Nearly seven months to the day that I caught their triumphant return to Philly on the first leg of their Dystopia World Tour, I had the privilege of seeing my eighth MEGADETH show, this time at BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ. This was a perfect night to close the U.S. fall run. And, as an added bonus, the rest of the cast included AMON AMARTH, METAL CHURCH, and BUTCHER BABIES on the same roster!! Talk about an awesome night of metal, right?? So let’s get started, hmmm? First up was BUTCHER BABIES, a band that seemingly lives on the road. They tour, tour, tour, like mad, and as a result have their live show down pat, they’re still hungry, and they always bring it when they’re onstage.
OK…full disclosure: I’m not a fan of their latest album Take It Like a Man. I tried, but I just can’t get into it. However, A&GS is still a big fan since our earliest days. We’ve interviewed them several times by phone and in person, and reviewed a few gigs, all within our first year and change. Why? Because when the house lights go down the BUTCHER BABIES go up…WAAAAY up!! I have seen them in the middle of the day shredding the side stage at Mayhem Fest, as well as opening a bill twice, and they always bring the same power and energy no matter the size of the crowd.
And this night was no different. Vocalists Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd were rockin’ everywhere, and in a live setting the newer songs sounded much better. Still, the highlights for me were “Axe Wound” and “Magnolia Blvd” for sure.
METAL CHURCH came next, and they were one of the bands I’d been looking forward to most, what with the return of vocalist Mike Howe, who STILL sounds as amazing as he did nearly 30 years ago. Fuck me, five songs simply wasn’t enough! Opening with “Fake Healer” from 1989’s Blessing In Disguise the band had the crowd in the palm of their collective hands from note one. “Start the Fire” was next before “No Tomorrow” from new release XI showed up.
Goddamn, both “Fake Healer” and the hook from “No Tomorrow” have been in my head on continuous loop since the show!! One of the best songs from these guys was next in “Badlands” and we all flipped out from start to finish.
Then, when the smoke cleared, out on the stage strode AMON AMARTH vocalist Johan Hegg to deliver the spoken word opening to vintage tune “Beyond the Black”, which whipped the crowd into an even bigger frenzy. Then they launched into the song and put their feets up our asses, didn’t they? The tightness of this band is amazing. Howe announced from the stage that they would be out at the merch table meeting everyone and signing stuff, so as soon as the song finished I made a beeline for merch, plunked down my money and bought a copy of XI.
I’ve had it from the label for months, but there’s nothing better than buying it at the show and getting it signed by all the guys right there in person while you fangirl to them about how awesome the show was.
And then…the mighty AMON AMARTH showed up to pillage the village. They crushed the joint with a nine-song set, starting with “Twilight of the Thunder God” and moving into “The Pursuit of Vikings”. “As Loke Falls” from 2013 record Deceiver of the Gods whipped everyone into shape before newer song “First Kill” from Jomsviking drove a spike through all our heads. “On a Sea of Blood” from the same album continued the murderous trend, reminding me just how fucking great this disc is and how much it cracks skulls.
Now, at this point it needs to be said that members of BUTCHER BABIES and METAL CHURCH ran onstage and across the big boat setup with light-up pirate swords looking to slash during AMON’S performance for some last night of the tour shenanigans. I told you it was a fucking party! And though they thankfully didn’t slay any band members, it was still fun to watch. “Runes to My Memory” from With Oden On Our Side was next before “Deceiver of the Gods” once again had everyone in attendance screaming, especially when that twin guitar intro started.
Newer song and personal drinkin’ anthem “Raise Your Horns” followed and I surely screamed, yelled, and hoisted my beer every time the chorus roared. Finally to close the set massive, attacking number “Guardians of Asgaard” from Twilight of the Thunder God (STILL my favorite album!) brought their set to a thunderous close. This was my third time seeing AMON AMARTH and once again they did not disappoint.
They left no head un-banged, and left the arena sacked and plundered, like Vikings should. Fucking awesome!! I anticipate another U.S. run in 2017, this time headlining. And I. WILL. BE. THERE.
9:30 came, and MEGADETH roared into “Hangar 18” followed by “Wake Up Dead.” The band was in top shape, one killer cut after another. Dave Mustaine really sounded great, and guitarist Kiko Loureiro and new drummer Dirk Verbeuren fit like a glove, with David Ellefson holding down the low end. “In My Darkest Hour” led into a trio of new tracks “The Threat Is Real”, “Conquer or Die!”, and “Lying In State” from kickass new record Dystopia. The intro to “Sweating Bullets” had the crowd even more amped. This is one of those tunes that simply slays live and the MEGADETH boys know it.
Other monster songs included “Tornado of Souls” from classic album Rust In Peace, more new tracks “Poisonous Shadows”, “Fatal Illusion”, “Post American World” and “Dystopia”, and then “Symphony of Destruction.” The gentleman in front of me was swinging left and right while pumping his fist, which was so cool to see. Turns out this was his first MEGADETH concert, and his loving wife bought the tickets as a surprise for his birthday. How awesome is she, huh? Then the iconic bass intro to “Peace Sells” started and I set out to lose what little voice I had left. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? is a landmark record so it was great to hear it represented twice.
After Mustaine introduced the band and thanked everyone from the road crew to the concession workers to us, the fans, it was time for one last aural assault, “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.” This was arguably the heaviest it’s ever sounded live and it just shredded everything in sight. Now I REALLY had no voice left, but I didn’t care. I still screamed myself raw.
I can honestly say that this time and back in March are two of the best, out of the eight times I’ve seen them, that MEGADETH has ever been. They attacked with surgical precision, and gave the fans everything they wanted and more. Hell, I’m hoping they come back one more time next year just because I’m a greedy bastard. If you missed this tour, then go hit yourself in the head with something, because you really and truly missed out.
LIVE IMAGES: MEGAN C. BROOKS PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO