Gig Review: Lamb of God / Kreator / Municipal Waste – O2 Academy, Birmingham (10th March 2023)

It’s fair to say that not only has this tour been a long time coming (originally announced in September 2019 for April 2020) but it’s also a hell of a package for those lovers of metal. Lamb of God, Kreator and Municipal Waste (originally Power Trip) for a reasonable asking price and an early opening of doors to allow each band to get a decent length of time on stage and you’ve got a great value for money ticket. For tonight’s headliners, having closed Bloodstock last year and releasing two new albums in the intervening years, and with the afore-mentioned bill, it’s unsurprising there’s a hell of an atmosphere before the first note is played.  

Municipal Waste © Watchmaker Studios
Municipal Waste © Watchmaker Studios

With an hour between doors opening and the first band, it’s not a shock that when Municipal Waste take to the stage, it’s to an already packed room that is only getting fuller. Having heard the name in the past but with no experience of them, their thrash assault is a welcome one. The five-piece are relentless. With little time afforded to them being the openers, the Virginians somehow manage to blast through a staggering fourteen songs. However, after a glance at their discography on streaming services, it appears most of their material never hits the three-minute mark so it’s not surprising they fit so many in. It creates for a quick but engaging set and there’s obviously some hardcore fans in the crowd who yell requests.  

The quintet are a lean, well-oiled machine with their nods and reverence to early 80s thrash, showing how lean sonically that music can and has to be. Ferocious in its delivery, the crossover element of their music is visibly present which lends a hand to making them a great fit on tonight’s bill. As they touch of many different corners of their past, everything feels even; no sense of progression, sophistication or reduction. They’re a band sure of their identity and know what works so stick to it faithfully without it becoming tired. It’s a great start to the evening and I’m going to have to check out their music and I’d be keen to see what a headline slot from them looks like. 

Kreator © Watchmaker Studios
Kreator © Watchmaker Studios

Keeping the thrash theme going after we’ve all sang along with the intro tape of “Run to the Hills”, Kreator take the evening in a darker and even more vicious direction, ramping things up a notch as a bridge to tonight’s headliners. Having much more time to play with than their predecessors, they stretch their legs and batter through an hour’s worth of material from a wide pool of their massive catalogue. There’s also a healthy dose of their fans here for them and they manage to work the crowd as if it’s their own. Featuring hints of the more extreme side of metal hinted at in various songs, it allows them to have a bigger, bolder sound to match the mild theatrics that are peppered through the set. The grandiosity and spectacle is perhaps more fitting at an Alice Cooper show than here, feeling a little jarring. On a technical level, they’re great but as a band, they come across a little rigid. I can’t fault them as a band on an objective level as they’re great at what they do, it just isn’t for me. 

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Needless to say, the moment arrives for which everyone in the room has been waiting for for over three years. Kicking things off with “Memento Mori” from their 2020 self-titled album, Lamb of God are here to deliver. Unsurprisingly, they do this with ease and grace, putting on a masterclass of a metal show across the next ninety minutes. Much like on their albums, when they’re on form, they’re unstoppable and that’s what they are tonight.   

Lamb of God © Watchmaker Studios
Lamb of God © Watchmaker Studios

Despite releasing Omens just last year, they only pick a couple from the album in the shape of “Ditch” and the title track and even the self-titled album only gets a couple of songs in the aforementioned “Memento Mori” and “Resurrection Man”. Other than that, they play it pretty much straight down the line as a greatest hits set and everything you’d expect to put in an appearance does. Managing to hit the usual marks of songs like “Omerta”, “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” and “Laid to Rest”, it gets even darker with “512”, a song which needs no explanation nor is one volunteered.  

“Walk With Me in Hell” brings some early firepower to the night which allows the crowd to erupt with approval. However, it gets interrupted due to an issue in the crowd and the band abruptly hit the brakes whilst it’s remedied. Vocalist Randy Blythe doesn’t elaborate on the situation (if it was someone who had taken ill, hopefully they’re on the mend) but does rattle through a number of his favourite words in the British dialect. Once given the go-ahead, the band get back to the song with a vengeance.  

Lamb of God © Watchmaker Studios
Lamb of God © Watchmaker Studios

Despite their 30th anniversary on the horizon, if you count their time as Burn the Priest, their ascendancy has continued almost uninterrupted and they have the stamina and vitality of people half their age. The band put on their typically energetic set with Blythe stomping across the stage at every opportunity whilst bassist John Campbell is just a complete blur of white hair as his basslines rumble with filth and danger, locking in seamlessly with drummer Art Cruz. If you weren’t in the mammoth pit session that was taking place for the set, chances are you were nodding or furiously headbanging along with his vicious work. Meanwhile, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler trade riffs with ease. It’s a visceral performance from everyone involved, living up to their groove metal pigeonholing but showing there’s much more within. It has the frenzied feeling of watching a filthy punk show yet speaks loudly to metalheads and manages to connect with rockers, too. 

At one point, Blythe namechecks various Birmingham metal bands, a list which goes on and on before the most infamous of them all, highlighting that there’s more to the city than just Black Sabbath. However, he will return to them later with a quick bit of crowd work to sing the opening of “War Pigs” before one final song( unsurprisingly “Redneck”) rather than opt for a full-blooded encore, likely due to earlier events taking some time. But honestly, would you want them to take a breather to come back? Especially when they’ve been full-pelt all night. 

Somehow, despite having been into Lamb of God for years, this was my first time catching them in a headline capacity. Whilst long overdue (even moreso than this tour), it was worth the wait and a reminder that I really need to go to more metal gigs, especially when there’s packages like this one doing the rounds. 

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Photos by Watchmaker Studios

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