Incredible night of technical metalcore and nostalgic emotions
August Burns Red (performing ‘Messengers’ in full) with Napoleon
Date: 31st July 2017
Venue: Camden Underworld, London
It’s been ten years since August Burns Red released their album, ‘Messengers’, so to celebrate, the metalcore outfit are touring the album that is beloved by many of their older fans. Quite often the United Kindom misses out on these special occasion type shows, but I was stoked that we had the opportunity to witness the momentous occasion before they headed out to mainland Europe. Supporting August Burns Red on the UK leg of the tour was Exeter metalcore act Napoleon.
Napoleon kicked the night off in a savage manner, with technical riffs, erratic beats and dominating bass chuggs topped off my frontman Wes Thomspon screaming at the top of his lungs. The crowd was pretty packed out early on and fairly responsive, banging head and bouncing around to the hooking rhythms. Thompson liked to conduct the crowd’s actions, with plenty of calls to run around the iconic Underworld pole. Countless times I heard the words “Get your hands up” as people clapped to the beat. Pits flowed throughout the set and the energy gradually got strong as the performance went on.
Musically, Napoleon were quite brilliant, Sam Osborn‘s lead guitar fingerwork was impeccable and James Mendoza‘s drumming was awesomely intricate. My only gripe would be that I wish the lead guitar was a smidge louder in the mix as at times the impressive fretwork was drowned out by the rest, it was almost too subtle. Otherwise this was a really solid and humbled opening set, these shows were near enough sold out before Napoleon was even mentioned on the lineup, so everyone was there purely for August Burns Red, yet made the Exeter lads feel right at home on stage opening for a band they listened to in their youth. (7.5)
In the build up to August Burns Red hitting the stage, System of a Down‘s ‘Chop Suey’ was played over the speakers, in which the packed out crowd sang enthusiastically, was a highly entertaining moment before the lights dimmed to signal that the Pennsylvania act were due to hit the stage. Excitement piqued as amusingly some trance music blared over the PA while members walked on. August Burns Red swifly opened with the first track of ‘Messengers’, ‘The Truth of a Liar’. Immediately pandemonium ensued, the pits opened, the arms raised as fans sang along to the words and everyone bounced to the beastly breakdowns. It wasn’t long before some fans even sang the incredibly guitar melodies that JB Brubaker delivered.
It was an epic open that continued with the more technical classic, ‘Up Against The Ropes’, I’d waited a long time to finally see this song performed live and the watch the intricate drum work and killer shredding riffs unleashed. Frontman Jake Luhrs was in his element, commanding the crowd like a conductor, hanging the microphone over the crowd. The intensity escalated for the fan favourite of ‘Backburner’, an early “hit” for August Burns Red. The stage dives and crowdsurfing increased. It was a perfect kind of chaos. Fans lost their voices to the likes of ‘The Blinding Light’ and especially to the gang vocal segment in ‘Composure’. Throughout the set the energy rarely died, the atmosphere just got hotter and sweatier. Band members were absolutely dripping, though I think some of that was water just to cool themselves down.
As the set progressed, it was a reminder of how great this album is and how iconic it feels in the metalcore scene, a true fan favourite release. Around the room you can just see the elation on some people’s faces as these older tracks gave them a strong wave of nostalgia. What was great was the mixture of tones, from the bruiser anthems in ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and ‘Black Sheep’, that were full of the most brutal of breakdowns and blastbeats, to ‘The Balance’; which while it’s just as heavy, it lets the lead guitar prowess shine. Hearing the rather beautiful guitar solo live just made the hairs on your arm stand on end.
After the rather epic album closer that was ‘Redemption’, drummer Matt Grainer and I’m assuming his drum tech hit the stage to perform a drum duet. The talent of both stickmen was outstanding, I’d seen this before, but it never ceases to amaze. After a few more minutes, Jake Luhrs returned to the stage to have a chat with the crowd to hype them up more, he joked about how some of the people are stage diving as some looked rather embarrassing. Luhrs then introduced the recently released track ‘Invisible Enemy’ from their soon to be released album ‘Phantom Anthem’. The song went down well with the crowd, a similar chaotic energy, but being a very new track the response was reserved compared to the likes of ‘Ghost’ and ‘White Washed’, which both ended the set phenomenally with a wall of death, more stage dives and more fans screaming at the top of their voices. It was a truly epic performance, I just hope we get the same for ‘Constellations’ in a couple of years because that would be phenomenal.
We interviewed JB Brubaker before this show. Check out what he had to say here.