LIVE: Avenged Sevenfold / Disturbed / In Flames @ The O2, London

By Louis Kerry

From the moment they headlined Download Festival in 2014, Avenged Sevenfold made their intentions clear; they want to take the metal world on by storm. A7X are seemingly destined to have their name said in the same sentence as rock gods like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns ‘N’ Roses. The five-piece refuse to steady, and at at their huge O2 Arena show, it feels like all their hard work is finally paying off in spectacular fashion.

Despite only playing to a third of the arena as most of the audience are still battling through an army of security, Swedish metal legends In Flames open the show in style. With a setlist that covers the last 17 years of their established career, they thrash their way through some of their most influential tracks like ‘Leeches’ and ‘Bullet Ride’. Unfortunately, even though In Flames are one of many bands that paved the way for tonight’s headliner, their blend of melodic death metal goes over the majority of the audiences heads. It’s definitely not a good sign when singer Anders Fridén’s banter is more engaging than their overall performance.

Constantly proving that their 2015 comeback was the right move, Disturbed are the perfect choice of support act. Offering a near-enough greatest hits set, David Draiman’s trademark ‘oh wah ah ahs’ still sound remarkably stupid, but tracks like ‘Stupify’ and ‘Prayer’ sound as dominate and as heavy as they did over ten years ago. The most beautiful moment of the entire night came when the crowd lit up the arena during their cover of Sound of Silence. Disturbed’s only drawbacks are their over rehearsed stage moves which somewhat ruins the sincerity of their set. They might not be as musically relevant as they were in their nu-metal days, but their nostalgic performance (along with a healthy dose of fire going off left, right and centre) makes for an hour that can’t not be loved.

Every metal band view the idea of a stage show differently. Some believe in the less is more approach, some like Disturbed love a shit-load of flames, some like an 80s glam metal style runway, some like massive video screens with eye popping visuals and some just want some pretty lights. Avenged Sevenfold instead picked all of these and more to put on a visual spectacle. Despite being a bit gimmicky at times (see the floating zombie spaceman), Avenged have taken their stage show to a level only Maiden can compare to. Having worked with some of the Cirque Du Soleil producers, the band have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at the O2. They dazzle the audience with tricks when they need it but they still strip it back and create a more intimate atmosphere with just a change of lighting without breaking their momentum.

Their setlist isn’t a run-of-the-mill greatest hits that would be typically expected for such an extravagant show, the band pull out all of their best cuts from new album The Stage like ‘God Damn’ and ‘Sunny Disposition’ along with a healthy dose of old favourites including ‘Bat Country’ and ‘Almost Easy’. Regardless of song, the sea of fans sing along so loud like it’s the last time they’ll ever get to hear them.

Regardless of the stage show or the band’s song choices, it’s their musicianship that puts them a cut above the rest. The dual guitar solos from Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates are blistering fast, perfectly in time with each other and still beautifully melodic (‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ is the highlight of the night). Their new drummer Brooks Wackerman handles the huge stage like an old pro (whilst doing the band’s fallen original sticksman The Rev more than justice) and M. Shadows commands the stage with a flavour of honest showmanship along with his distinct and quite guttural voice that doesn’t wear at all.

Whilst In Flames and Disturbed are slowing turning into heritage acts who may have to rely on full album tours and more package deals in the future to stay at the level they are on, if there’s one thing that Avenged Sevenfold have proved, it’s that they don’t even need to wait for the legendary rock bands to retire and start passing the torch, as they have already taken it. In terms of showmanship, production, professionalism and musicianship, A7X are now untouchable. Here’s to the future and many more crushing performances as they win over the entire metal world.

Louis Kerry