Amateur Batfan: Volume 12 – The Long Halloween

Hello and welcome to the twelfth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

In previous entries, I mentioned how I’ll now try and cover some of the more famous Batman books like Year One, Arkham Asylum, Dark Knight Returns etc. and so this time I’ll be covering The Long Halloween, which is perpetually featured in list of best Batman books ever, which helped inspire parts of The Dark Knight movie and which is always mentioned as a brilliant book for beginners.

I had it in my mind that The Long Halloween was released either late 80s or very early nineties, as it is a sort of follow-up to Year One, and I assumed that it was the next Batman story after Year One, but apparently there was almost a full decade between them, and that this didn’t even start until 1996.

I also thought that the much discussed Hush, (created by Jeph Loeb, who made The Long Halloween), was made long, long after his other work. But this ran from 1996-1997 and its sequel Dark Victory ran from 1999-2000, so Hush running from 2002-2003 is completely normal. I had it in my mind that Hush was a sort of return of Loeb after ages away, in the way that The Dark Knight Returns coming out in 2003 was a return for Frank Miller after about 20 years. Yeah… my knowledge of this stuff is pretty blurry to say the least. I don’t really know where or why I got that “return” impression.

Either way, as a rule, I generally enjoy the whole idea of the Year One sort of period, where Batman isn’t fully developed yet, where all his inventions and vehicles aren’t invented, where the bat-family like Robin and Batgirl and all that lot aren’t in it yet, when some villains haven’t even showed up, or turned evil yet. When I was first introduced to comics again as an adult, I thought “Good. I don’t want any Robin or Superman or Magic or Aliens, all that stuff is stupid and diminishes what’s cool about Batman.”

Having said that, the more I’ve been reading Batman, the more I’ve grown to appreciate just the opposite of that. I’ve began to really love seeing Nightwing and Oracle show up, and after his smug-shite attitude in Batman And Son – I thought I’d hate Damian Wayne, but then as he developed as a character, I really began to like even him. Its therefore kind of an old-opinion of mine that the Year One stuff is what I care most about, now I want to learn about Huntress and Cassandra Cain and whatever else. Even with this new attitude though, it didn’t stop me re-reading and enjoying The Long Halloween…

Batman

Batman – The Long Halloween:

– Writers: Jeph Loeb
– Art: Tim Sale
– Colours: Gregory Wright

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Holiday, Calendar Man, Joker, Two Face, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Solomon Grundy, Sal Maronie, Carmine Falcone, Vernon Fields, Carla Viti, Johnny Viti, Sophia Gigante,

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Harvey Dent (Pre-Two Face), Catwoman

– Bystanders: Gilda Dent, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr., Richard Daniel (Gotham Bank)

– Story: [/Spoilers] Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon form a pact to bring down the crime empire of Carmine Falcone, a mafia boss. Catwoman seems to have something going on with Falcone. Somebody starts killing Carmine’s family and men over the course of the year on public holidays. The press dub them the Holiday Killer. Batman suspects Calendar Man as it fits his M.O. of Holiday-themed crime, Carmine suspects his mafia rival Sal Maroni. Everyone suspects eachother, maybe its Batman, maybe its Harvey Dent, maybe its Gordon, maybe its Catwoman, maybe its one of the many mafia characters in the story. The mafia want to deal with Gotham bank to launder money. Bruce Wayne’s vote on their board-of-directors meeting stops that deal from happening. The mafia have no choice but to just keep their money in a huge pile in a warehouse, and Batman along with Harvey sets it on fire.

Harvey’s wife Gilda finds a gun that makes it look like it was Dent doing the Holiday killings. Catwoman flirts with Batman a lot. Carmine hires a Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and Riddler to deal with his problems – Fighting the Bat-freak with freaks of his own, much to the distaste of other mafia members. Riddler almost gets killed by the Holiday Killer and is distraught about it. Poison Ivy uses her mind control powers to trick Bruce Wayne into reversing the vote with the bank, then Catwoman breaks Ivy’s spell over Wayne. Joker on some ego trip wants to know who Holiday is, and breaks into the Dent’s house frightening Gilda and angering Harvey. Joker steals a plane and threatens to kill people until he finds out who Holiday is. Batman stops him. Harvery’s death is faked and this helps him arrest some criminals. Solomon Grundy is in the Gotham sewers, Batman is nice to him. During a court case against a mafia guy throws acid in Harvey’s face turning him into Two Face. Carmine’s undervalued son is revealed to be the Holiday killer. Two Face kills some mafia guys then hands himself in at the end, stating that the justice system will fail as usual. Batman and Catwoman flirt. All the super villains gang-up on the mafia boss. There’s an epilogue where Gilda is destroying evidence to protect her husband and reveals she killed some people too.

– Tone: Its in part, a very serious and realistic take on Batman. In some ways, it’s a colourful tour of the rogues gallery including magic tree women, madmen in dodgy costumes and a zombie. Its probably symbolic of the transformative effect Batman’s presence had on the criminal landscape that it starts off with Mafia guys and ends with supervillains, but I don’t feel like somebody’s desperate to give me a message like when Smith or Snyder do their Joker conversations at the end of their books. I just feel entertained. Its good to have a little more humanity and grey area to Harvey Dent, instead of him being super-perfect then instantly super-evil. This makes it more like its two sides of his personality. The mixture of realism and supernatural ideas reminds me of Dark Moon Rising.

– Art: I’ve read this twice. Once about a year ago, and once in the last two days. Right up until re-reading it, I had it in my mind that this was a really fugly book. I don’t know why I thought this. I’ve just read it again and some of the artwork is absolutely gorgeous, any of the moody film-noir looking shadowy scenes in Gordon’s office look incredible. The only things that really look bad are Joker and Poison Ivy. During the normal scenes with humans, or in people’s offices and houses, this is an excellent looking book with a lot of attention to detail and it feels really good on the page.

– My Thoughts: I really, really enjoy this book. I don’t accept the idea that this is poorly designed or only exists to show off some different villains, plagiarizes The Godfather too much, or has a bad mystery (see here). I do agree that some of the character designs are not the best (I don’t like scarecrow) and do concede some of the villains are slightly unnecessary (I don’t understand Joker’s motivation even now… if he is jealous of other freaks, why does he do the team-up at the end?).

Its good having the whole Gilda and Barbara thing, it adds extra depth. I like when there’s people in Gotham besides the Bat Family, The Cops and The Villains.

I was surprised to learn, while reading about this online afterwards, that Carmine Falcone was only introduced in Year One. I thought he’d be one of the earliest villains going. When I’ve seen historical bat-stories from the 50s they’ve usually involved gangsters, and you could easily imagine one being called Falcone or Maroni.

This isn’t so much about Long Halloween but rather all Batman in general – Do you know what I dislike? Mad Hatter. I am a) sick of him due to a coincidental over-exposure and b) I dislike him to begin with, he is just something I don’t get along with. I never liked Alice In Wonderland to begin with, and it seems to grate at me. I also think it’s a bad gimmick for a villain. As far as I’m aware Spiderman doesn’t fight a Gandalf-themed Lord Of The Rings-obsessed character, and Spawn probably doesn’t fight a Ron Weasley based villain.

I do like that Loeb teams him up with Scarecrow though, if he has to be included, this is better, he can’t sustain a whole story of his own in my opinion. Even in the Arkham games, the Mad Hatter psychedelic missions weren’t as good as the Scarecrow one, (probably just because Alice In Wonderland seems to annoy me for some reason admittedly). I think adding in Hatter adds a bit of value-for-money as the list of villains included is longer, but letting Scarecrow do the heavy lifting is just better for my individual personal tastes (heck, throw Cornelius Stirk in there too and have a team up of mind-bending villains.)

So yeah, Mad Hatter… tolerable in small doses or as a silent part of a team, but I’d hate a game, comic or movie where he was the main villain. I’d almost prefer The Carpenter or Tweedledum and Tweedledee… at least their voice isn’t annoying. I was going to start a list of villains that I prefer to Mad Hatter, starting with Mr. Freeze and going onwards, but I thought it would just be pointless, you get the point. I don’t like Ventriloquist or Mad Hatter all that much. Doesn’t matter, just personal opinion.

That ‘Hatter observation aside, I only really have positive things to say about this story. It is long, weighty, has a good tone, keeps you reading till the end it also looks good for the most part (Jim’s office particularly). I also like how they hint at duality instead of ramming it down your throat every five minutes. What more could you want?

[Oooh look. A whole Batfan article where I didn’t bring up Heavy Metal. What’s going on? Ummm…. “listen to Megadeth.” Phew, close call!]

Amateur Batfan – Vol. 8: Hush Returns

Hello and welcome to the eigth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

At the moment I’m halfway through reading No Man’s Land, but since I’m not finished it yet that won’t be the subject of this week’s entry. Instead I’ll talk about a book that I only received in the mail today, but have already finished.

Today I’m in a good mood, although a little sleepy after having taken a long train journey listening to the music on my phone on shuffle, hearing things like Dream Theater, Protest The Hero, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. “Pretty Noose” by Soundgarden is fast becoming a favourite song of mine. Usually, this train journey feels like it lasts forever, but today it passed quite quickly because I’d taken a Batman comic with me to read. It was called Hush Returns. I find Hush to be quite an interesting villain and bought this purely for the word Hush, without reading reviews beforehand.

It kept me entertained on the train, but under any other circumstance I think I might have been better off not reading it at all…

Batman

Batman Hush Returns:

– Writers: A.J. Lieberman
– Art: Al Barrionuevo
– Colours: Javier Pina

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Ties into Infinite Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Very Late Career

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Hush, The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Prometheus, Talia Al Ghul, Ken (Joker Goon), Oliver Hammet (Police)

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, Tim Drake as Robin, Barbara Gordon as Oracle, James Gordon (Police) Bullock (Police) Montoya (Police)

-Bystanders: Joker’s Dead Wife Jeanie From Killing Joke

– Mentioned: Vesper Fairchild, Huntress, Lex Luthor, Ras Al Ghul

– Cameos: Green Arrow, Posion Ivy,

– Story: [Spoilers Ahoy:]

The story starts in the middle with Riddler falling off a roof. Then it cuts to the actual beginning; with Hush, recently back from the dead, squatting in a remote swamp-side cabin and planning his revenge. People try to investigate the squatter in their friend’s house and Hush kills them, then torches the house.

Next; Bruce is at a socialite party, and Hush sends in a woman who he has made to look like the late Vesper Fairchild to distract Batman. She is almost killed in traffic but Batman saves her. Hush then plants a bomb in a hospital inside an MRI Machine.

Then Riddler, in Blackgate Prison, receives multiple death threats and so sends a note to the Joker saying he will exchange a name for his safety. Joker, who in intercutting scenes is seen to be pining for his late wife, reads the note and agrees, blackmailing the Prison Warden with a underage sextape, which results in having Riddler transferred. During this transfer, the prison vehicle is struck by missile fire, Batman tries to stop this and have Riddler returned to prison and uses Lex Luthor’s satellite to try and find the culprit (unsure if it really is a resurrected Hush).

Hush beats up The Riddler and throws him off a building, then confronts the Joker (who wants to defend the Riddler) but is quickly and ignobly defeated. Batman uncovers Hush’s MRI-Machine bomb-plot, and gets the GCPD Bomb Squad in to disarm it.

Batman and Robin investigate whether or not Hush is back from the dead, then dig up Hush’s grave and find the newspaper from the time of the car-crash from the previous Hush story inside the coffin instead of a body.

Robin visits an inventor, and Hush visits him shortly after. He is informed that he would do well to hire Prometheus as an assistant/ally, and goes to Star City to do so. Upon arival, Hush finds Prometheus fighting Green Arrow and being shot many times. Hush saves his life (short term) and escapes, causing a policeman to fall to his death in the process. Batman arrives too late and argues with Green Arrow, they fight, then make up. Batman leaves while Green Arrow comforts the dead policeman’s family. Elsewhere in a seedy motel; Hush uses his surgical skill to save Promethus’ life (long term). The police track them down to the motel (and Green Arrow assists by blowing up the door) but they all arrive too late and Hush and his new pal Promethus have already gone.

Batman returns to Gotham, awaiting Hush’s return, and confides in Robin that he feels afraid.

There are flashbacks throughout to the Joker backstory from The Killing Joke… you know, the red hood, and his pregant wife and all that? They then add a new bit where the mobsters Joker was working with hire a corrupt cop to murder his wife, and Riddler by chance witnessed it while planning an unrelated crime.

Joker and Riddler do a deal, the wife-killer’s name for Riddler’s safety. Hush reveals to Promethus that he has a secret headquarters in the abandoned Hospital where he trained as a surgeon.

Hush, now backed up by Promethus confronts the Joker while he’s transporting The Riddler to safety, and in a reversal of their previous encounter, Hush easily defeats Joker. Batman shows up and tries to reason with Hush, but then they start fighting.

The story ends with a defeated Joker slinking away through the sewers ruminating on his lowering station in life, stripping naked and arriving at the amusment park from The Killing Joke, while Riddler escapes and besseches Posion Ivy for help.

There’s an extra chapter set much later, where Hush and Promethus severe their ties, and then are confronted by Talia Al Ghul, there’s a flashback that shows Promethus has a magical key which he aquired from an alien, and Talia wants it.

– Tone: For the most part, the story has a fairly solid and natural tone, although it sort of changes throughout. There’s a bit with crazy insectoid aliens towards the end.

– Art: The art is rather good. Its not as good as the origional Hush’s art, but its fine in and of itself. When I read online reviews for this after reading it, a lot of reviewers who slated the book for its bad story, lack of conclusion and bad characterization, also mentioned the art as being rubbish in the sort of scroched-earth approach to reviewing a bad product. I think this is unfair, as there is absolutely nothing wrong with the art, and if it had have been on a good story I highly doubt anyone would have such negative things to say about it.

My Thoughts: Firstly, it isn’t anywhere near as good as Hush, or Heart Of Hush. Normally, I don’t find myself as one of the people who dislikes something just because its not the strongest one in the series. I still like Deep Purple’s Who Do We Think We Are album even though it follows up the much superior three albums In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head for example.

Its not enough that Hush Returns tries to be a sequel to Hush; it also tries to be a sequel to The Killing Joke. It might have seemed like a good idea to combine the two on paper but the execution isn’t effective.

That’s almost reason enough for most people to give this book a miss. Its a lot worse than even just failing to live up to its’ series though, its actively poor as a story. The story is an arc-less collection of happenings, which do not particularly intertwine well or amount to much. There isn’t a clear beginning, middle and end and the consequnce of most scenes is questionable. The whole back from the dead thing isn’t even all that directly adressed. There’s not spoonfeeding the audience and then there’s not writing normally. The Vesper Fairchild thing, what was the point? Then once Joker arrives at his Amusment Park, what next? That’s clearly a half-way point, not an ending. Why does Robin go to the inventor guy?

Not only are there a lot of unexplained or unresolved plot points. The book completely misunderstands characters.

Green Arrow tries to murder Prometheus, tells Batman as much and Batman doesn’t bat (no pun intended) an eyelid. When have you ever known Batman to turn a blind eye to attempted murder?

Hush is normally a long-game, slow-plan, mystery man, who manipulates things from a distance and gets other people to do his deeds. In this story he’s just a bruiser, wading in and cracking skulls first-hand. No cunning, no strategy, no significant threat. He spends most of the story just wanting to punish the Riddler, and seemingly not interested in Batman. Maybe that means he is playing a long-game, but the story isn’t clear about that and abruptly ends before clarifying. You know what else though, Hush is quite determined and perfectionist. Why does he just take some guy’s word that he should hire Prometheus? Why when he sees firsthand Prometheus being easily defeated, does he even bother with him at all?

Next up, Joker. Joker is pining for his dead wife. He doesn’t once act like The Joker. He doesn’t Joke. Doesn’t laugh. He just acts like a gangster boss. He is really concerned with his territory and his prestige as Gotham’s owner. He is in no way insane. He is a man who lost his wife and turned to crime. Compared to Batman R.I.P or Death Of The Family’s Joker, he really just seems like a random prideful gangster.

I’ve also read later online, that Prometheus was meant to be pretty unstoppable and here he gets defeated too easily, so that might be a further disappointment if you know Prometheus already. Speaking of Prometheus; for me, I never want any sort of magic in my stories, so the whole magic-key thing feels out of place.

Also, after all that admitting fear business, it turns out Batman needn’t have been afraid really, because he only even sees Hush once more and all that happens is that he has to duck from gunfire. There’s no masterful scheme to destroy Batman or anything like that, just a poorly handled shooting.

Overall; If you consider that a lot of things happen for seemingly no reason, that there’s no satisfactory conclusion, and that the characters just don’t “feel right” at all, then the book just feels like a bad Batman release. Individual scenes can be quite interesting and the artwork is good, but for me the cons far, far outweigh the pros. I wouldn’t recommend that you buy or read this book. In fact, just the opposite, I think you should give it a miss. Buy Hush, buy Heart Of Hush, but don’t buy this.

Maybe you could even buy Down On The Upside by Soundgarden. Its not considered to be as good as the three albums which preceded it, but it flows a lot better than Hush Returns does; plus it has “Pretty Noose” on it!

I Went To See Lamb Of God Play Live Last Night:

I went to go see Lamb Of God live last night. For the first time since moving to Manchester I had a friend to go to the gig with. Oh wait, second time, the other one was that Korpiklaani gig I spontaneously went to because people I’d been in a band with years ago were going, and all I said to them was one sentence and then never saw them again. This was the first one that I actually cared about beforehand. He talked me into drinking beer. Normally I don’t drink at gigs because I both dislike drinking and don’t want to have to go to the toilet and miss anything.

We thought it was just Lamb Of God and Decapitated on the bill, but when we got there, it turned out someone called Huntress were supporting. I hadn’t actually heard of them before.

First impressions weren’t great, but I’m a diplomatic sort of person and usually find it extremely difficult to call any band bad and usually just feel that art is all subjective and that I’d probably enjoy it with more exposure and if I was in a better mood and all that business.

Huntress’ singer made me dislike her midway through the set when she announced that Lemmy co-wrote a song with them, then when she announced that he called it ‘I Wanna Fuck You To Death’ – she followed it up by saying “he’s so romantic” in a Dani Filth voice, for laughs. It wasn’t funny. She also kept pointing out people in the crowd and dedicating the titular sentence to them. It was shameless. She started doing it to a fifteen year old kid and then told him to call her in a year. Might as well have got her tits out while she was at it. Or at least that was what flashed through my head in a fleeting moment of displeasure.

Then I realized… “don’t hate the playa, hate the game” or whatever. Of course she’d say that. Of course she’d do that. People like that. Some people expect that. Get over it and stop being judgmental. If Jamey Jasta did the same thing with a motivational song title you’d like it.

Anyway, the band’s music wasn’t engrossing. It was Thrash Revival stuff. Sort of more like Evile than Gamma Bomb. More in the Slayer end of Thrash Revival than the Nuclear Assault end. A lot of riffs reminded me of South Of Heaven, Among The Living and Extreme Aggression… except in order to sound similar but not be a cover, they had to be changed slightly, and something of the magic was lost in that changing.

It made another fleeting thought go through my head. Which was “I don’t care if the music industry dies and no new bands get signed. So few bands have anything good to offer.” Furthermore, it made me think “there’s so much music already that I won’t get around to listening to it all by the time I’m dead. I won’t even be able to afford all the good music, so I really don’t need to waste my time with bad music.”

But then I remembered that bands like Tesseract can come out and make new music seem like a good thing. So. I guess I won’t burn down all the recording studios and concert venues just yet.

To be fair to it, there was nothing wrong with Huntress or their music, but I didn’t like it, it didn’t grab me and it was just boring to me, personally. Maybe they should’ve called it “I’m Going To Bore You To Death” – says hypothetical sneery 1990s music journalist. I probably wasn’t in the mood anyway, I was looking resentfully at the crowd who were enthusiastic, happy looking people who were actually having fun. It made me genuinely consider what to write in my suicide note.

I read a Ricky Gervais quote (he probably took it from someone else, like Jesus, or Ghandi to be fair) on facebook earlier that day, that said “Jealously is self-harm.” If that’s the case, I think I was hash-tag-suicide-risk at that gig, because I was harming the fuck out’ve myself with all the jealously I was feeling for these happy seeming people. Why are all these people so easily-made-happy? Why are all these couples here having a good time? Why do people feel ok with being topless in the pit even when they aren’t by-media-standards-attractive? Why can all these people walk around looking like this without fearing for their safety from muggers on the way home? Why can they all drink without feeling shitty about themselves? How comes my eyes have turned green? Why do I have to be such a boring joyless dick?

Oh well, at least this time I had a friend with me to talk to. Any other time I’ve been at a disappointing concert, feeling out of place in a sea of happiness and enthusiasm, all I can do is sit there in silence, like a grumpy out of place lemon.

“What did you think of them?” – Disapproving face – “I thought so too.”
“Looking forward to Decapitated?” – Disapproving face – “I thought not.”

Also, on a separate note. Lamb Of God have the tallest fans. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in Manchester, but I’ve never seen a higher concentration of tall people at one gig. I’m six foot and don’t usually feel short. But I’m not exaggerating when I say I saw at least three people who were pushing eight feet tall and at least thirty who were definitely seven. It wasn’t so noticeable when I came in and the venue hadn’t filled yet, but as more and more people came into the hall, a disproportionately high number of them were unusually tall.

Is that actually worth noticing? Why am I so interested in the crowd anyway? Am I utterly depressed and in need of help, or, were Huntress just boring me to distraction.

We’ll let a panel of Mental Health experts be the judge of that one, but all I’m saying is, I didn’t rush out and buy their album online as soon as I got home, didn’t walk out of there wearing a Huntress t-shirt, and I don’t think if Huntress played on their own I’d jump at the chance to buy tickets to go see them.

Anyway; when they were over, my friend took me to get another beer and it was about twenty minutes until Decapitated came on next. Before they came on, there was a soundcheck in which they played about the first two minutes of Pantera’s ‘Walk’ and even got the crowd to sing along. From where I was at I couldn’t tell if it was the band having fun or roadies taking liberties. When Decapitated started their proper set I didn’t recognize any of their songs (even though I listened to Nihility and Winds Of Plague again around Christmas), the sound wasn’t good either which didn’t help, the material was a bit boring, and I went to the toilet towards the end of their set, I missed “Spheres Of Madness,” which I actually might have enjoyed. See what I mean about not drinking at gigs?

So. Decapitated live. Not much fun to be had there then.

I started to actually feel drunk after only two beers, mostly because I haven’t drank more than ten times in the last four years rather than any actually quality of the unpleasant watery beer. That made me have all sorts of unpleasant nostalgia-style mental flashbacks to all the times I drank and had a bad time, and no memories of fun or anything positive. Once that kicked in it made everything even worse. I was ready to walk home. What a waste of money this night was. I don’t like concerts anymore.

I walked back in. That was a positive step, at least I didn’t go home. Mostly it was because my friend had my coat though. Ok. I’ll sit through this rubbish a bit longer so that I have a coat for the cold January walk home. I was going to stay at the back behind the land of giants and see nothing behind the sea of tall, tall fans since I wouldn’t enjoy myself anyway. My friend eventually found me before Lamb Of God started, and wanted to go closer to the front, so we did. We got all the way up to about three people-from-the-front. What good progress. Sometimes at gigs the competition for space is really unpleasant. Nope. We just strolled on up without upsetting anyone, or getting in anyone’s way or asking anyone to move. That made me feel some positivity at least. The lack of negativity or rudeness made me feel something positive. Also, being able to see the band would at least make it a bit interesting.

I scanned the crowd a couple of thousand more times; that made the glimmer of positivity die. I found myself deciding that not only did I not like concerts any more, or metal fans, but that I was genuinely incapable of ever having fun again. I was completley convinced that I, in fact, had medical anhedonia and was literally unable to feel happiness. I came to a firm and complete conclusion that life was no-longer worth living.

Then Lamb Of God hit the stage. It opened with the drum solo that’s between ‘Straight For The Sun’ and ‘Desolation’ on the Resoltuion album. It sounded good live. It looked good too, with flashing lights and a big Resolution artwork banner behind the kit, and all you could see was Chris until the first riff kicked in. ‘Desolation’ and ‘Ghost Walking’ were played pretty early on. Bouncy, big, and what’s this? Fun! Holy shit, I’m actually having fun. I didn’t think that it was a medical possibility.

They dropped ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ ‘Laid To Rest’ ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’ and I was actually singing along. Me. I could barely believe it.

When they played ‘Vigil’ and ‘Omerta’ I was actually jumping around, I actually did raise my hands/fists/horns whenever they asked, probably the first time since moving to England. I was actually getting into it.

When ‘Ruin’ came on, I sang every word. Every one. I was properly into it for the first time in what feels like forever.

When I had went to see The Fratellis live before Christmas, some punk-ass fifteen year old girl took exception to the fact that I was just stood there with my arms folded watching the band, and started mocking me for being ‘no fun.’ If only she could see me now.

There were a few interesting things during the bulk of the concert worth pointing out too. Randy had a joke about the Smiths and fake-dedicated a song to Morrisy. Mark Morten was off for family reasons and Between The Buried And Me’s guitarist filled in. Randy had grown a beard and looked like the villain from a crime movie. They played ‘Undertow’ off of Resolution, which I never thought was a noteworthy song before, and it absolutely smashed live. It got a really good audience response too. I think that’ll stay in the set even when new albums come out. Chris broke a drum before ‘Omerta’ and had to replace it. Willy shouted the ‘woo’ during ‘Black Label’ like he did on the live Download Festival DVD. I didn’t realize that was a tradition, I just assumed it was a one off on the night of filming. When Randy was doing the traditional make-the-audience-appreciate-the-support-bands bit that a headliner always says, Decapitated got a gigantic cheer (like, a distinctly bigger cheer than any band I’ve heard in the last two years in the same scenario…including Orange Goblin and Napalm Death).

I was pretty transfixed on Campbell for a lot of the night. I had been listening to a lot of the Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave podcast this week, and in my mind Campbell was (pod host) Brian Johnson. Why on earth was Brian Johnson playing bass for Lamb Of God?

They ended the night with ‘Redneck’ and ‘Black Label’ as you would expect (Since I became a fan of the band, which is only about five years ago now, I always thought they should swap that around now. I know ending with ‘Black Label’ is tradition, since it was the most fun song off their first album, but ‘Redneck’ is way more popular, way easier to sing along to and would make a way better ending).

Anyway, when they Played ‘Redneck’ live, it was incredible. The feeling I got during ‘Redneck’ was even better than with ‘Ruin.’ I felt like somebody give me a shot of pure concentrated happiness. I’d been in a terrible mood all week, flickering in and out of one all month and ‘Redneck’ cleared it away.

They should use ‘Redneck’ as a medical treatment. People should be given Lamb Of God tickets by the government to increase productivity and reduce depression in the population. I sang along to every single word, jumped about and had genuine actual fun. I was in a very good mood.

Then ‘Black Label’ came on.

Then it was over. My friend even caught one of the plectrums that they threw into the crowd at the end. One had hit me, and got caught between my arm and chest, but when I moved to get it, it feel to the ground and some teenager picked it up. Fair dos, the one that had hit me was from the Between The Buried And Me guy anyway, and I don’t play the guitar, so I wasn’t particularly interested. Makes sense that someone enthusiastic get the souvenir. (Had it have been a drumstick, I wonder whether I’d have tried to keep it. I honestly don’t know.)

I walked home without incident. No weird students proposed odd philosophical points to me, no clearly-not-homeless chancers tried to get money off me, no elderly men stopped me for a cigarette and found the idea that someone ‘doesn’t smoke’ to be the most ludicrous notion they’ve ever heard, no streakers got arrested by the police in front of a crowd of Rugby lads dressed as giant vegetables (which happened when I went to see Down live at this same venue, about a year and a half ago), or anything else like that as would usually happen on the way back from the gigs I’ve been to in Manchester.

Overall; It had a shaky start, but it actually turned out to be a worthwhile evening. Lamb Of God themselves had a great performance, a great setlist, good sound and the audience loved them. I loved them. I had a good time. It made me happy.

I even woke up this morning with a big grin on my face. I think I’m going to go and stick ‘Redneck’ on the stereo. G’bye.