I was super excited for this lineup, as I am a huge fan of both bands. Arch Enemy is currently on an extensive tour in support of War Eternal, their best album in years, and Kreator is one of my all time favorite bands and always an electrifying live act. Plus, I was taking my 12-year-old son and we always have a blast together at shows.
My excitement was compounded by the fact that I had been offered an opportunity to interview Arch Enemy mastermind Michael Amott before the show.
We arrived about a half an hour before the interview was to take place and decided to mill about with the folks waiting in line and scope the outdoor merch booth. I think that’s the first time that I’ve ever seen a merch booth so large at this venue that they had to put it outside. Both bands and the two opening acts had a ridiculous amount of cool stuff for sale (I’m still pissed that I was too broke to afford that awesome Kreator shirt!).
So then 6PM rolls around and I call Arch Enemy’s tour manager to meet up with Michael for the interview. Michael is in a meeting he says and all interviews for the evening have to be cancelled. I’m not sure who was more upset, me or my son, who was also very much looking forward to meeting the legendary guitarist. Bummer, but at least the show’s not cancelled.
It was still an hour until the doors opened, so we decided to drown our sorrows in some grub upstairs at the HOB restaurant. I had never eaten here before, but I have to say they actually have very good food at moderately reasonable prices especially for the Sunset Strip. Most dishes ranged from $10-$20.
So having consumed a couple of very tasty cheeseburgers and some of the best fries that I have ever had, we headed back downstairs where the doors were now open and the crowd was filing in to the venue. We took up residence on the elevated rail at the bar on the right of the stage, one of the best vantage points in the house unless you’re one of the chosen few guest list people in the balcony. Also a good place to keep my kid from getting crushed in the circle pit that I knew was about to erupt for the remainder of the evening on the floor in front of the stage.
Up first was a band called Starkill from Chicago. These guys got a very short set. It seemed like only about four songs. I didn’t think too much of them either way. They weren’t terrible nor was anything about them particularly memorable. Check ’em out on YouTube and decide for yourself.
Huntress took to the stage next and turned in a fiery hometown set. Front woman Jill Janus is a force of nature. Killer pipes, great at working a crowd, and by no means hard on the eyes. It doesn’t hurt that the band are very highly skilled players and their songs are well-crafted and memorable. They ran through the highlights of their two albums including the song that Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead wrote for them called “I Want to Fuck You to Death.” They also debuted a new song titled “Harsh Times On Planet Stoked” from their upcoming third album. These guys do a really cool thing by hanging out at their merch booth after every show, meeting fans and signing stuff for free. Huntress are definitely worth checking out if you have the chance.
Then came the highlight of a very packed month of shows for me: Kreator took the place by storm with their masterful thrash onslaught. Mille Petrozza is one of the most engaging front men in all of rock. This dude knows how to work a crowd of any size, be it 1,000 in the House of Blues or 100,000 at Wacken. He had the whole place charged up and the circle pit that erupted on the floor was nothing short of epic for a venue this size.
Circle Pit During Kreator
The band drew from its 30-plus-year back catalog offering up something to appease everyone from long time fans such as myself to new converts like my son. Petrozza and fellow guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö are one of the best guitar duos in all of metal. In my 35 years of attending rock concerts, this performance was one of my top 10 of all time.
Finally, Arch Enemy hit the stage. The band was a well-oiled machine, having been honing their live show across much of the globe since the release of War Eternal six months ago. New front woman Alissa White-Gluz is no slouch at working a crowd either. It’s near impossible to pay attention to much else when she is onstage. She is gorgeous and a very riveting performer who knows when to take charge of the stage and when to recede to the background and let her band shine. And shine they did.
Tasked with the unenviable task of following up Kreator’s crushing performance, Arch Enemy held their own. Their set was a nice mixture of the new material and their extensive back catalog. White-Gluz did justice to the material originated by her two predecessors and absolutely slayed on her own contributions.
Still, I had a strange sense that something wasn’t quite right with the band and I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was. It could have just been my imagination after Amott cancelled his interviews for the night. However, coincidentally or otherwise, Arch Enemy announced just days later that Amott’s co-guitarist Nick Cordle would be leaving the band. It seems that shred guitar legend Jeff Loomis, formerly of Nevermore, will be replacing him permanently. This is actually great news for Arch Enemy, but I can’t help but wonder if some behind the scenes drama was casting a shadow over the night.
Regardless, it was a great show. I highly recommend seeing Huntress, Arch Enemy, and especially Kreator if you get a chance. All three are very skilled, high energy bands that put on a fantastic show.