March 2, 2016 Bullet For My Valentine lead British Invasion over NYC 2-23-16 w/ Asking Alexandria & While She Sleeps
Back in September of last year, the announcement came down that the British were set to invade North American soil. While some may think of the late 1700’s American Revolution when they hear such terms, others may think of British Rock of the 1960s led by The Beatles. While both would be accurate in their assumptions, this new British Invasion comes in the form of Heavy Metal and is led by Welsh band Bullet For My Valentine along with England’s Asking Alexandria, as well as While She Sleeps. A formidable force to be reckoned with, the tour kicked off February 2nd out in California and will conclude on March 7th up in Montreal, Quebec. With plenty of cities in between, just nine days after everyone was assaulted with sugar, hearts, and flowers for Valentine’s Day, the three bands took the stage at PlayStation Theater in New York City on Tuesday, February 23rd. A show that was sold out, faithful fans excitedly gathered outside, hoping that February’s weather was not the most brutal performance they would see. Their wishes came true as the present day British Invasion too came out aggressive.
A sold out crowd enveloped in blue and purple lighting was greeted first by While She Sleeps. Quickly awakening “her” from whatever sleep “she” was enjoying, the group’s name personifies. Together now since 2006, the band has released two studio albums, including their highly rated 2015 effort, Brainwashed. Considered by many their most balanced music to date, Brainwashed is heavy, aggressive, as well as melodic and moody. Helping expand their international reach, they spent the Summer of 2015 on Vans Warped Tour in the US, and now they were ready for their return to the country with a guaranteed bigger fanbase.
Flirting with energy, the hard-hitting five piece of Sean Long (lead guitar/ backing vocals), Mat Welsh (rhythm guitar/vocals), Aaran McKenzie (bass guitar/backing vocals), Adam Savage (drums), and Lawrence “Loz” Taylor (lead vocals) lulled the audience in with gentle opening guitar riffs and calm percussion of “Brainwashed” before sharply exploding into hardcore vocals as well as in your face instrumentation. Like a heartbeat that suddenly spikes after flatlining, their commitment to both ends of the spectrum is absolute, stark, and tinkered with both within such as “Death Toll,” “Trophies of Violence,” and “Your Evolution.” Alleviating this sheer force are thoughtful harmonies, and brighter guitar tones that ease the growling underbelly of their music.
Managing to weave in melodic hooks and a percussive backbone, While She Sleeps caters to fans of virtually any Metal subdivision as they closed with “Four Walls.” Opening for a band with nearly twenty years of experience is a tough gig as crowds can be unforgiving, but While She Sleep did not just give one an alternative to waiting at the bar. They set the tone for a hell of a show. Their impressive live show should have fans anxiously awaiting their third studio album.
With the crowd’s blood pumping and momentum snowballing, Asking Alexandria were ready to take the stage. Rising to become one of the hottest bands in the modern Metal movement following the release of 2011’s Reckless & Relentless and 2013’s From Death to Destiny, Asking Alexandria headlined tours around the USA, including a mainstage spot on 2014’s Rockstar Mayhem Festival. Then, in early 2015, the surprising news came down that Lead Vocalist Danny Worsnop would be departing from Asking Alexandria. Vowing to continue on without Worsnop, the band took a few months to find his replacement, and then in May, they announced Ukrainian Denis Stoff would take over. A move that left some fans nervous of how it would effect Asking Alexandria’s sound, has since become a change that many have accepted, and after hearing what Stoff can offer, welcome with open arms. Now with a studio album trilogy and some impressive recent tours with the likes of Sevendust in their pocket, the group is not as seasoned as Bullet For My Valentine, but has certainly established themselves as a force on the scene.
Easily the most polarizing band of the night, most fans were invigorated by their set, though it was overcast by grumblings of some more close-minded spectators. While Stoff’s voice differed from the fellow touring bands, that is what made Asking Alexandria the perfect direct support, a diversity that is essential. Opening with the slow-building, fan-favorite “I Won’t Give In,” the audience was immediately introduced to the elements that define Asking Alexandria. Showcasing energetic guitar riffs, multiple styles of screaming, melodically friendly vocal stylings, and a whole lot of double bass pedaling, they showed that part of their widespread appeal is based in their ability to cohesively meld a variety of styles together as they played on with “Run Free,” “The Death of Me,” and “Breathless.”
Making the most of the time they were given, they also offered their dedicated fans “To the Stage,” “Not the American Average,” and “A Prophecy,” all well-known tracks from their past. Providing energy and enthusiasm throughout the performance, Stoff seemed to fit in nicely with long-time members Ben Bruce (guitar/vocals), James Cassells (drums), Cameron Liddell (guitar), and Sam Bettley (bass). Showing their chemistry together, they also offered new song “The Black,” the title of their forthcoming record, due out March 25th. Then, closing out with a bang, they rattled the room with “The Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel).”
Mixing elements heard in bands such as Protest The Hero, Pierce The Veil, and AlexisOnFire, Asking Alexandria has managed to derive a distinct sound all their own. Whether one leaned into the band’s rabid fans or those who were less interested, it could not be denied Asking Alexandria impacted the evening with their unapologetic approach. Is that not what Metal is all about? With that said, Asking Alexandria look to silence any naysayers with their new look and sound as they gear up to unleash Black.
With the Metal floodgates fully open, the packed Playstation Theater was ready to receive their headliner in Bullet For My Valentine. With their fifth studio effort, Venom, emerging last Summer with a vengeance, Bullet For My Valentine gave fans perhaps their heaviest record to date. Having swapped out their long-time bassist Jason James with Jamie Mathias in early 2015, and recently their Drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas temporarily with touring member Jason Bowld, Bullet For My Valentine prove not only to be unshaken by these changes, but for being cemented in their sound more than ever. Spending the Summer of 2015 on the road with Slipknot, Lamb of God, and Motionless in White, there is nothing quite like one’s own headlining tour and that is what makes the British Invasion so exciting as New York City braced themselves for impact.
Arguably touring off of their best release, Venom keeps the inherent darkness of their previous releases, but also incorporates more upbeat musical attacks, giving fans more variety and catharsis than their previous works. This was no more evident than in their power-packed opener “No Way Out,” an immediate attention grabber. Thereafter, they kept the energy level elevated with “Skin,” followed by the irresistible 2010 hit “Your Betrayal.” Although, when it was all said and done, “4 Words (To Choke Upon)” was the cut that slayed the hardest all night long.
Wearing a similar sting was “You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War),” a standout that slaps fans in the face with hot-blooded guitar licks, raw percussion, and brash vocals. All this unfolded as the visual aspect behind the band was more grand than ever before. Complementary to the passion and precision of Bullet For My Valentine, the show was only on its way with much more left to come. Following a tight drum solo from Bowld, diehard fans also had their itch for older tunes satisfied as the band revisited tracks from previous albums such as “The Last Fight ” with Tuck feeding off the crowd before.
Thereafter came “Scream Aim Fire” and “The Poison” with the same impassioned performance and musical integrity bough to the band’s newer material including “Venom and “Worthless. As the set ended with “Hands of Blood,” the relentless crowd was almost in disbelief that the set was over and in dire need of just another fix or two. Happy to appease them, Bullet For My Valentine reemerged to play a few household encores of the emotionally drenched “Tears Don’t Fall” and “Waking the Demon.” They certainly showed that they had more left in the tank, leaving us with these hallmarks of their sound.
With an optimistic something-to-prove air floating through their set from start to finish, this Bullet For My Valentine showed that a few changes and a couple of twists to their sound are not slowing them down. In fact, Bullet For My Valentine are firing on all cylinders, having combined the enthusiasm of their youth while learning from their life experiences. From Metalcore, to Hardcore, to Emo, to pure Metal, Rock-n-Roll, or whatever, fans in attendance of the British Invasion Tour had their hunger satisfied with this talented lineup. After this run winds down March 7th, a second leg will begin May 3rd in Atlanta, GA following two festival shows in the days prior. For New Yorkers, they can make their way out to Long Island May 11th to see the show not to be missed at The Paramount in Huntington.