Thursday night's event at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles had already been planned to be filled with collaborations, from Metallica's cover of the Judas Priest classic "Rapid Fire" with Rob Halford to Anthrax's pairing with half of Pantera. Revolver Marketing Director Josh Bernstein told Billboard that Metallica has topped their wishlist since Golden Gods -- the only metal awards show in the U.S. -- debuted in 2009. "What a night! Metallica!" exclaimed executive editor Brandon Geist.
The metal titans accepted the Ronnie James Dio Lifetime Achievement Award before they played, but the awards themselves (save for Corey Taylor's win for Best Vocalist, which brought the Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman to tears) played second fiddle to theroll call of presenters and the performances, which included Stone Sour with members of Slipknot, Halestorm with Disturbed's David Draiman, Five Finger Death Punch with Rob Zombie and John 5, and Danzig with ex-Misfits guitarist Doyle.
Pro-wrestler and avid metalhead Chris Jericho returned as host (comedian Brian Posehn, who hosted the first year before Jericho took over, mingled backstage) and the show was streamed over X-Box Live and Facebook. It was also broadcast for the first time by AXS Live.
Anthrax kicked off the night with the 1987 classic "Caught in a Mosh" and the more recent "Fight 'Em Til You Can't," joined by Shadows Fall's Jon Donais, who has been filling in since longtime guitarist Rob Caggiano joined Volbeat. Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown came out for a rowdy version of Pantera's "This Love," which saw Scott Ian doing his trademark circle-stomp onstage. The crowd roared their approval and appreciation as the band tore into a brief bit of the Hanneman-penned "Raining Blood," which the group had put together during rehearsals. "Rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman. We love you, man," Anselmo declared.
The Dillinger Escape Plan singer Greg Puciato cut his forehead open, climbed everything in sight, pulled apart pieces of the Golden Gods set and used a torch to breathe fire as the hardcore math-metal band performed two songs from their forthcoming new album. (Full disclosure: This writer is the band’s manager.) Next was a heavy version of Depeche Mode's moody "Behind the Wheel," with a leather-jacket-clad Deftones singer Chino Moreno, before Dillinger launched into the intro for "43% Burnt" and trashed much of their gear.
Female-fronted major label rockers Halestorm were up next, playing their hit "Love Bites (So Do I)" and "I Miss the Misery" before being joined by Disturbed/Device frontman David Draiman -- whose outfit looked like something from "The Matrix" -- for Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." There were many Five Finger Death Punch shirts in the audience (outnumbered by Metallica shirts, of course) and their fans were vocal during "Burn it Down" and the brand new song they debuted, "Lift Me Up," which featured a guest appearance from Halford. Zombie and his guitarist John 5 joined 5FDP for White Zombie's "Thunderkiss 65."
Corey Taylor wore a Slayer t-shirt as Stone Sour took the stage with "Gone Sovereign," followed by "Absolute Zero." Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" received a faithful rendition from the crew, with Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan and Chris Fehn (both in jumpsuits and masks) joining on extra percussion for the song's big breakdown. Not long after, Taylor and guitarist Jim Rootdonned their masks as well when Slipknot accepted the award for Best Live Band.
Chris Jericho wore a t-shirt featuring late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who sported a tattoo of the Misfits logo. As he has done often in recent years, Misfits founder Glenn Danzig had ex-bandmate Doyle join him on stage for a mini-set of Misfits classics, but not before performing Danzig's own "Hammer of the Gods" and enduring staple "Mother" with his band, which includes members of Type O Negative and Prong. Misfits anthems "Death Comes Ripping," "Skulls" and "Last Caress" got the Nokia pit going hard.
Metallica were clearly the evening’s headliners, with the somewhat subdued crowd coming fully to life as soon as James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo emerged. The band was given the entire stage (as opposed to the revolving half-stage given everyone else) and theyowned it, launching into mid-80's classics "Disposable Heroes" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" as the audience sang every word back to them.
"Now it's time to bring out someone who can actually sing," Hetfield cracked as Halford, walking with a cane, came out for "Rapid Fire." The evening closed with "Seek & Destroy" from Metallica's 1983 debut Kill 'Em All, with a bit of "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" tacked on the end.
Presenters and attendees included ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, Gene Simmons, Ghost BC's Papa Emeritus II (who took off his hat and asked for a moment of silence for Hanneman before presenting anaward), members of Megadeth and Testament, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson.
Slayer's Kerry King was backstage, but declined to speak with the press. He was spotted embracing Metal Blade's Brian Slagel and in a long conversation with Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, among others, as the DJ blasted early Slayer and Metallica classics.
Complete List of Winners:
BEST GUITARIST: John 5 (Rob Zombie & solo)
BEST DRUMMER: Arejay Hale (Halestorm) and Gene Hoglan (Dethklok & Testament)
PAUL GRAY BEST BASSIST: Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead)
BEST VOCALIST: Corey Taylor (Stone Sour & Slipknot)
BEST NEW TALENT: Device
MOST METAL ATHLETE: Triple H (WWE wrestling)
BEST LIVE BAND: Slipknot
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Tenacious D
SONG OF THE YEAR: Black Veil Brides, “In The End”
MOST DEDICATED FANS: HIM
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Deftones, Koi No Yokan