LIVE: August Burns Red / Dying Wish / thrown @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Dave Stewart

If you’re a fan of metalcore and have been for many a year, then this line up is absolutely unmissable. There’s tonnes of good bills that go on the road but for the metalcore-obsessed, this particular tour is something else. Featuring an up-and-comer, a breakthrough act and a legend of the genre, technical metalcore pioneers August Burns Red top a bill of genre heavyweights and pull out all the stops to provide one of the finest metal showcases of the year so far. Strap in folks, this is going to be one hell of a night.

Kicking off the evening is the fast-rising thrown, the anticipation bubbling as Limp Bizkit’s classic ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’ warms up the crowd’s voices and limbs. Emerging from the shadows one by one, they rip straight into ‘guilt’, its opening guitar shrieks summoning cheers from the pit as it tears itself open for the first time this evening. It’s the perfect tone setter for everything that followed – precise and pulverising heaviness, delivered with menace and malice. From wrecking ball tracks like new favourite ‘Backfire’ to the devastating ‘new low’, and a very tasty sounding new track for good measure, the band provide a perfect warm up session ahead of the rest of tonight’s carnage. Closing number ‘greyout’ leaves a lasting mark, the thick grooves and their commanding stage presence winning over tonight’s early attendees.

Next up is Dying Wish, who have brought a crushing setlist to the Electric Ballroom that covers the brightest spots of their debut album and their crushing latest release ‘Symptoms Of Survival’. The title track of the latter kicks off their maelstrom, with vocalist Emma Boster standing tall above the onlookers, whipping them into a frenzy with her vicious screams. The chaos in the crowd continues to intensify as they roar through the crushing ‘Watch My Promise Die’ and the rabid ‘Starved’, with deafening snare bombs rattling old confetti off the lighting rigs and breakdowns so tight that the headliners would be proud. Limbs are flailing, bodies are surfing towards the barrier, all is going well; until the dreaded tech hiccups appear…

The band suffer through a handful of issues during their set, but they luckily all happen pretty early on. A couple of feedback problems plague Boster’s mic, though it doesn’t phase her at all, but a pedal problem completely stops guitarist Sam Reynolds in his tracks and fixing it eats into a chunk of the set. Does it affect the band’s momentum though? Nope, not even a little, and they continue to take swing after pendulously heavy swing into the audience. Confident and raging performances of ‘Prey For Me’, ‘Cowards Feed, Cowards Bleed’ and the evil ‘Path To Your Grave’ devastate the crowd, making the closing one-two punch of the stunning ‘Lost In The Fall’ and the devilish ‘Innate Thirst’ hit even harder. Many of us are left breathless, looking on in awe as we collectively process the most aggressive music we’ll hear this evening. They definitely gained fans tonight.

Now, the main event. August Burns Red make it immediately clear that this is their show – a cinematic, richly textured soundscape ushers in the start of an epic light show, the stage bathed in light as the band begin to creep onto the stage. Launching straight into ‘Empire’, the band unleash those faultless chops and almost inhuman tightness that they’ve built their reputation on, and the crowd lap up every single note. Vocalist Jake Luhrs sounds and looks like a grizzly bear, his ominous silhouette towering over the crowd as he bellows his aggression into the room with ease. The pit becomes the widest it’s been so far this evening, and it just continues to grow as they dive straight into the back catalogue with tracks like ‘The Escape Artist’, ‘The Truth Of A Liar’ and ‘Thirty And Seven’. You can almost feel the musicians in the room losing the will to keep trying to play their instruments – the musicianship masterclass that we’re all watching is sublime.

The set spotlights a handful of their newer cuts like the devastating ‘Bloodletter’ and the fierce ‘Backfire’, but the band does a great job of dipping into almost their entire back catalogue, the fluidity of the set being a testament to their creativity over the course of the last 20 or so years. The iconic ‘Composure’ summons a venue-wide wall of death, the majestic ‘Meridian’ creates an almost hypnotic state that washes over the entire room, the melodic adrenaline rush of ‘Animals’ spawns vicious circle pits – they manage to structure the set like a journey, and their incredible connection with one another makes the soundtrack destructively flawless.

After an incredible performance of ‘Mariana’s Trench’ that created one of those goosebump inducing moments, witnessing a crowd sing the riffs back at the band louder than the PA, the band left the stage and simultaneously created the “one more song” chants almost immediately. We aren’t left waiting long, the band re-emerging with the opening notes of the stunning ‘Paramount’, welcomed by hungry pit goers with enthusiasm. The floor opens one final time, transitioning from swirling cyclone to fierce brawl along with the evolving soundscape, but it saves itself for the final hurrah. That comes in the form of favourite ‘White Washed’, those opening drums calling every last drop of energy in the room to be expelled during the final offering of the night. Every breakdown erupts like a long dormant volcano, every head from front to back banging like a mosher Mexican wave, and the band all look out at the carnage with smiles on their faces. What an evening.

Not to sound too cliche, but August Burns Red really are like a fine wine and they do just get better with time. Metalcore is a genre where being robotically tight is the norm, but the precision they displayed tonight is in a league of its own. No mistakes, no hiccups, a perfect performance balance of confidence and fun, and a setlist that left every face smiling. They’ve conquered London once again, and the display they’ve put on was truly mesmerising. One of the best metalcore bands to ever do it.