Heaven & Hell exorcise the Forum

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By Tyler Davidson

Robb Flynn of Machine Head rocks out. (christopher ullyott)

By Tyler Davidson

On a blistering hot spring day in Los Angeles, the Great Western Forum looks relatively desolate. Only a core group of die-hard fans have shown up for the scheduled 7 p.m. start time, filling the floor space and only a small portion of the bright yellow and orange bleachers lining the sides of the arena, and Bay Area metal outfit Machine Head wouldn’t have it any other way.

On April 25, these devoted few have turned out for Machine Head’s opening slot, as the fifteen year old thrash metal band shares a bill with metal giants Megadeth and Heaven & Hell (the newly renamed incarnation of Black Sabbath, with living legend Ronnie James Dio as vocalist.)

Machine Head proves their passion by playing like it was their last show on Earth, making every minute of their half-hour set count. Before they dive into their newest single, “Aesthetics of Hate,” lead singer Robb Flynn gets every metalhead on the floor in on a “Dimebag” chant, in memory of the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, former guitarist of thrash metal icons Pantera who was murdered on-stage in 2005 (the song is a hateful anthem directed towards William Grim, a columnist who wrote a largely unsympathetic article following Abbott’s death essentially saying it was a by-product of his environment).

In an interview with Viewpoints, Flynn attributes this sort of behavior to a “totally ignorant and fear-based mentality.” Elaborating on the misinterpretation of the metal scene as a whole, Flynn says, “They’re looking at it from an incredibly shallow standpoint… it (is) as much a release as it (is) a community.”

Machine Head rounds out their set with “Davidian,” the first single off of their debut album that sets an eerie tone for the rest of the night, as Flynn bellows the definitive line of the chorus: “Let freedom ring with a shotgun blast,” and follows it up with an impressive guitar solo, letting his guitar hang to about two inches off the stage.

Next on stage is Megadeth, one of the most commercially (as well as critically) successful metal acts of all-time. Frontman Dave Mustaine effortlessly shreds on his guitar as the (now much larger) crowd sings along to classics like “Peace Sells” and “Symphony of Destruction.” Megadeth has an extremely loyal core fanbase, but on this night, they’ve obviously converted a number of people.

“I never jumped on the Megadeth bandwagon, but seeing them live will change your mind,” said Cisco Hernandez, a 25-year-old San Bernardino native. “If I had to pick a genre, I’d pick thrash…I’ve been listening to (Metallica’s) ‘Kill ‘Em All’ for the last ten years.”

Stephanie Watson on the other hand, is definitely not a metalhead like most in attendance. “This is much different from what I’m used to,” says Watson, who came from Orange County because of her boyfriend, and whose knowledge of rock is admittedly limited to video games. “I’m a huge ‘Guitar Hero’ fan.” However, she’s not completely turned off to the metal scene. “I never imagined it could be this fun…it doesn’t matter where you sit.”

“You’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth,” shouts Mustaine after Megadeth finishes up their set with “The Punishment Due,” a song he proclaims will be his campaign song when he runs for president. The arena starts to buzz as everyone in attendance knows what’s next. After a lengthy wait just to set up an elaborate stage (made up to look like some sort of twisted cathedral, complete with stone archways, wrought-iron gates, and video screens designed to look like stained-glass windows), Heaven & Hell take the stage.

What follows is two hours of metal in its purest form, as the diminutive Dio, a man credited with inventing the “devil horns” hand signal, sings with all his soul can muster. Security guards fight with crowd members for possession of crowd-surfers as guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Vinny Appice accompany Dio through songs like “Lady Evil,” “Voodoo” and, the encore of the night, Black Sabbath’s “Neon Knights.”

Any metal fan would be more than appeased at this demonstration of pure rock. From the pounding bass kicks of Machine Head, to the lightning-quick guitar solos of Megadeth, all the way to the hauntingly melodic vocals of Heaven & Hell’s Ronnie James Dio, the power of music surged through the Great Western Forum on this April night. Flynn sums it all up with a few simple phrases and a content grin: “This tour’s been going killer. We’re having a great time.”

To read the complete with Machine Head’s Robb Flynn click here

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