I could feel their music in my chest as I walked into Newport Music Hall. I missed their first few songs, but if they were anything like the last three or four, it was one of the most high energy performances I’d ever seen from an opening act.
Crystal Lake, the Tokyo-based metalcore band was starting the pace for the night, and it did not slow down. Though the band formed in 2002, this was their first US tour, and it was apparent they did not want it to be their last.
The lead vocalist, Ryo Kinoshita, showed incredible range, from deep growls to high screams, and everything in between. The crowd didn’t seem to know many of the words, but they were absolutely entranced by Kinoshita and his bandmates as they controlled the stage and the crowd.
They closed their set with “Apollo,” their most radio-friendly song, but did not lose a single drop of energy from their soul crushing set. I have a playlist of metal bands I need to remember to check out, and the minute they left the stage, I added their newest album.
“We usually say we’re from Dayton, but I can be honest tonight, we’re from Troy, Ohio.” This was the introduction from Miss May I’s vocalist Levi Benton. The crowd roared with recognition of the small town about an hour and a half west of Columbus, and the entire band seemed to be genuinely happy to be back in their home state.
Benton mentioned the band having played at Newport since they were in high school, and they looked very at home on that stage. Many of the songs encouraged the audience to sing along, like “Lost in the Grey” or “Relentless Chaos” from their sophomore album “Monument.”
Miss May I is one of the few bands I’ve seen that sounds different from their studio material, but in a good way. Benton’s vocals are more visceral and chaotic live.
Next up was Fit for a King, a Christian metalcore band, and that’s not nearly as much of an oxymoron as it seems. While they never proselytize on stage, their lyrics contain very progressive Christian messages. But with songs like “Backbreaker,” Fit for a King has proven that Christian messages can be just as heavy as any other message.
They also brought Benton back out to perform the guest vocals he recorded for their song “Stacking Bodies,” which is about the tragedies of the Rwandan genocide.
All three of the previous bands could have easily headlined their own tours, and they would have been just as high energy and enjoyable. But the official headliner, August Burns Red is in its own category.
Having formed in 2003, they are one of the first large-scale metalcore bands, and they are one of the few that are still touring and making successful music. And they’ve only gotten better with age.
Lead vocalist, Jake Luhrs walked onto stage and he looked more like Kratos from the newest “God of War” game than a stereotypical metalcore vocalist. He seemed very happy, until the minute any of their songs started.
Then his brow furrowed, and it seemed like something inside him took over. Something angry.
While most metal shows I’ve gone to are characterized by the erratic movements of the band, from jumping across the stage to flailing about, this entire set was smooth. From JB Brubaker’s fingers gliding across the neck of his guitar, to Luhrs using the corded microphone as an extension of his arm, the whole thing was incredibly fluid, even seeming elegant – which is a great way to describe the band.
Aggressive, but clinically precise. Where some bands in the genre rely on a few power chords and just being fast, August Burns Red makes every single note seem meaningful, and their musicianship cannot be understated. Don’t get me wrong, I love power chords and fast songs, but there is something magnificent about watching a band do that, as well as change time signatures and keys in the middle of a song seamlessly.
And every member was given a time to flex their talents, whether it was a few bars of blistering guitar solos near the end of a song, or the five-minute drum solo that kicked off their encore.
Which brings me to my personal favorite part of the whole evening. After the drum solo, the three guitarists walked back on stage and played a heavy metal medley of music from “The Legend of Zelda” series. I knew this song existed, but I never expected them to play it live, and once again, their musical skill was on full display.
On my way out, I noticed one of the merch tables was selling a shirt with the phrase “Angry Music for Happy People,” and that’s probably the best description of the whole night.