Mayhem in Mickeyland

By on March 7, 2015

 

JAKE LUHRS - AUGUST BURNS BAND (photo Valerie L. Cason)

JAKE LUHRS – AUGUST BURNS RED (photo Will Ogburn)

Mayhem. It’s a word that conjures up images of everything from Black Friday shopping to Allstate commercials. When August Burns Red, Miss May I, and company invaded House of Blues on Monday, they brought mayhem to the normally calm land of Mickey Mouse.

 

IAN EUBANKS -ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

IAN EUBANKS -ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

Erra

 

This Birmingham, Alabama based progressive metalcore band was up first – looking every bit the part of the villainous genre. Their vocalist Ian Eubanks is a mass of muscle, rage, and energy. His shaved head and orcish screams contrasted with the soft, melodic voice of rhythm guitarist Jesse Cash.

 

ALEX BALLEW - ERRA  (photo Valerie L. Cason)

ALEX BALLEW – ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

From their first song, “Dreamcatcher”, on, they seemed to be really happy to be in Orlando. Eubanks’ sweeping hand gestures, as well as lead guitarist Sean Price’s powerful riffs made songs like “Warrior” and “Frostbite” come alive.

 

The Takeaway: Erra was a very nice appetizer for the bands to come.

SEAN PRICE - ERRA  (photo Valerie L. Cason)

SEAN PRICE – ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

JESSE CASH - ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

JESSE CASH – ERRA (photo Will Ogburn)

 

Fit for a King

 

Fit for a King is the first band on the ticket to carry the banner of Christcore, a Christian take on metalcore that is shared by both Miss May I and August Burns Red. At a first glance, it’s easy to see these bands as independently talented groups united by their music – but when faith is added to the equation, the bond becomes even more solid.

 

RYAN "TUCK" O'LEARY - FIT FOR A KING  (photo Will Ogburn)

RYAN “TUCK” O’LEARY – FIT FOR A KING (photo Will Ogburn)

With songs like “Forever Unbroken”, where vocalist Ryan Kirby lashes back on those that judge his religion, and “The Resistance”, in which the band states their disgust for what our society has become, Fit for a King often has potent messages in their songs.

 

“You’ve got blood on your haaaaands” – Fit for a King took the stage in a flurry with the 2013 hit “Hollow King”. Fans immediately took to the Dallas natives, and started moshing and crowd surfing early in the set. The crowd moved together and reached outstretched hands toward Kirby as the song went on.

 

RYAN KIRBY (LEFT) & O'LEARY - FIT FOR A KING (photo Will Ogburn)

RYAN KIRBY (LEFT) & O’LEARY – FIT FOR A KING (photo Will Ogburn)

A high point in the set came during “Forever Unbroken”, a song that reads a bit like angsty slam poetry put over a metalcore track. Metalheads in the crowd could feel the passion in Kirby’s voice as he defended his beliefs.

 

After a ton of hair-slinging and guitar shredding, Fit for a King transitioned into the title track off of their last album Slave to Nothing. This high energy, breakdown-laden track is nothing revolutionary from a musical perspective, but it definitely fed the fans crazed moshing.

 

Fit for a King ended with the aforementioned “The Resistance” and “ Warpath”, the first of which may have the most memorable part of their set. At the end of the song, Kirby yells “YOU DISGUST ME!” in a moment of silence. The guitar-heavy “Warpath” ended the set with a little bit of pop and then it was on to the headliners.

 

The Takeaway: Fit for a King was about what I expected – heavy, not super diverse, but music that you can punch someone in public to without it being socially weird. I can dig it.

 

 

Northlane

 

Whelp, this is awkward. Northlane’s bus broke down on the way here, so we had a little time on our hands.

 

 

LEVI BENTON - MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

LEVI BENTON – MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

Miss May I

 

Miss May I took the stage like a zombie outbreak at a mental ward – bright, blinding white and green lights pulsated as vocalist Levi Benton stood on a riser and addressed the crowd. “Hey Mister” and it’s prelude “At Heart” were first on the docket. Their horror movie-esque themes and Levi’s erratic movements made the fans edgy, and as soon as “HEY MISTER” left his mouth, the crowd lost it. Mosh pits broke out as if people were fighting to survive this outbreak.

 

Next up came “Hero With No Name”, a bone-rattling track that honors the men and women of the military. The scene in the pit was reminiscent of some kind of Call of Duty commercial. The deafening sounds muted by earplugs, I could still feel the sound waves rippling the air around me. The battle being waged was between fans and security, with masses of humanity raining over the barricades as Levi’s voice directed them. I chuckled to myself, thinking about that quote from 300 “Those in the rear cry, ‘Forward!’ Those in front cry, ‘baaaaack!'”

 

 

JEROD BOYD - MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

JEROD BOYD – MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

“WHAAAAA” the first vocals of “Masses of a Dying Breed” blasted throughout the House of Blues. The lightning fast drums of Jerod Boyd gave a charging pace to a song that portrays a battle in its music video. The melodic, clean vocals of bassist Ryan Neff helped structure the song into something more than a melee. More moshing, more crowd surfing – Levi reaching for their hands. The lighting finally improved and I was able to get some decent shots. Levi jumped up on a riser and whipped his mane of hair around in a circle, making the average Joe (myself included) wish he could get away with wearing sweet locks like that to work.

 

After I exited the pit, the crowd only got more intense. During the next track, “Forgive and Forget”, the crippling-fast bass pedals of Boyd combined with powerful riffs by guitarists B.J. Stead and Justin Aufdemkampe (that’s a real name, and I want it). This song is one of the more well balanced in the Miss May I arsenal, featuring backing vocals by Neff on the bass. Each member gets a chance to leave his mark on the song.

 

LEVI BENTON - MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

LEVI BENTON – MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

Rating vocal abilities in metalcore can be interesting. For a band with two vocal elements, like Miss May I, it’s hard to find a balance that pleases everyone. Unclean vocals (the screamy ones) can be seen as jarring to some, while too many clean vocals (the singy ones) can move a band out of metalcore altogether and into a category with bands like Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens called post-hardcore. Not a place that any self-respecting metalhead would want to be.

 

That being said, “Gone” may be the perfect balance between the two. With Levi’s aggressive vocals tearing through the verses, and Neff’s harmonious, echoic choruses, there’s something for everyone that likes the genre. For the fans at House of Blues, this meant a welcomed rest for their tattered vocal chords and a chance to sway back and forth to the music.

 

BJ STEAD - MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

BJ STEAD – MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

The next twenty minutes featured more of the same – pure euphoria for Metalheads, and “babe, can we go home yet?” by non-metal fans. From what I’ve heard, Levi’s a really cool guy – and if he’s not, her certainly does a great job playing one on stage. He reached out to touch fans as they sailed toward him across the sea of outstretched hands, and looked more than a little bummed if security got to them first.

 

The set hit it’s peak on the final song: “Relentless Chaos”, two words that sum up this show better than I have in nearly one thousand so far. Before they kicked it off, Levi stood on the riser again, this time thanking the fans and telling them “Ok guys, if you haven’t got a chance to mosh or crowd surf, now’s the time!” Fans responded by sending a sea of spectators careening toward the band and overwhelming security. It almost looked like there were more people on the crowd than in it as the song hit it’s climax.

 

LEVI BENTON - MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

LEVI BENTON – MISS MAY I (photo Will Ogburn)

The Takeaway: Miss May I play to their strengths, which are also some of the fundamentals of metalcore. Great unclean vocals, great drums and guitars, but the stage presence was really their strong suit.

 

JAKE LUHRS - AUGUST BURNS BAND (photo Will Ogburn)

JAKE LUHRS – AUGUST BURNS RED (photo Will Ogburn)

August Burns Red

 

“Metalcore is not an interesting genre at this point,” August Burns Red guitarist J. B. Brubaker told Alt Press back in 2013. That was just before the release of their last album Rescue and Restore – and with a new album on the way, ABR continues to try to blaze the cutting edge of headbanging. The Frozen Flame tour is their way of promoting the new LP, and fans across the country are getting to experience ABR for the first time since 2013.

 

August Burns Red took the stage, not only for the chanting crowd in Orlando, but also for thousands worldwide on Yahoo Livestream. The crew from small town Pennsylvania took the stage with a roar as vocalist Jake Luhrs instantly broke into their chart-topping hit “White Washed”. The already stoked crowd threw their hands up along with Luhrs and bellowed, “You’re the straw that’s crushing my back.

You are the salt that’s burning my wounds.”

 

JB BRUBAKER - AUGUST BURNS BAND (photo Will Ogburn)

JB BRUBAKER – AUGUST BURNS RED (photo Will Ogburn)

Next was the similarly bone-rattling “Beauty In Tragedy”, where Luhrs began by jumping around the stage before going into a mellow soliloquy in the middle, followed by more unclean vocals at the end. This track is another high-energy whirlwind powered by Brubaker and rhythm guitarist Brent Rambler.

 

Third on the docket, and my last in the pit, was one of my personal favorites by ABR: “Thirty and Seven”. Sometimes it’s hart to quantify why a metalcore song is good, even if it’s your job to do so. In this case, I think it’s Matt Greiner’s sick drumbeat combined with cleaner vocals by Luhrs. ABR is a very technically sound band, and each member is able to carve out his part of the song. This song was the first of the serious ABR crowd surfers, as photographers found themselves ducking and diving by the song’s end.

 

The first song off of Rescue and Restore to be played, spirit breaker is one of the more emotional songs in ABR’s repertoire. It speaks of entrapment told in the form of poetry to an unseen lover. The albums overall theme of retribution can be felt in this track. It serves as an example of the change the ABR is trying to bring to the genre, with more melancholy than rage and a spoken word break in the middle. Fans ate it up.

 

DUSTIN DAVIDSON - AUGUST BURNS BAND (photo Will Ogburn)

DUSTIN DAVIDSON – AUGUST BURNS RED (photo Will Ogburn)

“Marianas Trench” has, I think, the best intro in the ABR catalogue. Coming from their 2009 album Constellations, the track is a favorite among fans new and old. Luhrs stood on a riser and sung his microphone around like a lasso in the breaks, while Brubaker and Rambler went ape on either side. Fans’ hands moved up and down in unison, another mosh pit broke out; this was certainly a high point in the set.

 

After “Marianas Trench”, August Burns Red’s show became one giant blur of mosh with Jake Luhrs and company directing the action that was being live streamed across the country. Luhr’s stage presence reminds me of the final boss from some classic video game – with broad shoulders and lumbering gestures he moved across the stage, conducting the crowd into a frenzy with each swing of his arms. Brubaker and Bassist Dustin Davidson had great crowd interaction, though Luhrs fell way short of Levi Benton’s mark in that area.

 

As the standard set came to a close, ABR finished strong. The 2007 hit “Composure” off of their album Messengers was the last song, a track that many remember from the early days of the band. Green and purple lights streamed across the stage, illuminating the crowd. Luhrs’ signature mic cord whip was in full effect now, flying across his body as he leaned over the stage. He took the cord and tied wrapped it around his neck, hoisting it like a noose as he sang.

 

JAKE LUHRS (photo Will Ogburn)

JAKE LUHRS (photo Will Ogburn)

Finally, the Pennsylvanians ended in a group drum solo (a drum combo?) with several members including Dustin Davidson donning their own drum sets and hamming them in unison on stage.

 

The lights went down, and fans knew they were in for a treat. Everywhere there were side conversations, “What’s it gonna be?” “I heard they were gonna play Empire.” But the reality was even better: for the only show on this tour, the band played two encore songs.

 

First up was “Carpe Diem”, an angry, but inspirational track about pursuing your dreams. The two vocalists, Luhrs and Davidson, play two characters: one two is breaking free to follow his dreams, and another who is trying to hold him back. Luhrs dedicated the song to every member of the audience, because we all have a dream that we’re scared to pursue.

 

House of Blues Orlando was packed (photo Will Ogburn)

House of Blues Orlando was packed (photo Will Ogburn)

The final song…you guessed it right, guy in the back, was “Empire”. This track basically sums up everything that is ABR: powerful guitar, fast, technical drums, and multi-faceted songs. The chants of “Oh-oh ohhh” could be heard bouncing off the buildings in Downtown Disney in every direction. Sixteen songs and an assured morning headache later, the show was finished.

Overall Takeaway: if you like metalcore, you’re gonna like ABR. The band features talent across the board, and a chemistry that’s hard to find. Jake Luhrs is solid, though not near as compelling as Levi – but that doesn’t really matter. The band’s driving forces are Matt Greiner and J.B. Brubaker, and few are as respected as them in the modern metalcore scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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