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Written by  Brandon McCarthy

Photos by Matthew Martinez


It has been too damn long since Megadeth released their critical darling, Dystopia. When that album hit the scenes, oh it was a sign that the ultimate revenge band was back in full force. Unfortunately, I did not get to see them when they toured in support of the album because I was dealing with health issues that kept me sidelined for a while. Then in 2019, it was announced that Megadeth would be on the road with Lamb of God & Trivium, but the pandemic delayed that for a year, and I battled another health crisis, COVID. My spirit and will was strong though, strong enough to beat it by the skin of my teeth and catch the tour. Another has passed, and Megadeth was on the road again, this time with Vegas powerhouse Five Finger Death Punch. Along with Rabit, Rockaholic, Buff Metal, and newcomers Jeremy (Raider Metal) & Johnson (The Metal Sensei), we headed back to FivePoint Amphitheatre. Joined by Mongolian folk metal group The HU, and Texas rap metal warriors Fire From the Gods, we were ready for the symphony of metal excellence.

First up is a group I first caught at the Observatory in 2016, Fire From the Gods. Donning Kobe Bryant’s #8 Lakers jersey, frontman AJ Channer was an energetic MC whose rap style singing helped stir the pot for a long evening. Founding members Drew Walker (lead guitar) and Bonner Baker (bassist) are a spontaneous duo who spew heavy licks that are layered with reggae and hip-hop flow. Walker is a guitarist to keep an eye on in the near future. Rhythm guitarist Jameson Teat and drummer Richard Wicander rounded out the group, bringing killer beats that helped create the first headbangs of the evening. Fire From the Gods was on fire their entire set, creating insurgency with songs like “Soul Revolution,” “Trust,” “The Voiceless,” “American Sun,” “In Spite of Doubt,” “Right Now,” and “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse).” Though there were some out there that were not feeling them, that is only because they are ignorant to their revolution. Kick the tires and light the fires, for Fire From the Gods have for rebellion.

The following band is an outfit whose style of folk metal is spreading across the globe like a brush fire. The HU come the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, looking to give Irvine something unique, unlike any folk metal ever heard before them.  Using the art of throat singing and traditional Mongolian instruments that are electric, the HU dazzled the crowd with their hypnotic showmanship. Gala, Jaya, Enkush, and Temka have proven to be one of Eleven Seven’s secret weapon. The metalheads of Irvine could not get enough of them, especially with songs like “Black Thunder,” “Tatar Warrior,” “Yuve Yuve Yu,” “Wolf Totem,” and “This is Mongol.” Ready to release their newest album with Better Noise entitled Rumble of Thunder, it was exciting to see them live for the first time. They will be returning to Irvine in October with Slipknot and Ice Nine Kills, and I will be there to embrace the HU.

Calling all members of the Jake Rattlehead clan, Megadeth is about to take us to “Hanger 18.” That to me is one of the best openers they have ever done. Founder/frontman Dave Mustaine is a force not to be reckoned with.  Having beaten throat cancer, he is back with a vengeance, raging on his Flying Vs and putting out is his sinister singing, as if he has come for the kill. Co-lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro is a master shredder, own each classic Megadeth solo and riff as if he wrote it himself. Ever since he took over for my boy Chris Broderick, he brought some jazz fusion/progressive style of playing that match anything Mustaine throws at him. Drummer Dirk Verbeuren was a hurricane of wailing perfection, while bassist James LoMenzo (who officially returned full time this year) hammered away at our ears with his powerful bass beats. As the band is about to release their long-waited 16th studio album, The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead!, Megadeth made the live debut of the first single, “We’ll Be Back,” in which a roaring response followed. This was followed up with classic thrash goodies like “Sweating Bullets,” “Dystopia,” “Trust,” “Symphony of Destruction,” “Peace Sells,” and the iconic “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.” Would have liked to have heard from the new record, but I consider that a small taste of bigger things to come from Megadeth. The ultimate revenge band saviors the reception of the Irvine metalheads, as vengeance still tastes sweet to them.

After a remarkable Megadeth performance, the Las Vegas metal brawlers that are Five Finger Death Punch. This group usually gets a bad rep for some strange reason, but if you have not seen them live yet, then shut the hell up and read on. Having just released their ninth album, AfterLife, FFDP took no prisoners that night, starting with “Inside Out.” OG frontman Ivan Moody brought supremacy to his voice as he commanded respect with his words. After many years struggling with addiction, Moody has fought back and is still throwing out cunning jabs & crosses to the crowd. Though he is not without a soft side as he brought out his daughter to sing to her “Happy Birthday,” and I admit, that was a sweet display of love on stage. The twin guitar attack from rhythm man Zoltan Bathory and lead Andy James was exciting to see. This is my first seeing James in the group (replacing Jason Hook), and he did not disappoint. The YouTube sensation has made his mark with FFDP, and the crowd loved him. Bassist Chris Kael (wild beard in all) and drummer Charlie Engen were dominate on the rhythmic beats that displayed the signature Five Finger power everybody loves to hear. The many years on the road have not worn down the Vegas warriors. From “Trouble” to “Wash It All Away,” “Welcome to the Circus,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Bad Company,” “Lift Me Up,” “Wrong Side of Heaven,” “Burn MF,” “IOU,” “Under and Over It,” and “The Bleeding,” the band landed their KO shot.

For a Wednesday night at the FivePoint Amphitheater, it was an excellent night for heavy metal. The Metal Assholes, as I now dub us to be, enjoyed every second of the show. The only thing that was strange to me and I am pretty to everyone else was why did Megadeth open for Five Finger Death Punch? Ehh! Who am I to question the decisions of Mustaine? He is a master of the thrash, a legend even. So, I just went with the flow and the flow was blissful. Fire From the Gods filled the hip-hop void, while the HU took me on a strange journey that opened my mind. As for Megadeth and Five Finger, so good so far, but so what!? They got our six, and we will have theirs for years to come. To Five Finger Death Punch, Megadeth, the HU, and Fire From the Gods, I salute you. Horns up!!!

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