Live Review: August Burns Red, Miss May I, Northlane, Fit for a King, Erra



August Burns Red’s Frozen Flame tour is too stacked to miss. On January 31st at the London Music Hall, I was treated to a breakdown-infused night with five batches of musicians, all with their own appeal, but rooted with the same philosophy: hard, heavy and emotional metal.

Birmingham, Alabama’s Erra did a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the night. Playing a mix of tunes from their full-length Augment (2013) and their recently released EP Moments of Clarity (2014), they managed to capture all the musical technicality played on the album while engaging the crowd with active stage presence that really just looked like the band was having fun. While I often watch metal bands that seem to compete to see who can stomp the hardest or jump the highest, Erra is a band that is on the stage simply to have fun with their fans.

Erra’s guitarist Jesse Cash made a lasting impression. While also holding down the clean vocals for the band, Cash nailed his technical guitar parts with ease. With a very high voice that seems to be pushed to its limit on recordings, I was concerned going into the show that the live clean vocals may be lacking. But this was not the case at all. Cash nailed his high vocals in songs like “Hybrid Earth” and “Dreamcatcher” while seamlessly transitioning to his lead guitar parts and solos. Needless to say, this guy is talented and recorded parts are not at all neglected in the live setting.

I did feel that the guitars were low in the mix. Maybe I’m wrong. Or, maybe it’s because I’m obsessed with this band’s guitar parts and wanted to hear more. Either way, even though Erra is slotted first in the lineup, it has no bearing on their ability. This band is a fantastic live act and if you can’t make it out to this tour, or if you miss their set, be sure to be at the next one, because I’m sure these guys won’t be the opening act for long.

Fit for a King followed up Erra’s performance with an absolutely vicious set. That is actually the best word I have to describe it. I was relatively unfamiliar with this band going in, but man these guys can put on a show. Their music is really heavy with tons of breakdowns, and it’s only enhanced by their massive stage presence. Again, I was impressed with the vocals, both from lead vocalist Ryan Kirby and bassist Aaron Decur. Kirby had probably the longest sustained scream I have ever heard belting out the closing note of the set for what seemed like minutes. If you like your metal heavy, vocals low and love getting messy in the mosh pit, these guys are for you – definitely worth checking out.

As Fit for a King finished up their set it was the time I had been waiting for. Since their inception, I have been an absolutely huge Northlane fan. And with the recent departure of vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes, I was extremely interested to see how the band would represent itself with new vocalist Marcus Bridge. I can sum it up in one sentence: If you loved the band before, you’re going to love them even more now. The set with Marcus was remarkable. Having seen the band numerous times, they have only gotten tighter as a unit and with Bridge’s singing ability, there are so many new opportunities for this band. While Bridge may not have the low vocals that Fitipaldes had, I felt that Marcus held his own with the parts to the point where it didn’t take away from the old songs at all. Meanwhile, his singing is a major positive addition and only opens doors musically for Northlane as a band.

Apart from their recently released single “Rot”, the band played exclusively from their second full length Singularity (2013). “Rot” was a major highlight from the set. It was evident that Bridge has really become a part of the group as the song in its live setting complemented his vocal style so well. Vocals were heavy and the singing managed to grip your emotions as a listener even more. The mix was perfect, the band was active and exciting to watch, and the crowd bought in from the first note. One interesting omission from the set was the band’s first big single, “Dispossession”. I have never seen Northlane not perform this song and maybe it was due to the short set from an early timeslot. But in my opinion, Northlane is making a statement that they won’t be defined by their old music forever. Either way, if you’re a fan, be excited that they are proud of their new music and ready to create without being bound to their previous releases.

Miss May I followed Northlane with a solid performance. I have never really been a fan of this band, so while keeping my musical opinions to myself, they are great performers. You can tell watching that they have been doing this long enough to really understand how to engage a crowd and own their stage. I felt that they nailed their individual parts but I never really bought into the songs. While the technicality of each part was impressive, the songs felt slightly repetitive and blended together. For me, drummer Jerod Boyd made the set. He is extremely fast, active behind the kit and manages to engage the audience from the back of the stage – no easy feat.

Finally, there’s a reason August Burns Red is one of the biggest metalcore bands out there. These guys have to be the most consistent band of all time. I seriously wonder if they have ever had a bad show. This set was no different. Playing everything from their first full-length Thrill Seeker (2005) to their most recent Rescue & Restore (2013) they were flawless. As a band that is no stranger to the breakdown, they managed to keep each one as impactful as the previous. With ABR, each stop in the breakdown is completely crisp, almost as if sound doesn’t exist for that time in between notes. The highlight of the set was their extended version of “Meridian” from 2009’s Constellations. This song is an emotional roller-coaster and had the crowd in a trance as the music crescendoed to its midway climax. My friend, who was unfamiliar with the song, turned to me after saying, “What was that? That was probably the best thing I’ve ever heard.” So with that, if you’ve never seen August Burns Red, see this tour, because not only are you going to see four other great bands for your money, you may get to hear the best thing you’ve ever heard.

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