It’s hot and it’s sweaty and that’s before tonight’s potentially mosh-tastic triple header of multi-million selling metal bands has even begun.
Yes, summer has landed in London once again and half the crowd gets to enjoy an extra spell in the sun while the philanthropic (or is that ridiculously pedantic?) security guards at The Astoria decide to delay them entering the venue to see Drowning Pool kick off proceedings.
Drowning Pool are fighters, if nothing else. After the tragic death of frontman Dave Williams from a heart-related condition in 2002 (not due to drugs as many metal-phobic journalists would have had you believe), they bounced back with a new vocalist (Jason “Gong” Jones) and recent new album, Desensitized.
Tonight, they whip the crowd up better than yer average first-band-out-of-three, and their set of modern, semi-brutal, nu-ish metal crescendos with their ode to the moshpit, Bodies, and its infectious refrain of, “Let the bodies hit the floor.” And they did.
Not as much as during Soil‘s set, mind. With this year’s Redefine opus, these Chicagans have now released two major label albums packed with instant hard rockin’ classics and crowd-pleasing anthems. Tonight, they deliver a 40-minute selection for our delectation that is even more enthralling than when heard on CD.
The truth is, there aren’t many bands around at the moment who you can rely on to perform not one weak song in their set. Soil are that rare breed and they simply level the Astoria. The headrush of Breaking Me Down; the gargantuanly riffed yet monstrously melodic Redefine; and the eerie Obsession, with its crushing, drum-a-go-go ending, are all highlights, and by the time the moshpit-slaying Halo has passed by, the crowd is left wondering how on earth Damageplan can possibly go one better.
They don’t, although to be fair, Damageplan’s cause is helped none by a truly woeful sound mix that has Pat Lachman’s vocals buried deeper than the truth in a Labour Party public statement, and Vinnie Paul’s snare drum echoing like a Pet Shop Boys electronic pad straight outta 1985.
Thankfully, the soundman eventually realises that Dimebag Darrell’s guitars are only being heard through his amp, and once that’s rectified, this half-Pantera / half-newboy collective can start shining, albeit intermittently.
Granted, Pat Lachman is a strong vocalist, even if not altogether unlike Dimebag and Vinnie’s estranged colleague Mr Anselmo, but Damageplan don’t quite have the sonic arsenal yet to fire memories of their predecessors off into a hazy distance.
Reborn is one of the songs where Dimebag’s immense, grooving riffage really hits the sweet spot, and the middle finger to your enemy that is F**k You is impressive in its hardcore rage, even if the sentiment is not exactly constructive.
However, it’s the near finale brace of Pantera classics Walk and A New Level that really make things worthwhile. These are songs many thought they’d never hear live again and when that riff to Walk emerges from Dimebag’s guitar, The Astoria goes well and truly volcanic. As in erupts. As in mayhem. Beautiful.
It’s good to see Damageplan not going all Audioslave on us by refusing to acknowledge their musical ancestry live, but only time will tell whether they can create a greater ratio of special to ordinary and so win new Damageplan fans rather than only drawing old Pantera ones.
Damageplan were good, clean, semi-violent fun tonight, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they were eclipsed by their main support band tonight – it’s arguable whether such a fate would ever have befallen Pantera.