TASTE OF CHAOS. Hammersmith Apollo, London. 03.12.09

Tonight, it turns out, is all about the line between solid and outstanding, competent and bloody colossal, standard fare and all-out classic performance.

Sure, Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster can play- their three-guitar onslaught sounds muscular and mighty powerful and while they kick things off without a single original member onstage (even singer Dallas stays home tonight, replaced by erstwhile He Is Legend frontman Schulyar Croom) they don’t drop a note of their southern-fried countrycore. But, the furious howl of ‘Caution, Dangerous Curves Ahead’ and some sleazy dance moves aside, there’s no vital spark in their show and the crowd remain mostly unmoved.

Every Time I Die on the other hand are goddamn electric. They bristle and bellow and roar and force folks to wake up and pay attention. ‘The New Black’ and ‘Floater’ are vital, sonic nailbombs of songs that sound all-at-once deadly explosive, dramatic and huge, and while new cuts like ‘The Marvelous Slut’ and ‘Wanderlust’ may take them into sleeker, slightly more straightforward territory, tonight this is a band showing just how vital their party-starting, party-spoiling hardcore has always been. Brilliant.

After that In Flames suffer. Yes, they are greeted with rapturous applause, horns aloft and banging heads but they’re clipped, clinical metal sounds a little too clean, a little too slick, and a little too safe compared to what’s come before. And then when Killswitch Engage arrive a little later, claiming their crown to an intro tape of comedy theme tunes and a lightshow of cheap fireworks but claiming it all the same, the Swedes are completely forgotten.

Ok, so the set is clunky, the pace is off (perhaps anything over an hour is too long for KsE), and Adam D still constantly plays the fool, but song after song the headliners excel. An opening ‘My Curse’ is massive, with twin guitars crystal clear, drums punchy, and frontman Howard Jones struck silent by just how loud the crowd return his words, ‘Bid Farewell’ is pretty much the distillation of everything great that melodic metal has to offer, and while ‘Fixation On the Darkness’ goes out to all the old fans, newie ‘Take Me Away’ slots in like an old classic. And as the final strains of their last song (‘Holy Diver’, dedicated to a sickly Dio) ring out, it’s so good to know that no fluke, cheap hooks or fashion brought this band here but outstanding songs, superb attitude, hard work and night after night of similar all-out classic performances.

This was supposed to everybody’s tour- the sponsors, the fans and all the bands, the Taste of Chaos- but tonight belongs only to Killswitch Engage. Perfect.