Black Veil Brides + Asking Alexandria + Crown the Empire @ MTELUS – February 4th 2018

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A little more than two years ago, I took a step out of my comfort zone and went to a metal show. I had a great time seeing Blind Guardian and Grave Digger, and my thoughts are well-documented – so I was naturally pumped when I got the chance to see a triple-bill of Black Veil Brides, Asking Alexandria, and Crown the Empire. And while I thought my experience would prepare me for this show, I was informed by a buddy that I wasn’t just going to a metal show this Sunday: I was about to experience metalcore.

Before Sunday, I had no idea what metalcore is – but I started to put the pieces together soon after Crown the Empire stormed the stage at MTELUS. New song “20/20” opened the set with strobe lights, industrial drums, and Smashing Pumpkins fuzz. But, led by the connective tissue of Andy Leo’s clean power-punk vocals, the Dallas quartet quickly shifted into the anthemic energy, blast beats, and growls of 2016’s “Zero”. I’m told that these are hallmarks of metalcore, and while the band ripped through a short 9-song set, Leo made the most of it – frantically pacing across the stage to give equal attention to the whole crowd and repeatedly urge them to “pick it the fuck up”.

I don’t often see shows where the opening act can fill the venue, but it looked like the entire bottom floor was packed elbow-to-elbow by the third song. The band was aware of potential competition with  Super Bowl Sunday, and they played with an urgency that seems to be exemplary of the genre. Nevertheless, the band could also flex enough to slow down and have fun, giving Brent Taddie (drums), Brandan Hoover (guitar) and Hayden Tree (bass) a chance to stretch into the groovy rhythms of “Hologram”.  Leo appears to be dead set on reaching for the sky with his vocals – but he also seems genuinely happy to be on stage, repeatedly thanking the Montreal crowd and gasping in amazement at MTELUS’  extremely tall waiter.

Crown the Empire felt like a solid introduction to the energy and attitude of metalcore. But Asking Alexandria kicked the show into the next gear, opening up their segment of the show by jumping onto a hibachi-looking platform with active smoke machines, LED pentagons, and the steady thunder of “Into the Fire”.

Playing to crowd chants of “ASK-ING! ASK-ING!”, the English five-piece seem just a little more intense than Crown, making great use of the muscular band’s breakdowns, distorted guitars, and the dynamics between Danny Worsnop’s demonic barking, soaring melodies, and quasi-rapping (“Where Did It Go?” and “Alone in a Room”). The set focused on cuts from 2017’s self-titled album, but brought back some older cuts for this leg of “The Resurrection Tour”.

Even though they’re successfully gunning for technical ecstasy, Alexandria’s intensity can sometimes be a bit too dramatic and overdone for some tastes – relying heavily on LED visuals of smashed bottles of Jameson and clenched-fist misogynistic lyrics (“Not the American Average”). Even so, the crowd – skewing quite young – looked like they ate it up anyway, screaming along with the rest of the band.

Still, I’m told that Asking Alexandria has been working on more mature material in recent years – and I was impressed to see them take a risk on a pair of acoustic songs in the middle of the set (“Vultures” and “Someone, Somewhere”) and stick the landing. I was equally impressed to see this white-knuckle serious band experiment with a riff on Justin Bieber’s “Baby” – which further confirms that there can be a softer, goofy side to this kind of music. Asking Alexandria’s content doesn’t always go down easy, and I guess it’s not supposed to – but the band’s versatility keeps the music barreling down the highway to hell.

After the sustained drive of the other two bands, one would think that Black Veil Brides had an uphill battle to fight with the crowd’s patience. But one would be wrong, judging from the extra-octave scream that erupted from the crowd when they ripped into their set. After I thought I’d seen it all, the California quintet tapped into the audience’s secret energy reserves and pulled out some new tricks… in the form of some old classics.

Decked out in black makeup, feathered hair, and plenty of leather, Black Veil Brides ooze respect for the grime and glam of bands like KISS, Judas Priest, and Mötley Crüe. Contrasting with the crunch and distortion of the other bands on the tour, guitarists Jake Pitts and Jinxx complement Andy Biersack’s comfortably dynamic vocals with old-school melodic solos, harmonies, and good old-fashioned shredding..

Right from the guitar screeches and double kick drum intro of “Faithless”, BVB showed me that this whole genre is definitely not a rejection of the music that has come before it. Instead, through songs like “Coffin” and “Wake Up”, the band made it clear that you can mix familiar iconography of burning crosses, barbed wire, and skeletons with forward momentum and the future. In fact, projecting black-and-white footage of the band joking around on tour during love ballad “When They Call My Name”, Black Veil Brides proved that this scene can actually be kind of sweet and sentimental – almost playing like the black polish-wearing younger brother of “Wanted: Dead or Alive”.

That’s not to say that these guys have no bite or nothing new to say, and they tore through 11 songs and a chunky encore without losing an edge or a single crowd member. But after a whole high-octane evening of seeing metalcore’s best and brightest push it to the limit? It was refreshing to see some young guns pick up a violin and top hat, glance backwards, and then look to see where this music can go from here. 

Crown the Empire Setlist:

  1. 20/20
  2. Zero
  3. Prisoners of War
  4. Memories of a Broken Heart
  5. Voices
  6. Hologram
  7. Cross Our Bones
  8. The Fallout
  9. Machines

Asking Alexandria Setlist:

  1. Into the Fire
  2. Killing You
  3. To the Stage
  4. Under Denver
  5. Run Free
  6. The Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel)
  7. Not the American Average
  8. Vultures
  9. Someone, Somewhere
  10. Eve
  11. Where Did It Go?
  12. Alone in a Room
  13. A Prophecy
  14. Moving On
  15. The Death of Me

Black Veil Brides Setlist:

  1. Faithless
  2. Coffin
  3. Wake Up
  4. I Am Bulletproof
  5. Rebel Love Song
  6. When They Call My Name
  7. Shadows Die
  8. Lost It All
  9. The Legacy
  10. Wretched and Divine
  11. Knives and Pens

Encore:

  1. Perfect Weapon
  1. Fallen Angels
  2. In The End

Review – Dan Corber

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