Rock Allegiance 2013 – Volbeat, HIM, & All That Remains rock Starland Ballroom Sayerville, NJ 9-25-13 (Exclusive coverage)

Rock Allegiance 2013 – Volbeat, HIM, & All That Remains rock Starland Ballroom Sayerville, NJ 9-25-13 (Exclusive coverage)

In the past decade there has been an evolution of rock/metal festivals starting up in North America.  With an already long list of summer rock/metal festivals, Monster Energy Drink’s Rock Allegiance was first established in 2011 with a 13 date late summer trek across the USA.  The original line-up consisted of Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Puddle Of Mudd, P.O.D., Red, Crossfade and Drive A.  In the festival’s sophomore year on the scene the promoters decided to extend to 11 bands but cut the tour to a special labor day weekend event September 1st 2012 in Hershey Park, PA.  The impressive line-up consisted of Stone Temple Pilots, Three Days Grace, Seether, Buckcherry, Daughtry, Fuel, Puddle of Mudd, Black Stone Cherry, Foxy Shazam, Redlight King, and Otherwise.  Changing things up yet again, in 2013 the festival finds itself scaled down to 4 bands but extended to a 24 date tour.  With a diverse line-up of Airbourne, All That Remains, HIM, and Volbeat, this year’s rock allegiance proves to be a killer tour.  Sadly Australian rockers Airbourne departed from the line-up 2 weeks prior due to a family issues back home.  Cryptic Rock wishes the boys in Airbourne well and our heart goes out to their families.  On Wednesday September 25th, after a month and a half long trek across North America, Rock Allegiance made one of it’s final stops on the tour at Starland Ballroom in Sayerville, NJ.

What would prove to be an already exciting day of rock and metal in New Jersey had even more appeal to locals as Starland Ballroom recently re-opened after almost a year shut down due to devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  As fans entered the venue, for me, it was the first time seeing the new and improved Starland Ballroom.  The venue is now sporting a more open layout, better sight lines, better stage lighting, and an overall nicer vibe.  Cryptic Rock was there to pledge their allegiance to rock providing extensive photographic and literal coverage.

Starting the evening off with a rush of energy was Springfield, MA metal band All That Remains.  Paying their dues with 15 years on the metal scene, All That Remains have come a long way since their metalcore debut Behind Silence and Solitude (2002).  Now 6 albums deep, the band really seemed to turn a corner in 2008 with Overcome.  The album broke them out into the mainstream and was their first to have a peak position on US Rock charts.  Staying true to their metalcore roots the band followed up with For We Are Many (2010) and A War You Cannot Win (2012).

Coming out with guns blazing, All That Remains opened with two recent hit tracks “The Last Time” and “Stand Up”.  Phil Labonte’s vocal performance was top notch, killing each scream with sheer fury.  Labonte showed his powerful pipes for singing as well reaching the peak during the performances of “Asking Too Much” and “Forever In Your Hands”.  Oli Herbert (lead guitars), Mike Martin (rhythm guitars), Jeanne Sagan (bass guitar), and Jason Costa (drums) proved to be a well oiled machine providing a solid performance on par with their recordings.  Labonte displayed a keen sense for humor engaging the audience between songs.  Fans laughed, they banged their heads hard and there was some crowd surfing.  All That Remains closed things out with possibly one of their best tracks “Two Weeks”, it was at this point the room reached it’s maximum energy level.  What was so impressive about this opening performance was the venue was already packed, which is not very common, but then again All That Remains are not your regular opening act.

Next up were goth metallers all the way from Helsinki Finland, HIM.  HIM’s rise to popularity in North America began nearly a decade into their career with Dark Light (2005).  Having released  4 successful full length records prior in Europe, their break through into North America was long over due.  Lead by the dynamic vocals of Ville Vallo, HIM has built one of the strongest fan bases of any modern rock band in the world.  Mixing Gothic rock, metal riffs, and enchanting piano and harmony HIM is one unique band.  After the cancellation of their USA tour earlier in 2013 many fans were excited to see the band coming to the states for this tour.  With their 8th studio album, Tears On Tape, out since April, HIM is writing some of their best music in their career.

A packed out room was ready as Ville Vallo and band mates came on stage to the opening of Tears On Tape “Unleash the Red”.  The instrumental opening lead right into the track “All Lips Go Blue”.  Riding on a sea of emotion HIM followed with the killer tracks “Buried Alive By Love”, “Rip Out the Wings of A Butterfly”, and “Right Here in My Arms”.  Diversifying the set, the sorrowful tone of “Join Me in Death” filled the room and fans rejoiced. Vallo’s vocals sounded bombastic and passionate thus far through the set and would continue to do so. Vallo, Mikko “Linde” Lindström (guitar), Mikko “Migé” Paananen (bass), Mika “Gas Lipstick” Karppinen (drumms), and Janne “Burton” Puurtinen (keyboards) have been a cohesive unit for the better part of 15 years and their live performance shows it.  Seeing Karppinen behind the drum kit rocking hard was a wonderful site and pleasant to see him able to perform after overcoming a serious condition.  Keeping the audience’s attention throughout an exciting moment was when HIM played their unique cover of Chris Isaak’s beautiful track “Wicked Game”.  It’s important for a band to balance their sets and HIM did just that playing some of their most energetic tracks for the end of the set including a stellar performance “Soul on Fire”.  There was a good offering of new material sprinkled throughout the 15 song set including “Tears On Tape” and “Into The Night”.  Fans cheered loudly for the duration of HIM’s performance and it was evident these fans were hungry to see HIM back in the USA.

Closing out Rock Allegiance was the red hot Danish band Volbeat.  Together since 2001, Volbeat has broken down walls into mainstream rock n roll in recent years.  With ample success in European markets, Volbeat reached North American fans on a larger scale upon their opening slot for Metallica on the Death Magnetic tour in 2009.  Since that time Volbeat has opened the eyes of the USA and are soaring high.  The album Beyond Hell/Above Heaven (2010) was only the start of something special which lead into the enormous and still growing success of their latest album Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (2013).  Infusing rock, metal, punk, country, and everything in between the band is new and refreshing.  With enough edge for metal fans and enough catchiness for the main stream, Volbeat are one of the brightest stars in rock n roll today.

A sold out Starland Ballroom chanted loudly as Volbeat hit the stage.  They opened things up with the 2008 tracks “Hallelujah Goat” and “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood”.  Blazing away they went right into the Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil (2007) track “Radio Girl”.  Michael Poulsen and company clearly are sticking to who they are starting out a set with a bunch of older tracks to a newer fan band.  It seems more often than not, when a band reaches success they cut out many older tunes and just play the new material for the fans.  After this excellent start Pouslen belted out the newer track “The Nameless One”.  Satisfied thus far the audience applauded loudly.  Pouslen spoke humbly to the crowd and the next track with the classic Johnny Cash song “Ring Of Fire” leading into “Sad Man’s Tongue”.  The addition of Rob Caggiano (formerly of Anthrax) has clearly added a spark to an already electrifying Volbeat.  Caggiano shredded through songs at will and seemed to really be enjoying himself on stage.  Charging through their set, a highlight was when the band’s highly emotional song “Fallen” broke out.  At the peak of emotion for the band and audience the one and only Jerry Only, of classic punk rock band The Misfits, walked onto the stage to perform “Angelfuck” and “Lola Montez” with Volbeat.  This was a special treat for locals as Only and The Misfits were born in New Jersey.

As the set went on Volbeat continued to keep things interesting.  At the beginning of the high octane track “Still Counting” the band jammed out the intro to the Slayer thrash hit “Regin In Blood”.  Homages and tributes to a wide variety of influences mixed throughout the set really endured Volbeat to their broad fan base. As the set winded down, Volbeat exited the stage to a overwhelming reception. Not ready to call it a night Volbeat came back out for a great encore including the chart topping hit “A Warrior’s Call” and 2005 track “Another Day, Another Way”.

Rock Allegiance 2013 was a spectacular ending to a long list of rock/metal summer festivals. With a diverse mix of bands there was definitely something for everybody. The sold out audience at Starland Ballroom went home more than pleased with their experience of the evening of rock and roll bliss.

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