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Megadeth

support Metal Church
author AP date 02/08/17 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

My return to reality after three weeks of holidaying begins in the company of legends, with Megadeth reprising last summer’s appearance at the Copenhell festival with a long-due indoor show. VEGA is completely sold out of course; in spite of Megadeth’s poor reputation as a live band, the world has Dave Mustaine and his shifting troop of cohorts to thank for a litany of revered thrash metal classics. Every now and then, the quartet has also managed to veer away from said reputation and stage a majestic performance, and that glimmer of hope seems sufficient to draw thousands of people to the Bay Area thrashers’ gigs time and time again. The question thus remains: will the band defy or disappoint on this night?

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Metal Church

Despite forming in the early ’80s when heavy, power and thrash metal had their heyday, Metal Church never rose to the same kind of prominence as many of their Bay Area peers. Countless line-up changes, a name change (the band was briefly known as Shrapnel from 1981 to 1983) and two hiatuses no doubt all played a part in turning huge promise into little more than a chapter in the history of heavy metal. Still, Metal Church has always been one that every self-respecting metalhead needs to cross off their bands-to-see-list, even if the band never managed to pen those truly timeless classics that would have immortalised them in legend. Where the ‘Church lacks in astounding songs, however, they compensate with showmanship; the musicians play with the steady hand of veterans, but with an exuberance that belies their age and soon has swathes of the audience cheering in approval, as the brand new drummer, Stet Howland, starts “In Mourning” off by playing it standing up, baring teeth, his eyes glowing with intent.

Vocalist Mike Howe (who re-joined Metal Church in 2015, having removed himself from the music industry for two decades) is no less enthusiastic, charging across the stage and seizing every opportunity for air-drumming and air-guitar in the breaks to his Udo Dirkschneider-esque howling. Indeed, with bassist Steve Unger readily joining the energy-emission as well, Metal Church presents itself as the sort of live act younger artists could learn a lot from. What they cannot boast to have though, is variety or a sufficient repertoire of catchy tunes to keep the ears occupied as well as the eyes. With the exception of the glorious, Manowar-sized “Start the Fire”, much of the seven-track setlist is forgotten almost immediately after the classic “Beyond the Black” off the band’s eponymous 1985-début rounds the concert off, leaving me with serious doubts about whether Metal Church has the muscle needed to deliver consistently in a headlining capacity. It feels as though even this brief blast of their classic, balls-to-the-wall heavy metal threatens to collapse under the weight of its own inflexibility and when bands like Accept offer more lasting value in the genre, it begs the question: does Metal Church still have relevance?

6

Megadeth

The fact that Megadeth has opted out of unnecessary stage props, bringing with them little else than a black banner with the band’s logo written across in chrome, seems to underline what most of us already know — namely, that for better or worse, Mustaine & co. place all of the emphasis on their music. And although lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who also plies his trade in Angra, does his utmost to prove me wrong, the consequence of this is a performance, which never feels intimate or exhilarating. It is an unusually lukewarm reception that the audience thus offers to the mega-hit, “Hangar 18”, with the majority of people content to be skeptical and stand cross-armed, even as Mustaine arches his back to blaze through the guitar solo blindly. Outside of a tiny fraction of sworn disciples near the front, few people inside the venue are convinced, with this feat going down as a rare show of passion by a notoriously inward musician. The problem is exacerbated by the band’s total lack of interest in influencing the atmosphere; the four musicians simply go through the motions, playing the tracks with extreme precision but with little soul.

Mind you, if watching Megadeth deliver razor-sharp renditions of their repertoire is enough for you, then it is hard to imagine that done better than here; the likes of “Lying in State” and especially “Poisonous Shadows” (both off the group’s latest record “Dystopia”) sound absolutely stunning through VEGA’s refurbished PA system, and it is of course just as invigorating as ever to hear classics such as “Skin o’ My Teeth”, “Tornado of Souls” and “Sweating Bullets” brought to life. But discounting the fervent expressions worn by Loureiro as well as bassist David Ellefson, there are no discernible signs that Megadeth collectively finds some gratification in playing those tracks for us. Compared to the effervescence of Metal Church, there is little flair to be detected here and indeed diminishing reasons to still want to go watch Megadeth live in the future. One would expect such legends as these to be more present, more hellbent, and to repay the loyalty of their fanbase — not send the masses yawning and checking their wristwatches for a good time to peace out.

The surprising addition of “Mechanix” off the band’s 1985-début, “Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!” at the start of the encore provides brief respite (played for the first time since 2007 on Danish soil) and a reason to raise an eyebrow. But otherwise, a predictable if mass-pleasing setlist does nothing to improve my mood. I have never been fortunate enough to experience one of those fabled concerts where Megadeth absolutely ripped, but even by the low standards that my past encounters with the group have set, tonight’s showing is a particularly impotent affair.

5

Setlist:

  • 01. Hangar 18
  • 02. Skin o’ My Teeth
  • 03. The Threat is Real
  • 04. She-Wolf
  • 05. Trust
  • 06. Fatal Illusion
  • 07. Conquer or Die!
  • 08. Lying in State
  • 09. Poisonous Shadows
  • 10. Tornado of Souls
  • 11. Post American World
  • 12. A Tout Le Monde
  • 13. Sweating Bullets
  • 14. Dystopia
  • 15. Symphony of Destruction

— Encore —

  • 16. Mechanix
  • 17. Peace Sells
  • 18. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

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