While The Metal Tour of the Year may have technically reached its conclusion a couple of weeks ago, and festival season is now upon us, there is no doubt that the dust is still settling in the aftermath of this massive event. Featuring the legendary Megadeth as headliners, this run of shows also included household names in Lamb of God, Trivium, and In Flames. Four of the most recognizable names in the metal world each bringing a different corner of the genre’s spectrum to this tour. Considering all we had missed since early 2020, this experience went a long way to welcoming back larger scale live music, and as a result will resonate many years into the future.
I had the honor and privilege of photographing and covering the May 12th date of this tour at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. And I don’t use the terms “honor” and “privilege” lightly. Not only was this arena show the largest I’ve shot in my handful of years covering shows, the lineup itself was a dream for both my past and present self as a fan of the genre, and music in general. Each of these artists has had a foundational and lasting impact on my experience as a fan, and there is no overstating what this opportunity meant to me.
As far as the venue goes, nestled in downtown Portland, Cross Insurance is a modest sized arena I’ve become familiar with over the years through attendance at other shows, collegiate and minor league hockey, and so on. The location can’t be beat, and I always give a nod to the staff and general operation at this venue. The experience is always organized, efficient, and friendly. This night was no different. Despite the scale of the event and the added logistics that went into photographing it, everything went off without issue. Factor in the awesome Portland beverage selection (duh), the impressive sound quality, and the visual effects a larger venue like this can offer… and there really isn’t much more I could ask for in covering a show. So on that note, let’s talk about the music…
Leading off the evening, while a decent portion of the crowd was still acclimating to the event through the consumption of merch and beverages, was In Flames. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot In Flames live on three different occasions now, and it is an absolute joy each time. They bring an energetic and engaging stage presence, they curate notably wide-ranging setlists, and most importantly, they always sound incredible. Tonight, of course, was no different. While opening in a familiar fashion with “Cloud Connected”, they immediately followed that up by reaching into the past with a powerful performance of “Behind Space”. Naturally, the eight song set also included highlights from I, The Mask like “Call My Name” and the aggressive “I Am Above”, as well as other recent albums like Sounds of a Playground Fading (“Where the Dead Ships Dwell” and “All For Me”). Like I said, their sets tend to cover some ground, staying cohesive throughout despite the timeline they may cover. Sure, some of the names on the stage have changed, but you can always count on an In Flames set to deliver. Would I have appreciated something from Clayman, following up on the album’s 20th anniversary in the first year of the pandemic? Of course. But beyond that, there isn’t a thing I would change about how the evening kicked off.
From there, Trivium was welcomed to the stage. See also: 16-year-old Corey’s favorite band. Yes, Ascendency was one of those albums that served as my gateway into the heavy music that would consume me from that point forward. While I may not be as familiar with more current Trivium albums (up through In Waves, basically), this was still a set I was very much looking forward to. I’ve long heard about how great they are live, and how unique and enjoyable Matt Heafy’s personality is on stage. Having only seen them once from a distance at some traveling festival approximately a million years ago, I was ready to get caught up. All that hype rang true tonight. It was impossible not to become absorbed in their atmosphere, even without complete familiarity. The only outlier of the set was at one point during “Like a Sword Over Damocles” (or “Beyond Oblivion”… I can’t quite remember) where Heafy put a pause on things to help a couple audience members resolve a, uh, disagreement in the pit. After only a moment order was restored, Heafy saved the day, and we went on uninterrupted with only positive energy from there. As for the set itself, I was pretty damn happy with what now 33-year-old me got to see. They did pull “Rain” from Ascendency, an unexpected but appreciated pick from that album, and closed with “In Waves”, which was an absolutely massive way to close out the set. So whether you’re a fan of Trivium today, or look at their work through more of a nostalgic lens like myself, there was a ton to enjoy about the set they brought for The Metal Tour of the Year.
Well the publishing of this piece timed out nicely, with Lamb of God only just announcing a new album and extensive headlining tour yesterday. I don’t even know where to begin here. Taking in a Lamb of God set, a band I have long admired, (from the photo pit no less) is an experience I’m still struggling to put into words. Unlike Trivium, I had seen Lamb of God on a number of occasions, but not since my freshman year of college (and that’s a story for another day). Since that time, while their music may be playing through my speakers with a little less frequency, my appreciation for what they do, for the sound they create, and for who they are as musicians and people, has only increased. Tonight, Lamb of God was afforded a bit more time than the opening couple of sets, and managed to work twelve or so tracks into their performance. And they did a lot with those dozen songs. A significant portion of the set (seriously, like half of it) was made up by Ashes of the Wake, Sacrament, and As the Palaces Burn. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. Much like Ascendency, but of course in a bit of a different stylistic space, these are albums I clung to in my earlier years. When those haunting tones of “Walk with Me in Hell” collided with the pyrotechnics serving as a visual backdrop, all witnessed from the photo pit, the experience was simply surreal (and very, very hot). And I truly don’t know how Randy still pulls performances like these off… jumping all over the stage and off platforms, swinging those dreadlocks which have to be heavy as shit, and keeping that energy up without rest for over an hour while surrounded by literal fire… My knees and neck would be dust. Anyway, to sum things up a bit, this set was probably the highlight of my evening, and I had an absolute blast working through the photos that emerged from it. As I mentioned in opening this paragraph, Lamb of God just announced another tour later this year, and I highly encourage you all make that happen.
And, of course, the fourth and final set of the evening featured the one and only Megadeth. Simply put, when certain bands come through your area, you find a way to get there. Mostly because of everything they’ve done for the genre and how their legacy has already been cemented, but also because we understand the time factor. These opportunities may not come around often, and there may not be many more of them. Megadeth is one of those bands… you find a way to make it happen. Yes, I’m going to recall past experiences again, but having only seen Megadeth from a beer garden approximately a mile from the stage at Wacken in 2014, I still had plenty of energy and excitement for this set considering where we were in the evening. From the second the opening notes of “Hangar 18” rang out, that excitement only grew. Dave Mustaine still kicks ass, and sounded great across the board… both on guitar and behind the mic. Watching him wander around the massive stage, pausing in front of the towering wall of speakers, and teaming up with Kiko Loureiro and James LoMenzo at various solos and passages made for an incredibly engaging visual performance. Naturally, the set featured a number of Megadeth classics, including “Angry Again”, “Symphony of Destruction”, “Trust”, and closing out with “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. Honestly, even if you were only a casual Megadeth fan, you would have been more than satisfied with what they broke out for this show and tour. Start to finish, this set was both what I anticipated, and hoped for, from the thrash titans. All signs point to a new album on the horizon, and hopefully opportunity will knock again soon after.
And with that my friends, we’ve reached the end. My third show back in the mix certainly was a memorable one, and I’ll be reflecting on this one fondly for awhile. Seeing any of these bands individually would be noteworthy enough, but all of them on one bill? Incredible. And the good news is, we know we have new material coming in the near future from a few of them, so we’ll keep an eye out for tour plans to follow. As usual, I walked out of this show with quite the collection of photos. Some selects are embedded above of course, but many more can been seen over on my Insta if you find yourself curious. I suppose that means it’s time for my sign-off. Until next time!
“Ein Bier… bitte.”