Lamb of God/ The Acacia Strain/ Manahan @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, January 27 2012

By Natalie Zed; Concert photos by Adam Wills

The line to get in to Lamb of God is officially the longest line I have ever seen in front of the Phoenix. The line of black t-shirts stretched for nearly a block. The line also moved slowly, as security searched bags and patted everyone down thoroughly – not without cause, it seemed, as I watched the dude in front of me in line hastily discard two full-sized box cutters security guards demanded that everyone empty their pockets. As soon as I finally got inside, wrangled a beer and staked out a relatively safe spot, I settled in for the night and prepared to be amazed.

Local opener Manahan did an excellent job warming up the crowd. Hailing from Keswick, Ontario and fronted by the shockingly young Cory Manahan (who is not yet twenty), Manahan are defined by their energy and amazing raw talent. Cory Manahan‘s guitar skills are simply preternatural. He is both nimble and passionate, and the songs are hooky and enjoyable, showcasing Manahan’s talent without being overly showy or complex. Manahan recently attracted the attention of renowned metal writer Carl Begai, and after this show it is easy to see why. They were an excellent choice as an opening, and they played a smart, slick and exciting to watch. They already have so much to work with, and so much potential, I can’t help but expect great things from them in the future.

The Acacia Strain, I am sorry to say, were disappointing. The Massachusetts deathcore band do not rev my engine, and their performance fell decidedly flat at this show. Their aesthetic embraces an uncompromising nihilism and negativity that is trying at the best of times, as they do not seem to be angry for anything but anger’s sake. This was an particularly ineffective attitude to have at this event, where the crowd was abuzz with positivity, collectively overjoyed at the prospect of the headlining set. The Acacia Strain’s set drew heavily from Wormwood, their most recent and homogenous record, and the featureless chugs of the riffing plus Vincent Bennett‘s uniform growls became a wall of while noise. The crowd were receptive and moshed along, but I can’t help but think everyone was so excited that they would have moshed to anything.

Before long, however, it was time for the undisputed headliners to begin their set. Smoke machines worked for quite some time before the band made their triumphant entrance, creating a moody fog that made the red and blue lighting seem like it was melting across the room. When Lamb of God made their entrance and the opening chords to “Desolation” sounded, the room erupted. Not for a moment during their entire set did the energy flag, either that from the stage or from the audience. The outspoken and charismatic vocalist Randy Blythe wholeheartedly embraced his role of master of ceremonies, and proved to be both an eloquent and positive. He spoke of playing a show at the Opera House in Toronto years ago, on the very first tour that took them more from spitting distance from their home in Richmond, Virginia. It seems Toronto has had a special place in the band members’ hearts since that first warm reception. It was clear that after a string of stadium shows opening for the likes of Metallica, playing the Phoenix felt positively intimate, and that connection was something both Lamb of God and their fans relished.

The set was as blistering as it was moving. “Walk With Me In Hell” turned into a whole-venue sing-a-long number, and “Ruin” was as transcendent as it was great and terrible. They also played a lot of material from the new album, Resolution, including “The Undertow” and “The Number 6,” which even live comes across as a smoother, slicker and more mature incarnation of their classic, groovy American heavy metal. The crowd was positively rabid, members of the audience throwing themselves at the stage an each other. The entire floor of the Phoenix eventually became a pit, the area right on front of the stage was like a maelstrom, with little eddies and whirlpools breaking out all the way to the very back wall. The venue eventually threw the rear doors open to ease the infernal heat, and people’s bodies near the exit gave off visible steam when the cool air hit them. It was exhausting and sweaty and exultant, the most love concentrated into a single performance that I have seen in a long time.

It’s official: I am moving to Randonesia.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site.