Uniting forces for one of the most powerful Metal lineups, August Burns Red and Between the Buried and Me announced a co-headlining tour in the dawn of 2016. No stranger to sharing a stage with one another, their history runs as far back as 2010 when the bands traveled to Europe with Lamb of God and Job for a Cowboy. Now teaming up with Good Tiger, they kicked off a lengthy month-plus run on Friday, March 4th, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey.
Scheduled to travel coast to coast and everywhere in between, Starland Ballroom was a fitting place to commence the tour as a massive line of fans wrapped around the exterior of the building, awaiting to be let in early. Finally, as everyone crowded past the main doors and passed the merchandise tables, conversations were struck up between friends and strangers, stating how they had never seen a bad show from either of the co-headlining acts. With that in mind, the energy in the room was clear and positive all around as everyone waited patiently for the show to begin.
It was an unusually warm day for so early in March on the East Coast, and the temperature was about to rise to new heights when opening act Good Tiger kicked off the evening. Come together back in 2015, a buzz picked up as soon as the word came down of their formation, because this band is made of some well-respected names in Metal including ex-Tesseract vocalist Elliot Coleman, ex-The Safety Fire guitarists Derya Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles, ex-The Faceless drummer Alex Rüdinger, and bassist Morgan Sinclair (who previously was the touring guitarist for Architects). An impressive mix of musicians, Good Tiger released their debut full-length, entitled A Head Full Of Moonlight, in November to positive responses from fans. With some praising it as one of the most overlooked albums of the year, it was time for Good Tiger to show their growing fan base what they were all about.
Within the first song, “Snake Oil,” Good Tiger immediately earned everyone’s attention. Their sound was melodic and heavy at times, but would break down into Dance-like Pop tunes during choruses for an interesting dynamic. Along with beautiful vocals and massive riffs, their songs were extremely pleasing to listen to as they played on with “I Paint What I See,” “Enjoy The Rain,” and “Aspirations.” Speaking of Coleman singing, he displayed a wide vocal range going from screams, deep and full, before reaching high pitched and airy clean vocals. Closing out their brief, but enjoyable set with “All Her Own Teeth” and “Where Are The Birds,” Good Tiger proved to be a dynamic band that made a big impression.
Initially scheduled to be a supporting slot from The Faceless, unfortunately they were forced to drop off the bill prior to the tour’s start. As a result, the show moved quickly along into the first of the co-headliners, Between the Buried and Me. The Raleigh, North Carolina natives who came together sixteen years ago have built a name for themselves as one of Progressive Metal’s heavyweights. Ranging from Technical Death Metal, to Metalcore, to Progressive Rock, to even Avant-Garde styles, there never has been a formula for Between the Buried and Me; they just make quality music. Shattering all preconceived notions of who and what they are, 2015’s Coma Ecliptic set a new standard for their long-time fans, and with its Progressive Rock leaning sound, even grabbed the interest of a fresh crop of listeners. Known for their procession, intensity, dazzling light display, and good energy, Between the Buried and Me were ready for their first show at Starland Ballroom since August of last year.
Beginning the musical odyssey, Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr. (lead vocals, keyboards), Paul Waggoner (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dustie Waring (rhythm & lead guitar), Blake Richardson (drums), and Dan Briggs (bass) launched into “Foam Born: (A) the Backtrack,” off of 2007’s album Colors, as the audience locked themselves in for the ride. As the lights remained blue and dim, fog poured onto the stage and made a hazy atmosphere to induce the feeling. Keeping the Colors theme going, they went seamlessly into “Foam Born: (B) The Decade of Statues,” while this time the lights warmed to a red tone while LED panels behind lit up with geometric shapes and auras of color. Taken by the music, the crowd pushed and surfed toward the stage, using every strength they had to get closer as they sang along.
Moving on without skipping a beat or missing a note, the band would go on to cover a broad spectrum of their material recorded thus far in their impressive and expansive career. Touching on such favorites as “Telos,” “Mirrors,” and “Famine Wolf,” they also mixed in newer pieces such as highly Progressive track “The Ectopic Stroll.” Performing nine tracks in all, they wrapped up their performance with their most well-known song “Selkies: The Endless Obsession,” off of 2005’s now classic album, Alaska. Delivered with the passion, technique, and sincerity as the studio recordings, Between the Buried and Me once against successfully wowed their fanbase.
Departing from the stage with a sea of cheering from the crowd, no one wanted to see the band go. Fortunately, August Burns Red was up next, and that certainly was in back of the audience members’ minds. Those who dismiss Between the Buried and Me as too heavy, too loud, or even noise, simply do not know what they are missing. With that said anyone who appreciates majestic instrumentation and outstanding arrangements need to get out there and pick up Coma Ecliptic and see the band live, preferably sooner than later.
Then, the time came for the evening’s final act, known to all as August Burns Red. Come together over a decade ago, August Burns Red has become one of Metal’s elite over the course of seven studio records and relentless touring. Their seventh studio album, 2015’s Found in Far Away Places, garnered the band a nomination for a Grammy Award in the Best Metal Performance category. While Sweden’s Ghost ended up taking home the award, the nomination was an amazing accomplishment for August Burns Red. Not only that, Found in Far Away Places also reached number 1 on Billboard Hard Rock, Rock, and Independent Album charts. Spending a good deal of 2015 on the road in support of the material, it seemed only fitting to continuing riding that momentum into the new year. Even more fitting, this opening night at Starland Ballroom, only a short two hour drive from where August Burns Red originated in Manheim, Pennsylvania, made the band an honorary Jerseyite over the years.
With anxious adrenaline flowing through the room, the lights all dimmed to black, and, one by one, Guitarist “JB” Brubaker, Guitarist Brent Rambler, Bassist Dustin Davidson, and Drummer Matt Greiner arrived on stage. Receiving a warm welcome, Vocalist Jake Luhrs followed directly after, taking his spot front and center with microphone in hand as they blazed into “Martyr.” No strangers to leaving it all on stage, Greiner was slamming away on the drums as Brubaker wailed on his guitar as some may view them as the catalyst for the band’s intensity. Not to be overlooked, Rambler, Davidson, and of course Frontman Luhrs lit up the platform too as they had every member in the crowd head-banging and screaming the lyrics out loud.
Not ones to slow the tempo down, they jumped right into “Identity,” off Found in Far Away Places, before 2011’s “Empire.” Weaving in and out of new and old material, they kept everyone’s blood pumping for songs such as “Spirit Breaker,” “Provision,” and “Back Burner.” With the band themselves saturated in colored lights of green and red, strobes put the floor into a trance as not a body stood still as fans moshed, crowd-surfed, and rose their arms high into the air. Luhrs, exerting every ounce of energy he had, sweated out passion as he enticed the audience to participate any way they could. Following with more earth-shattering cuts like “Marianas Trench,” “Composure,” and “Majoring in the Minors,” it was like being plumed with a ton of bricks, and everyone devoured the experience. Tight and powerful, August Burns Red seemed to be all but done, but gifted the crowd an encore that began with Greiner punishing the drum kit on a solo. Raw, but precedent, Greiner’s solo had fans howling in praise before the band segued into the final song of the night, 2009’s “White Washed.”
With a month left, there is still plenty of more cities this tour will be visiting before circling back to New York on April 17th to rattle Webster Hall. Each band gave it everything they had and set the standard high for the rest of the shows to follow. From the impressive opening of Good Tiger to the dazzling musicianship of Between the Buried and Me and the brutal assault of August Burns Red, this is a tour no one should miss.