Godsmack @ O2 Institute, 1st March 2019

Having postponed their originally scheduled tour in November due to tragic circumstances, US metallers Godsmack are well aware that they’ve been absent from these shores for quite some time and are eager to make a big impression on their British fans.

Tribal drumming and sludgy bass mark the beginning of the title track from their most recent album ‘When Legends Rise’, and frontman Sully Erna’s enthusiasm and powerful vocals make it clear that Godsmack mean business tonight. The fast and heavy ‘1000hp’ and chugging riffs of ‘Cryin’ Like A Bitch’ or ‘Say My Name’ echo 90’s Metallica, especially given Sully’s James Hetfield-esque singing style, but with the band making a conscious decision to represent all of their seven albums to date throughout the set, we get to see all sides of Godsmack tonight. “We haven’t been here as often as we’ve wanted, so we’re gonna play a little bit of everything”, explains Sully.

Godsmack share their name with a track from Alice In Chains’ 1992 album ‘Dirt’, and the excellent grunge-metal sound of ‘Straight Out Of Line’ draws more parallels between the bands and sees drummer Shannon Larkin expertly navigating more complex rhythms before Erna ends the track using a talkbox guitar effect. Tony Rombola’s blunt guitars on 2000’s ‘Awake’ show remnants of the band’s nu-metal contemporaries from the time, capped off with an impressive solo. Meanwhile, there’s an anthemic quality to new track ‘Unforgettable’ which immediately lends itself to a crowd singalong, something Sully also tries to encourage on the slower ‘Something Different’ and early favourite ‘Keep Away’.

Robbie Merrill’s deep rolling bassline on ‘Voodoo’ again shows traces of Alice In Chains and early Stone Temple Pilots, and an extended ‘Whatever’ shows that the band are still full of energy even if some members of the crowd aren’t, as Sully jokingly calls out a girl on the balcony mid-yawn. “We’re gonna do one more just for fun”, he tells the audience, and a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ ends the main set on a light-hearted note with Tony jamming a lengthy guitar solo at the song’s conclusion.

When the band return for their encore, Sully takes a moment to talk about mental health ahead of the piano ballad ‘Under Your Scars’ before closing the evening with ‘Bulletproof’ and a defiant ‘I Stand Alone’. With a parting shot of “we’ll be back!”, tonight’s crowd will certainly be hoping for a return visit sooner rather than later.

Support comes from New Zealand’s Like A Storm, who manage to combine an original blend of djent riffs, a Linkin Park-esque alt-rock sheen, and the use of didjeridoo – an immediate visual anomaly on stage held up on skeleton-themed stands. Tracks like ‘The Bitterness’ are heavy but accessible, and frontman Chris Brooks’ raw vocals range from the melodic to the bloodcurdling with ease, helped by his brothers Matt and Kent on guitar and bass respectively.

It’s the unexpected moments such as the slide guitar on ‘Wish You Hell’ or when Chris climbs into the crowd for closer ‘Love The Way You Hate Me’ which make their set interesting, and they receive a welcome reception from the crowd. Afterwards, they climb down to shake the hands of the front row before packing away their gear, and they’ll have certainly gained some new fans tonight.

Reviewer: Ian Paget

Photographer: Adriana Vasile

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