Atreyu’s epic return Starland Ballroom Sayreville, NJ 4-25-15 w/ Unearth & Old Wounds

Atreyu’s epic return Starland Ballroom Sayreville, NJ 4-25-15 w/ Unearth & Old Wounds

Back in the early 2000’s, the genre of Metalcore began to rise in popularity with bands like Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and none other than Atreyu. Hailing from Orange County, CA, Atreyu’s 2004 sophomore  album, The Curse, rocketed up charts, becoming a defining release of the time, and paved the way for a slew of Metalcore acts. Sustaining dominance with three subsequential chart topping albums through 2009, Arteyu decided to take a break from the band in 2011, thus leaving the scene with an empty space. Never really going away entirely, vocalist Alex Varkatzas, drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller, bassist Marc McKnight, along with guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel all took part in side projects in their time away from Atreyu, and in 2014, returned once again. With a headlining show at  Chain Reaction and an appearance at the Aftershock Festival, as well as Knotfest, the shows appeared to be a warm-up for what was to come in 2015. Now the band take to the road for touring and also have set September as the release date for their sixth studio album, Long Live. In celebration of their return, the band teamed up with old touring mates Unearth, along with Old Wounds, for a special night on Saturday April 25th at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. Provoking a ton of excitement, the three bands were ready to provide an array of loud Rock that would carry into the night.

Up first was local talents, Hardcore group Old Wounds. This Asbury Park quartet formed in 2010 and has not kept quiet as they released three EPs in their first three years, followed by their debut LP in 2013, From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest. Now in 2015, Old Wounds had four EPs, one split release, and one full-length album under their belt, with plans for sophomore album, The Suffering Spirit, to be released June 30th.

Upon setting foot on stage, the group played a recorded sample of Bela Lugosi in his eponymous role in the 1931 version of Dracula with the infamous “Children of the Night” line. Succeeding the Dracula sample, Old Wounds opened with “Dead Beat Blues,” from their 2014 Death Projection EP and had everyone’s heads turning. The solvent of Hardcore, Sludge Metal, and Metalcore in tandem with the high quantities of energy provided by frontman Kevin Iavaroni, guitarist Zak Kessler, bassist Mikey Weintraub, and drummer Brandon Gallagher made for a ferocious barrage of new school Hardcore battery. Iavaroni, who may or may not have been wearing corpse paint, remained animated for the duration of the set as the rest of the group moshed, jumped, and danced on stage. Their performance of  “An Ode to Love” lacked any kind of subtlety as the song came off as abrasive, bawdy, as well as violent, and the crowd responded rightly by touting irreverence in return. Closing with “New Fortunes,” which did anything but stay still, culminated Old Wounds’ entire set, baring dissonance, d-beats, breakdowns, and painfully strained screams. Old Wounds put on, easily, the rawest performance of the night, and seized Starland Ballroom’s attention, to say the least.

Next on the agenda was Unearth, a band which has been relevant in Metal music since the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement in the mid-2000s. Formed in 1998, up in Massachusetts, Unearth has been consistent in releasing quality Metalcore with six albums in total. After the release of their debut 2001 album, The Stings of Conscience, the group gained notoriety in the Metal scene and by the time their 2004 second full-length, The Oncoming Storm,  rolled around, they began touring with names like Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Slipknot, All That Remains, and Norma Jean. The band’s 2006 release, III: In the Eyes of Fire, unanimously garnered critical praise and further solidified their place in the mid-2000s movement of Melodic Metalcore. Flash forward to 2014, the band released their latest effort in 2014 titled Watchers of Rule as they continue to garnish praise from fans and critics alike.

It was obvious who the Unearth fans were when the group opened with their crushing track “Giles,” as circle pits instantly formed and the crowd began jumping and screaming along with vocalist Trevor Phipps. The heavy riffs and double bass made the track both groovy and hefty. With that said, this audience ate up Unearth’s music from the first minute, and they were just getting started. The following song, “My Will Be Done,” showcased guitarist Buz McGrath’s tapping and sweeping skills with the pummeling sounds that followed, being fully embraced. Unearth played several cuts from Watchers of Rule, as well as their old material including songs “The Swarm,” “Never Cease,” and “Guards of Contagion,” which were performed with the utmost proficiency, as well as brutality. “Guards of Contagion” was another guitar-heavy piece with memorable melodic passages that got everyone moving.  The song preceded the closing track, “The Great Dividers,” which somehow, if possible, seemed faster than their previous offerings. Without any shortage of groove, Unearth ended their set with one of the biggest bangs of the night, only to be followed up by Atreyu’s performance. They now take their fierce brand of Metal over to Europe through July.

The time had finally come for the mighty Atreyu to rock Starland Ballroom. Since their first LP, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, was released on Victory Records in 2002, they since have gained an admirable following. Having tenaciously retained mainstream attention, there is no denying the band’s aforementioned relevance to the scene. Reminiscent of Winter of 2005 tour when Atreyu teamed up with Unearth, the mood in the room was full of energy and excitement in the minutes prior to the evening’s headliner.

Fans from all over New Jersey swarmed to Starland Ballroom to see Atreyu break their silence of over four years, and the song with which they did so was “Doomsday” from 2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchors, as they wasted no time jump-starting matters at the heaviest point. The venue roared and reverberated with the echoes of chants and cheers of the crowd during songs like “Right Side of the Bed,” “You Eclipsed by Me,” and “Becoming the Bull .” Continuing on with an abundant adrenaline flowing through their veins, Atreyu pumped out fans’ favorites including “Creature.”

The set was not without breakdowns, of course. The rhythms on songs like “When Two are One” and “Gallows” showed off the tightness and chemistry between Miguel, McKnight, and Saller. Showing their awareness of the bigger picture, the band dedicated their new track “So Others May Live” to the US armed forces which had emotions riding high from the first to last note. Keeping the mood balanced with serious as well as light-hearted moments, the song directly preceded a drum-and-vocal cover of the theme song from the hit TV sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air led by Saller on both drums and vocals. Moving right along, keeping fans smiling, everyone specifically latched on to their bigger songs, “Ex’s and Oh’s” and “Bleeding Mascara” with Varkatzas’ vocals and Jacobs’ guitar work particularly impactful in the live setting. Paying homage to The Garden State, the penultimate song of the night was a cover of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” which surely surprised many people, but nothing less than in a positive way. Undoubtedly expected, Atreyu completed their performance with “Lip Gloss and Black” from their debut album. As biting and salient as its ever been, it seemed as if the entire state of New Jersey was chanting the “Live, love, burn, die” mantra therein.

There is no doubt Atreyu has been greatly missed by their fans. Taking the time to recharge and explore other projects has been the perfect fix for the band and now everyone is patiently waiting for the release of Love Live. While the tour dates in North America have been spares until this point, Atreyu will in fact be at Amnesia Rockfest up in Montebello, Canada June 19th through 20th. Hopes ares more dates will be announced before and after the release of the new album, so look out, Atreyu are back!



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Greg Cochran
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