In Flames & Hellyeah Scorch Playstation Theater, NYC 11-16-16 w/ From Ashes to New & Source

Traveling different paths, but reaching for the same mountain peak, America’s Hellyeah and Sweden’s In Flames are two formidable forces in modern Metal. While In Flames once held the keys to the Melodic Death Metal kingdom, only to alter directions along their journey, Hellyeah was born from previous endeavors as a new hope in musical exploration. What do these two bands share in common? They both forged their own way, hence their unifying forces on the Forged in Fire North American Tour this late fall. A co-headlining run coinciding with the release of In Flames’ latest album, Battles, while Hellyeah continues to support the June release of Unden!able, the excitement kicked off November 12th down at the Kink Music Fest in Florida. The first of 28 dates the two bands would be sharing together, the official tour launched days later when From Ashes To New and Source joined up. A mix of Metal styles all around, on Wednesday, November 16th, the four bands arrived at Playstation Theater.

With a crowd that slowly built up as the night wore on, Progressive Metal act Source were the first to take the stage. Not to be confused with little known Swedish band by the same name, or Norway’s Jazz band The Source, this Source was formed in 2013 out in Boulder, Colorado by Ben Gleason (vocals/guitar), Georges Octobous (drums), and Dan Crisafulli (bass). Signed to Pavement Records, their debut album, Return to Nothing, was released on September 23rd. Relatively new to many, they were ready to introduce the New York scene to what they are all about. Influenced by the Flatiron mountains, their music expresses the beauty behind the eye of the beholder along with philosophy and meditation inspirations. This in mind, Octobous sat behind his drum kit that held a light of their logo, representing a human body as the “Source.”

Compelling conceptually. their energy was free-flowing with the audience drawn in by curiosity. While Gleason and Crisafulli performed in a more relaxed style, Octobous managed to grab the crowd’s attention from behind his kit during songs such as “Memories of Yesterday.” Soothing and quite unique to the other acts on the bill, Source are a must listen for Prog Rock/Metal lovers.

Shifting gears to a more Alternative Rap Metal vibe, From Ashes to New were up next. Out of Lancaster, PA, in a relatively short stretch of time, they have been featured on some big tours including a run with Hollywood Undead, among others, building themselves a dedicated following rather quickly. Still buzzing off the success of their early 2016 full-length debut, Day One, From Ashes To New are a unique act combining Vocalists Matt Brandyberry and Chris Musser. Completed by Brandon Kreider (guitar/vocals), Lance Dowdle (guitar), and Tim D’Onofrio (drums), they offer a sound that is heavy, driven, but emotional, connecting to audiences on a personal level.

Amped to give New York City all they had, all eyes were glued in the direction of the band as they belted out tunes such as “Downfall,” “My Fight,” and “Breaking Now.” Fueling the energy level to new heights, Brandyberry and Musser worked the crowd through heavier tracks like “Land of Make Believe” before the haunting “Stay This Way,” wrapping up with hit single “Through It All.” Delivered rather flawlessly with electronic enhancements, From Ashes To New roughed up the New York crowd in all the right ways.

Now, with only two bands left, the first of co-headliners, Hellyeah, were prepared for pure domination. Once discounted as just another side-project, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul, Mudvayne’s Chad Gray, Nothingface’s Tom Maxwell, along with new members Kyle Sanders and Christian Brady keep Hellyeah alive and relevant a decade on. A blend of Southern Groove Rock mixed with an intensified Metal attitude, Hellyeah has morphed along their journey, perhaps finding their most complete self-image during 2014’s Blood for Blood. Continuing to move forward with Unden!able, Gray and company prove they are among the scene’s elite.

With the lights turning down, chatter soon turned into echos of screams when Paul positioned himself behind his drum kit with a bright smile upon his face. Finally, the guitar team of Maxwell and Brady were joined by the bass thump of Sanders, and unhinged vocals of Gray for “X.” Non-stop, the momentum could be felt in one’s chest as they moved into “Demons in the Dirt” and “Sangre Por Sangre (Blood for Blood).” Dripping with theatrical blood, Gray’s face looked like a dark demon in the night as he belted each song. Catching the vibe of the room, and the feeling of community, Gray stated, “Our family, at the end of the day, we all love Heavy Metal music right? Heavy Metal is what brought us all together; that is what it is supposed to be. It is fucking timeless; it is like climbing into a time capsule.” Reacting loudly in approval to Gray’s monologue, Gray continued to express the message of unity as they went into the emotional hit “Moth.” Matching the rooms energy, Gray and his bandmates made the most of the large stage, moving around frequently as they followed up with “Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones).”

Continuing on with his interaction, Gray said, “This is not a Rock show, this is Psychotherapy 101. This is a time that will let you let go. Heavy Metal shows are like islands for non-normal people. Don’t fucking fix it if there is nothing wrong with Heavy Metal. There is nothing wrong with it.” Keeping with the positivity of sticking together, they segued into “Human” before going into “War in Me,” followed by “Say When.” Moving back to the newer tracks, “Startariot” came before their unique cover of Phil Collins’ classic “I Don’t Care Anymore” and “Unden!able.” Keeping everyone engaged, Gray had all screaming “hellyeah,” fitting as they went into their final song, “Hellyeah!” A riveting set, Gray knows exactly how to get a crowd going. He does not care if he is playing in front of 10  or 10,000 people, they just want to tear it up and make it a memorable experience for everyone, and that is why Hellyeah are dangerous.

Brought to the point of exhaustion after three different, yet lively bands, In Flames was poised to tear down the house. As stated, one of the pioneers of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene that emerged during the ’90s, alongside others such as At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and Soilwork, In Flames has penned quite an interesting story. While albums such as 1997’s Whoracle were at the pinnacle of Swedish Melodic Death Metal excellence, In Flames respectfully yearned for growth in years to follow. Many look at 2002’s Reroute to Remain as a turning point toward more Alternative Metal leanings. More accessible to a larger audience, each subsequent album released thereafter has found In Flames in peak US chart positions. Continuing to strike gold with the potent new effort, Battles, Anders Fridén (vocals), Björn Gelotte (lead guitar), Peter Iwers (bass), Niclas Engelin (rhythm guitar), and new member, formerly of Red, Joe Rickard (drums) appeared inspired coming onto the platform.

Building tension with a long introduction, Fridén greeted the crowd graciously before opening with 2000’s “Bullet Ride.” A blast from the past, one did well not to get too comfortable on  memory lane as they instantly returned to modern day with “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” followed by “Leeches.” After dabbling in a mix of tunes from their catalogue, Fridén playfully stated, “Due to recent events, we pleaded a campaign to make Metal Great again!” Igniting laughter, Fridén wanted the crowd to scream louder and share in his excitement for Battles. Explaining how he came to America to find Rickard, he teased that Rickard looked sixteen years old due to his youthful face. All in good fun, the show continued on with “The End” followed by “Alias.”

Gazing into the crowd, Fridén spoke about the incredible Clayman album. Amidst their transition in style, the 2000 album still is a favorite amongst fans and they erupted when the band dished out “Only For the Weak” before “Cloud Connected.” Chattering more with the audience, asking everyone what they were drinking, the music marched on with “The Truth” before mellowing out slightly with  “Thru Oblivion.” After things cooled down a bit, Fridén demanded the crowd open up the floor and put the security team to work a bit as they launched into “The Quiet Place” and “Paralyzed.” Seeing the end of the night in sight, Fridén promised that they would return again, emphasizing that they will even roll out in wheelchairs they love Metal so much, before closing out with “Deliver Us” and “Take This Life.”

A night with Metal from all corners, the diversity was welcomed. In Flames have not lost a step after all these years, and while the setlist was heavy handed in new generation tunes, it was a powerful and adrenalized set. A good mix of veteran and younger bands, the Forged in Fire Tour continues through December 19th, guaranteed to blaze all in its way.

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