Megadeth / Lamb Of God / Children Of Bodom / Sylosis

Metal masters unite in the face of evil

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With the red, white and blue of La Tricolore flying from the adjacent Wembley Stadium in the wake of the abhorrent terrorist attacks in Paris less than 24 hours earlier, tonight’s gig deserves a full 10 out of 10 before a note has been played.

Not just for the bands, but for the staff, security and thousands of music fans that venture out determined to enjoy the simple pleasure of going to see live music, and a refusal to bow to the ugliest form of intimidation tactics. Tonight, more than ever, the community and family nature of heavy music is brought to the fore.

So it takes on an extra poignancy as SYLOSIS [7] walk onstage and do an admirable job in a slot that is usually a poisoned chalice. The Reading quartet share a lot in common with the headliners; their modern thrash is technically exceptional and contains enough twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes. The fact that a circle-pit is swirling around the arena before half six in the evening says it all.

The arena crowd show their solidarité

The arena crowd show their solidarité (Image credit: Jake Owens)

CHILDREN OF BODOM [6], however, have stalled in the last half-decade. Their mix of melodic death metal, epic keys and the charismatic flourishes of Alexi Laiho made them one of modern metal’s most popular bands, but tonight they sound dated and look tired. Alexi does his best to channel the hellraiser of old, and classics like the closing double salvo of Hate Crew Death Roll and Downfall means they can leave having maximised a damage limitation job.

LOG’s Mark Morton invites you to walk with him in Hell

LOG’s Mark Morton invites you to walk with him in Hell (Image credit: Jake Owens)

In light of current events, LAMB OF GOD [10] are almost the most suitable band to unite people, knowing, as they do, just how badly things can go wrong in the live environment. And tonight they are nothing short of perfect. From the opening video montage of buildings being reduced to rubble as Walk With Me In Hell begins proceedings to the final closing brutality of the evergreen Black Label, this is as good as metal gets. What’s most striking is how well LOG sound in the confines of a huge venue such as Wembley. Having never softened the rough, raw and ugly nature of their music, unlike many metal bands that have done exactly that to ensure they can play such venues, to see so many people swirling around the floor to classics like Laid To Rest and newer, and equally heavy bangers from VII: Sturm Und Drang such as Still Echoes is a rare and uniquely brilliant sight. And when Randy Blythe addresses the attacks in Paris by telling everyone that he “will feel sad, will shed tears, but will never feel scared”, the roar that shakes Wembley is a spinetingling moment. As they leave, the idea that another band should come on and follow them seems totally absurd.

Megadeth: Dave strikes a chord for freedom

Megadeth: Dave strikes a chord for freedom (Image credit: Jake Owens)

But Dave Mustaine and MEGADETH [8] are nothing if not confident, and opening with a stone-cold, gold-plated metal anthem like Hangar 18 is proof enough that the thrash titans are no slouches. This kicks off a greatest hits set that few bands in the history of metal could match, with Wake Up Dead, In My Darkest Hour and Sweating Bullets all tossed out early on as if they were nothing – undeniable evidence that Megadeth have a legacy that belongs in a venue of this stature. And it’s been a long road to get them back here; after the commercial downturns of the Risk era saw them unable to sell out the 2,000-capacity Astoria in London 15 years ago, you’d have got the longest of long odds to think that you’d be hearing Dave snarl through a fantastic rendition of Tornado Of Souls to a near-enough sold-out arena crowd. But here we are!

(Image credit: Jake Owens)

That they come back energised by a fresh new lineup helps matters, with Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler pulling double duties and giving them a more powerful foundation than they’ve had for many a year, and new guitarist Kiko Loureiro matching Mustaine riff for riff and solo for solo. And when he peels out the La Marseillaise before the closing Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, it’s another moment where the hair stands up on the back of your neck. That Mustaine refrains from a lengthy political rant, as he may have done in years gone by, and instead just lets out a cry of “Freedom!” before peeling out that song’s iconic opening riff, shows that he appreciates the sensitivity of the situation. As the song ends and Wembley rises to acclaim one of the greatest metal bands of all time, the joy on people’s faces is obvious. It’s here, in moments like these, that you realise just how important music, creativity, freedom of expression, community, strength and togetherness are. Let’s never take them for granted.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.