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I was pretty damned stoked when the lineup for this year’s Gigantour was announced. I have always been a huge fan of the mighty High on Fire, and I was totally looking forward to finally getting a chance to see them on a BIG stage. I had never witnessed Job for a Cowboy, Children of Bodom or In Flames live before, but I had heard that they all put on pretty awesome live shows. As far as Megadeth, well, since I had seen them well over a dozen times during my metal youth of the mid-80s, I was fairly certain Dave Mustaine and company would pretty much kick ass. I was right....
Walking into the San Jose State Event Center Arena just as a smiling and shirtless Matt Pike waked out onto stage and immediately launched into the opening riff of "Rumors Of War,” I realized right away that High on Fire was going to kick everyone's ass this evening. Sounding heavier tonight than I think I have ever heard them before, the band tore through their-way-too-short set list. Matt Pike was a fucking monster on guitar, and every time I see High on Fire live I am amazed at how one person can get such an overpowering heavy tone out of his guitar, even if it's a nine string. The solidified rhythm section of Jeff Matz on Bass and Dez Kensel on drums multiplied the heaviness times ten, and together the three of them had the still-filtering-in crowd watching them in total awe. "Turk," "Waste of Tiamat" and "Commeth Down Hessian" all sounded amazing, and the only complaint I could possibly issue was that the band didn't get the time on stage they deserved, because after wrapping up with "Devolution,” I (and I'm sure the entire crowd) was left totally wanting more. I really cannot say enough good things about High on Fire, and hopefully they will continue to be put onto these big tours, and will get the recognition they deserve.
After a very quick stage breakdown/setup Arizona's Job for a Cowboy were up next, and they proceeded to pick up pretty much right were High on Fire left off. Right away I was impressed with the amount of energy these guys had. Singer Johnny Davy was all over the stage, while delivering his vox in true death metal fashion. Guitarists Bobby Thompson and Ravi Bhadriraju were pretty high energy, and both were shredding while not getting over "noodly.” The crowd was really into them, and when I looked back the fists were definitely pumping. Listening to their set it was pretty obvious that Cannibal Corpse is a major influence of these guys, which I especially noticed during "Entities," "Knee Deep" and "Entomb.” Usually I find it very hard to get into today’s "new" metal bands, but overall I'd say I was petty impressed with Job for a Cowboy, and am looking forward to catching them live again.
Judging from the sea of Blooddrunk shirts in the crowd, as well as the chants of "Bo-Dom, Bo-Dom, Bo-Dom" before they even hit the stage, it seemed that Children of Bodom were the band the kids really came to see this evening. Walking out to the roar of the crowd, Bodom leader Alexi Laiho and company proceeded to work the entire arena into a sweaty horn throwing frenzy, and by the time they were finished, the entire crowd was eating out of their palms. Although their sound is more of a Death Metal "light,” Bodom sounded pretty damn heavy, and I gotta admit I was pretty impressed with both Laiho's and fellow guitarist Roope Latvala's technical abilities. As they traded riffs on "In Your Face" and "Sixpounder" I realized that these guys are pretty damn talented. Bassist Henka Blacksmith and drummer Jaska Raatikainen provided the visceral low end of the sound, while the keyboards of Janne Warman were a nice touch. At times Bodom was sounding like a straight-up thrash band, and I was pretty much digging it. I'd have to say that "Hellhounds On My Trail" was my personal favorite from their set. Another band I will definitely go see again.
After yet another quick breakdown/set-up, Sweden's In Flames hit the stage in a sea of white lights. Rocking the arena with their melodic yet crunchy guitars, In Flames pumped even more energy into the crowd, while at the same time showing why they are leaders of the melodic death metal genre. Songs of the new album A Sense Of Purpose such as "The Mirror's Truth" and "Alias" sounded great and were heavy as fuck, while older songs like "Morphing Into Primal" and "Clayman" seemed to have a new life. Guitarists Björn Gelotte and Jesper Strömblad were on fire, while vocalist Anders Fridén was screaming like a mad man. The band had an amazing energy up on the stage, and they all looked to be having a blast up there. The crowd was also having a blast, and I saw more than one kid get escorted out by security for crowd surfing, only to return to the sea of metalheads in the front and try it again. Highlights from In Flames’ set for me would have to be "Come Clarity" and "Take This Life,” both of which sounded amazing. As with JFAC and Bodom, I am looking forward to seeing In Flames live again.
Storming the stage with "Sleepwalker" off of United Abominations, Dave Mustaine and company were "on it" from the word go this evening, and had an energy that I had not seen from them for along time. New guitarist Chris Broderick was on fire, and his guitar playing and tone fit in quite nicely with his guitar counterpart Mustaine. Together the two of them were laying down some pretty serious riffage during "Wake Up Dead" and "Kick The Chair,” which happen to be two of my favorite songs from the band. Broderick also threw down a pretty ear-splitting solo during "A Tout Le Monde.” As far as Dave Mustaine, well he was his just his usual badass guitarist self, and watching him I couldn't help but focus on his hands, and how incredibly fast they were moving. He may very well be one of the best technical guitarists out there. Saying that some bands "just talk and talk and talk on stage, and were just going to fucking play music for you guys" Mustaine, Broderick, bassist James Lorenzo and drummer Shawn Drover churned out Megadeth classic after classic, including "In My Darkest Hour,” "Hanger 18,” and "Tornado Of Souls.” An absolutely blistering version of "Peace Sells" ended the set, but the entire crowd knew the show wasn't over until "Holy Wars" was played, and the band didn't disappoint.
Looking back on this show, I was pretty impressed with all five bands. High on Fire were amazing as always, Job for a Cowboy, Children of Bodom and In Flames all impressed the hell out of me, and Megadeth sounded just as good, if not better, than they did when I saw them way back in the day. Looking forward to the Gigantour in 2009.
More on Gigantour here: www.gigantour.com
www.megadeth.com - Buy United Abominations on Amazon.
www.inflames.com - Buy Sense of Purpose on Amazon.
www.highonfire.net - Buy Death Is This Communion on Amazon.
www.jfacmetal.com - Buy Genesis on Amazon.
“Banned from Heaven” by Children of Bodom - [mp3]
“Devilution” by High on Fire - [mp3]
“I’m the Highway” by In Flames - [mp3]
“The Mirrors Truth” by In Flames - [mp3]
“Embedded” by Job for a Cowboy - [mp3]