On September 16th, the “Metal Tour of the Year” rolled into the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdell, New Jersey, picking up after a more than year long delay from the originally planned arrival. But for that reason the four bands were that much more determined to make this amphitheatre experience that much more thunderous and engage with fans in a meaningful way. The lineup included Megadeth, Lamb of God, Trivium, and the more recent addition of Hatebreed, who stepped in and heeded the “call” from Dave Mustaine to help cover the spot left open by In Flames, who were delayed by Covid travel woes and could not enter the country.
Though the original weather forecast for the event was not looking great, attendees got away with only a light squall or two and the atmosphere and mood of the entire event was very positive on both sides—the bands were grateful to be there playing again for fans and the fans themselves were over the moon not just to be at a Metal concert at last, but at a multi-band event featuring long-lived and beloved acts. Though the youngest band in the lineup was Trivium, even they hailed from 1999, albeit spurred on by an astonishingly young Matt Heafy back in those days.
First up was Hatebreed with plenty of stories to tell about playing the venue before, though usually “in the parking lot” because of the destructive tendencies of their fans. They admitted that it was more fun to play the big stage this time, a product of “having evolved in 20 years” even if it meant fans had to put up with actually having seats. So sad.
Next up was Trivium playing an incredibly high energy set that did feature some new work from their upcoming album (October 8th) The Court of the Dragon. Matt Heafy presented as a particularly inspiring Metal manic street preacher to get fans standing, at least, if not jumping and reinstate the mood of live events in case fans were rusty (They were a little at first). His shaven headed touring look only added to the near-priestly role he delivered very earnestly.
Lamb of God’s return to the venue clearly chimed with a lot of fans, and they had memories, too, of having to play in the parking lot, particularly at OzzFest 2004. Randy Blythe promised that they were there to “Fuck this place up”, and they did deliver a searing extra-long set that seemed to continue building even as it neared the end.
The patron Metal saints of the show were Megadeth, and you would’ve known that purely by a survey of the tshirts that the majority of fans were wearing, and the reaction to their arrival on stage was no doubt extra-jubilant because, as Blythe had commented earlier, Dave Mustaine had “kicked cancer in the balls” to be there. While there were big musical differences between the four bands playing the tour, all of which made up for a great and varied experience, Megadeth clearly laid down their Thrash Metal founding status with a ridiculously clean sound, powerful and clear engagement with fan favorites, and an energy that didn’t even flicker throughout the performance.
Their stage design and lighting seemed to fit the approach, too, with plenty of open space, sharp distinctive lighting associated with different songs, and most of the ornament coming from animated video screens looming from banks of pristine Marshalls. “Countdown to Extinction”, “She Wolf”, “Peace Sells But Who’s Buying”, and “Holy Wars” all featured. Another stand out was the arrival of Vic Rattlehead to menace the stage and share his perspective on things. Neither the band nor the fans showed the least sign of fading towards the highly polished conclusion of the five-hour event schedule.
The Metal Tour of the Year rolls on to several more stops before concluding in early October.
All photo credits to Russell Shannon