Megadeth's show is as stunning as you’d expect, with the riffs and guitar solos pounding in my head hours later.
(Pic by Nick Jack)
One of the most highly anticipated Knotfest Australia sideshows lived up to expectations and then some. Old-school thrash metal and European death metal took over Margaret Court Arena for just one night, and what a night it was.
It’s a multigenerational affair tonight, with parents here with kids, possibly as young as ten, enjoying what might be their first-ever concerts. It’s incredible to witness - that’s what metal music and the community is all about.
Hitting the stage first is the Swedish death metal pioneers, In Flames, who take the punters who arrived early on a journey throughout ten of their albums, with only their most recent record, February’s Foregone and 2000’s Clayman representing more than one track per album.
“We’re gonna play some songs from the 90s, when we were young, and the world looked decent,” vocalist Anders Fridén quipped before the band performed the set highlights Graveland and The Hive, from the 1996 LP, The Jester Race, and 1997’s Whoracle, respectively.
Swedish death metal has never sounded so good, and Margaret Court Arena has never sounded this loud. In Flames share some positive news: their new shit is just as great as their old shit. Take Foregone Pt One, which features an epic time change following the chorus. The State Of Slow Decay is also awesome, encouraging the audience to headbang to new music that has no right to be this brutal.
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Their permanent rhythm guitarist, Chris Broderick, joined In Flames in 2019 after departing from Megadeth in late 2014. It was a bit of a missed opportunity to have both groups in the room and no Broderick performing alongside the band he used to play in, but we’re honestly so thankful for metal music and massive gigs returning to Australia that we can’t complain too much about it.
Fridén’s vocals? They were out of this world. That Alias riff? Impeccable. Overall, it was a solid set from In Flames, but the only thing that let them down was a lacklustre crowd the band could have pulled from. But the people on the floor had been saving all their energy for Megadeth (it is a Wednesday night, after all). Tonight’s audience was far too polite and reserved for a band of In Flames’ stature - that is, until Fridén led an “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” chant. “I should’ve started the show with that,” the vocalist joked before the band launched into the Come Clarity classic, Take This Life. Half an hour later, that audience he joked about didn’t let up for 90 minutes as Megadeth played thrash metal classics in Melbourne for the first time in over seven years.
Here comes the challenging part - how do you review a band like Megadeth? They’re only one of the world's most influential heavy metal bands. “How many people are seeing Megadeth for the first time tonight?” Cue enormous cheers and devil horns in the air. “Well, lucky me. Thank you for being here,” Dave Mustaine said before charging into one of their best-known songs, Tornado Of Souls (“This one’s about the weather”). The band’s founder, singer and guitarist is in a great mood tonight, grinning from ear to ear, striding to each side of the stage and inspiring crowd chants, whoops and claps as he tells stories between songs.
“It’s my way of honouring metal fans in Australia by putting your bridge [the Sydney Harbour Bridge] on our album cover [Dystopia],” he says before the band rip into the Grammy award-winning titular track from the band’s 2016 album. Luckily, this Melbourne crowd is polite; no one cares that he referenced a different city.
Between Dystopia and last year’s The Sick, the Dying... And The Dead!, Mustaine recalled what his friends said to him following his throat cancer diagnosis in 2019: “A lot of my friends said, ‘fuck, I feel sorry for cancer,’” and that received the biggest cheers of the night. We’ll Be Back, the album closer of The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! followed, with cracks in the Megadeth show starting to surface.
Some of these faster, newer songs that Mustaine hasn’t sung as many times as the old ones seem tougher on his vocals–they’re a bit rough at this point of the concert, but after recently getting through throat cancer and neck surgery in 2011, it’s inevitable that his vocals would change over time and those experiences. He’s still a legend, and the musicianship on display is phenomenal.
Taking the stage to a rapturous “MEGADETH” chant, the US metal heroes open the concert with the Rust In Peace classic, Hangar 18. It’s as stunning as you’d expect, with the riffs and guitar solos pounding in my head hours later. The crowd is well and truly awake for Megadeth, and one wonders if In Flames wishes they had this version of the audience during their set.
The chemistry of this iteration of Megadeth is on display from the opening songs, including Dread And The Fugitive Mind, Angry Again, and The Threat Is Real. You have Mustaine, lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro and bassist James LoMenzo getting together in the triple-threat guitar stance on multiple occasions during the concert, with drummer Dirk Verbeuren the star of the show. He doesn’t miss a beat, no matter how fast the tempo of a song is or how many time changes his band members throw his way.
The crowd sang every word of the fan-favourite Sweating Bullets (from Countdown To Extinction), while LoMenzo had his true rockstar moment on Peace Sells. Sadly, Peace Sells was the final song of the main set, and we’re gutted that a) the concert is nearly over, and b) Megadeth played three fewer songs in Melbourne than they did in Adelaide the night before. We’re not sure if the Ice Cube show at Rod Laver Arena next door had something to do with our set ending a touch earlier than expected (ten minutes or so), but it’s bittersweet. As my friend said, “I could watch them play a whole other 20 songs”.
“I’ve had a great fucking time with you guys tonight,” Mustaine addressed the audience as the band returned for the encore. Of course, no Megadeth show can end without Holy Wars, and it’s a fantastic way to cap off an excellent performance. The circle pit returns, the crowd surfers have their last bit of joy, and we relish our final headbangs. Before the second guitar solo, Mustaine singles out the security guards pulling crowd surfers down from their fun over the last 90 minutes: “Hey, security man? Just cool it with the pit; you’re just distracting… you’re making me fucking hate you!”
It’s wild that just four people can make that much noise up on that stage–Margaret Court Arena has never contained such an energetic atmosphere, particularly from the enthusiastic Megadeth fans.
Holy Wars ends, and the band take their bows. “You’ve been great and we’ve been Megadeth. Goodnight,” Mustaine shouts, and the night ends. On to Knotfest this Friday to do it all over again.