that and guitarist Jeff Phillips was also in Kittie for a few months in 2002 before leaving to form Thine Eyes Bleed (smart move, Jeff). Anyway, the miniscule crowd looked on with indifference to the band’s 25-minute set, partially due to the early start time and partly because they were about forty levels down the metal food chain from the rest of the acts on the bill. The music was charged with formidable guitarwork from Phillips and Ryan Tunn and vocalist Justin Wolfe (a dead-ringer for Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell) managed to belt out some gruff vocals but there just wasn’t enough there to hold anyone’s interest. Not bad but certainly nowhere near the marquee talent to come.
A thousand air guitars raged along with Alexi Laiho during Children of Bodom’s forty-minute set. The Finnish quintet has hit Vancouver several times in the last two years performing in front of consistently larger and more rabid crowds, most recently on their headlining tour with Trivium and Amon Amarth last November (read review HERE). The Unholy Alliance crowd was extremely warm to Children of Bodom, many donning the band’s t-shirts and singing along faithfully to tracks like “Needled 24/7,” “Living Dead Beat” and “Sixpounder.” The eight tracks played covered the band’s five albums except for their 1997 debut, SOMETHING WILD (no “Touch Like Angel of Death” again?!?!) and were an excellent representation of the band’s sound to newcomers. “Everytime I Die” was a curious omission but the shred-off between Laiho and keyboardist Janne Warman during “Silent Night, Bodom Night,” the monster rhythm section of Henkka T. Blacksmith and Jaska Raatikainen on “Living Dead Beat” and the always powerful set closer, “Downfall,” made up for any shortcomings. Laiho’s showmanship was out in full force and, as always, he delivered a killer performance on guitar, entrusting his place among a new generation’s list of six-string gods. Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe watched from the side of the stage, no doubt filled with dread at having to follow another crowd-winning set from Children of Bodom.
Children of Bodom Setlist
Silent Night, Bodom Night
Living Dead Beat
Angels Don’t Kill
In Your Face
When Mastodon announced last summer that they were leaving the indie metal label Relapse Records for a spot on Warner Brothers’ teeming roster, many raised an eyebrow, not only because of the fact the band will be alongside heavyweight acts such as Metallica, Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed, but the inevitable cries of “sell-out” also was on the tip of people’s tongues. Mastodon is an unclassifiable behemoth, incorporating equal parts metal, hardcore, progressive and alt-rock into their sound, and where a recipe like that fits into the Warner Brothers pecking order is anyone’s guess, but time will tell as BLOOD MOUNTAIN hits stores on September 12th. Treating fans to a sneak peek of the new track “Crystal Skull,” Mastodon rumbled through a forty-minute set that left many deaf in their wake. I mean this was friggin’ L-O-U-D!! The guitar tandem of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher dropped trademark, thick-as-molasses riffs, while the thunderous rhythm section of Troy Sanders and drummer extraordinaire Brann Dailor (his black-and-white polka dot, Randy Rhodes tribute kit had many tongues wagging) upped the heaviness factor by about 5000%. Hinds was plagued early on with guitar troubles but “Iron Tusk,” “March of The Fire Ants” and the punishing “Blood and Thunder” ripped through the sound system, leaving many fans delighted and others looking in breathlessly at what they had just witnessed. Mastodon blew me away at Ozzfest 2005 and another blistering performance on the large stage made me wish I could utilize “The Way Back Machine” to see them in a small club with 100 people again, but it is safe to say those days are over as Mastodon prepares for the big leagues.
March of The Fire Ants
Where Strides The Behemoth
Blood and Thunder
Punishing, relentless and driven—three words that perfectly describe Lamb of God. Crawling out of Richmond, Virginia in the late nineties and unleashing the masterpiece, NEW AMERICAN GOSPEL, the band quickly rose in the ranks with AS THE PALACES BURN and 2004’s Sony debut, ASHES OF THE WAKE. Their devastating live shows are powered by the energy and charisma of frontman Randy Blythe, the fluid drumming of Chris Adler and the guitar tandem of Willie Adler and Mark Morton who let loose a torrent of new-school American thrash-core that has made Lamb of God a household name in a very short time. Needless to say, expectations are ridiculously high for their new CD, SACRAMENT, and the band is sure to meet them. Only one new track—“Redneck”—was played and its Pantera-like groove will undoubtedly keep the momentum going. Blythe’s new shaved-head look made him appear even more menacing than usual as he stalked the stage, spitting out lyrical epithets and stirring up a rabid crowd. “Ruin,” “Laid To Rest” and “11th Hour” are always highlights and the band made the most of their fifty-minute set. Never disappointing, Lamb of God continue their rise to the upper crust of American metal.
Lamb of God Setlist
Laid To Rest
As The Palaces Burn
Now You’ve Got Something To Die For
The Faded Line
As the Slayer stage began to take shape, a backdrop of Dimebag Darrell was revealed and the lead-in music consisted solely of Pantera tunes. “Walk,” “This Love” and others were met with many whoops and hollers from the crowd, most yelling out the choruses in perfect unison amidst the typical chants of “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!” Soon, an enormous pair of inverted crosses fashioned out of Marshall amps were uncovered at each side of the stage, setting the mood for the first live experience of the new album, CHRIST ILLUSION. Because the show was being filmed, Slayer played not only “Cult,” as they had done at previous Unholy Alliance stops, but also “Eyes of The Insane,” a dark, doom-y new track not far removed from the pacing and overall feel of “Dead Skin Mask.” With the exception of “Disciple” from 2001’s GOD HATES US ALL, the band only played songs from the albums featuring the original line-up of Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo. Araya’s vocals seemed to be much, much better than during recent shows over the last several years, as he nailed the screams of “War Ensemble” and the ultra-low growls of “Hell Awaits” perfectly. Having seen Slayer seven times since 1999, this was the first time Araya did not appear out-of-breath and straining to hit certain vocals, which was very refreshing to finally hear. His greying, shaggy beard is beginning to show all of Araya’s 44 years but as soon as he stood silent before the crowd with his trademark smirk, it was suddenly 1991 all over again. Slayer’s live shows are legendary and this one certainly stood up to the test with pulsing strobes, a litany of colourful spotlights and the biggest, craziest moshpits known to man. King and Hanneman sparkled as always on guitar, while Lombardo, who I had the pleasure of sitting to his right, was an absolute monster on drums. Seeing him pummel his kit during “Raining Blood,” “Chemical Warfare” and “Angel of Death” was an awesome treat.
South of Heaven
Seasons In The Abyss
Eyes of The Insane
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death
There has been no mention if Slayer’s Unholy Alliance will be an annual run similar to Megadeth’s Gigantour or if this was merely a one-off tour, but there is no doubt in my mind that a bill this strong can succeed. Three of the five bands have hotly-anticipated new albums coming out in the next month, while another is riding high on their most successful to date. You can’t build a more attractive draw than that and with metal facing another resurgence in popularity, it is great to see such a diverse bill coming together and bringing out metalheads in droves.
***Thanks to Jenny of House of Blues for all her help at the show.