This is one I was looking forward to— three bands who could legitimately headline their own shows and have done previously.
This also is the last night of a seven and half week tour, it was bound to be special. Arriving at Wembley Park Station, I made my way down Wembley Way towards the arena – it stood out in the dark like a neon beacon calling all metalheads from miles around. The weather was good and queues were moving well to get everyone into the arena for the first act.
First up were Of Mice & Men, a metalcore band from Southern California fronted by Aaron Pauley. This show started off in blistering fashion, the arena floor area almost full and ready for the band, the seating areas not so much but all the action was taking place on the floor. Santa made an appearance in the self-made pit area and took a lot of slamming but gave as good as he got. Pauley and co. slew the crowd with a ferocious metalcore attack in every track building a frenzy in the pit area and everyone seemed to have a good understanding of what to do. The pit separated at every breakdown, staring each other down, beckoning the imminent clash of skin and bone when the band launched into the fast palm muted crunchy guitars and all hell broke loose with Santa firmly in the middle of it all.
The band took the opportunity to thank Five Finger Death Punch and In Flames for a “sick” tour and launched into their final song. Pauley commanded everyone with great effect for the arena to crouch down as low as they could, as everyone waited in anticipation, the guitars and drums started to build when Pauley finally screamed ‘’get the fuck up’’ and the arena erupted in a massive wave of energy— what a sight to see!
Of Mice & Men were on top form, clearly not worn out by the tour and inspired by the location.
The techs quickly rebuilt the stage for the next act, In Flames.
In Flames are one the original triad of Swedish death metal bands who pioneered the Gothenburg metal sound AKA melodic death metal or “melodeath”. Since their emergence, they have steadily transitioned from that sound to a more alternative metal direction, although they still have elements of melodeath in their music.
The first thing which stood out was an 8ft tall cube on the stage with the drum kit placed firmly on top of it. The set was wrapped in LCD screens with the backdrop also consisting of the same. The stage was slightly obscured in a sheer veil with the bands logo showing and the first song started off with this still in place and it was a bit strange, with those close by slightly confused, but when the second track started the curtain dropped to reveal the band in all its glory and it was a glorious sight indeed. The set was bright, energetic and the LCD screens had a mixture of abstract colours and drawn art. The middle of the set took the crowd back to an old-school In Flames sound after which frontman Anders Friden addressed the crowd and commented on the commitment from the pit as it was still churning despite the music stopping. Friden then reasoned with the crowd on the use of cameras and phones, a necessity of the digital age stating “go analogue and go fucking crazy in the pit”. Many t-shirts were being thrown around the arena as those who had bought a new In Flames shirt discarded the old clothing to oblivion.
The set continued with a mixture of melodeth and alternative metal tracks. Friden addressed the crowd again saying “we are old and have been doing this for a long time, rehearsing is boring as fuck but we do it for this, the fans”. The band went on to thank everyone for the opportunity to drink beer and play heavy metal and that’s it. They also thanked Five Finger Death Punch, Of Mice & Men, and the people of the world, “we love you, we are going home to eat some food, so much food”. “Have a good night, London, this is the end,” and then played their last song of the set.
Now, Five Finger Death Punch took a good while to emerge at the risk of losing the crowd. The stage set for In Flames had to be dismantled and the Death Punch stage to be put together but what a stage set it was— two giant metal baseball bats, a giant skull and probably the biggest drum set I have seen for a long while not to mention the iconic chrome metal skull mic-stand used by frontman Ivan Moody.
The set was full of the usual Death Punch trademarks: smoke jets, flame jets, a baseball bat and an awesome light show. The band have recently released A Decade of Destruction, a compilation album spanning the last ten years of material. Mid set, Moody brought on Of Mice & Men’s Aaron Pauley and Tommy Vext from Bad Wolves to sing with him. Moody made a point before each song to thank those involved in the tour. With ‘Bad Company’, Moody thanked the bands on the tour, the crew for being the best in the business and dedicated the song to them. With ‘Burn Motherfucker Burn’, he thanked the security and pleaded with the crowd to respect them, “they are not your enemy”. He even split the crowd to have a sing-off, with guitarist Zoltan Bathory’s side winning out.
The set then took a more sombre tone, it went dark and when the lights went back up, Moody and Jason Hook (guitars) were on stage alone. Moody explained that he had a breakdown this year and owed his fans and band members an apology, then proceeded to sing ‘I Apologise’ to the band and the crowd in an acoustic fashion leading into ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven’. Moody even launched into an acapella rendition of ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis before joking about the crowd thinking he was out of his mind.
This truly was a great show with Moody taking items from the crowd and signing them with the band then giving them back, he gave his shirt away, his baseball bat and even took a Santa hat from the crowd and wore it on stage. Moody then explained that they were on a hard curfew and every minute they went over was going to cost them $1000, not that it phased them at all with Moody claiming this was going to be his most expensive show ever. “Merry fucking Christmas” he declared, launching into probably one of their most loved and famous songs, ‘The Bleeding’. Lighters and phones were lit up and held high in a sea of fireflies as the ballad finished the night off.
The emotion and energy from all three bands was electric on this night, it was probably one of the best shows I have been to. With new material on the horizon, I bet it won’t be long before they descend on the UK capital again.