August Burns Red

support Fight The Fight
author AP date 03/08/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Few could argue with the fact that “Messengers”, the sophomore album by August Burns Red, was a milestone in the metalcore genre — one which set a movement afoot. No longer content with simple staccato riffs and harrowing breakdowns, in 2007 the band unleashed one of the most dizzyingly technical and original works the genre had seen, and although it has since been outdone (not least by the band itself on successive endeavours), the record remains a beloved modern classic among the genre’s connoisseurs. With the album rounding a decade this summer, the Lancaster, PA-based group elected to dedicate an entire tour to it, playing it front-to-back in select European cities, one of which was chosen to be Copenhagen much to my (and many others’) delight.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Fight The Fight

It was only recently that I became acquainted with Fight the Fight, my curiosity tickled by news that they would be supporting Satyricon across Europe in the autumn. After listening to their eponymous début album (released in January this year) however, their inclusion on said tour felt perplexing; the band plays a hybrid of nu-metal and metalcore, and in honesty, the end product is neither consistent nor original enough to deserve batting an eyelid. Fortunately, their hundreds of concerts played have ironed the five musicians into formidable showmen and watching them live, it is easy to forgive them the beginner’s mistakes still hindering them on record. Led by the charismatic vocalist, Lars Vegas, the band’s presence is intense and imposing, all of the standing members taking turns to surge toward and recede from the front edge of the stage with hellbent intent burning in their eyes — they seem determined to Denmark over on this first visit and spare no energy in making it so. In fact, the tireless, collective rocking out resembles Fight the Fight’s countrymen in Kvelertak, and as anyone accustomed to that outfit’s efforts on stage can attest to, that resemblance translates to a wild and unpredictable performance.

I therefore feel a bit ashamed about having written Fight the Fight off as a worthwhile act. Granted, the songwriting sorely lacks edge (even if, ironically, “The Edge” with its While She Sleep-esque lead, emerges as a highlight) and the overall dynamics feel too flat. But the experience of seeing the band live is tantamount to being thoroughly entertained, thanks to the musicians’ not taking themselves too seriously. Indeed, the show is laced with dry, Scandinavian humour (such as one of the guitarists’ purposefully singing the chorus to “The Other Side” with exaggerated melodrama) mixed with self-aware quips by Vegas (his exclamation: ”Yo! I’m a nigga, I don’t speak Norwegian!” when the aforementioned guitarist opts to address us in his native tongue is especially amusing) and the performance feels both unhinged and unfiltered. The humour and rawness gets the crowd off its feet and should Fight the Fight manage to address the weakness of their material on an eventual sophomore outing, then Norway might have another prime metal export on its hands.

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August Burns Red

When “The Truth of a Liar” erupts from the sound system to announce the onset of “Messengers”, the crowd divides at once, opening a circular gash for the most energised patrons among us to show their support with flailing arms and thrashing bodies. The reaction is deservedly wild; August Burns Red know they have hell to pay after drowning in sound issues at Copenhell last summer, and the five musicians thus seem determined to expend even more energy than usual. Constantly billowing, brandishing and roaring in unison, the band commands the audience with a ruler’s self-assurance and by the time “Back Burner” enters its first breakdown, the moshpit is operating at maximum intensity. Those of us less disposed to moshing are not forgotten either, with the stunning melodies in the likes of “Up Against the Ropes” and “Composure” providing ample fodder for the mind to latch onto and be mesmerised by.

It is hard to argue that August Burns Red hasn’t written even better songs in the past ten years, but hearing them in one slew nonetheless reinforces my impression that since “Messengers”, the band has had trouble replicating the same level of consistency across a single record. Each of the eleven songs provokes a strong reaction, with no lulls or missteps to interrupt the onslaught. Yet even so, songs like “The Balance”, with its striking juxtaposition of a beautiful guitar solo and breakdowns on either side, and “Redemption” emerge as unforgettable standout moments. Neither track has been played on Danish soil before and upon feeling the latter’s power in the crescendo, one does wonder why not? I, at least, would readily give up staples such as “Cutting the Ties” or “Empire” to accommodate them on future setlists and judging by the enraptured mood that reigns inside the venue as they are played, I am not alone in harbouring that sentiment. Acknowledging this, Luhrs even offers a deep bow, arms extended, as “Redemption” concludes the album performance.

One of the most striking aspects to an August Burns Red concert — and tonight is no exception — is how well the band physically mimics the marriage between ferocity and mind-bending technicality. Rather than becoming an incessant maelstrom on stage, the five musicians know when to tone down and when to explode. This awareness makes the concert feel varied and dynamic, and the Safri Duo-gone-metalcore double drum solo delivered by drummer Matt Greiner & bassist Dustin Davidson at the beginning of the encore, only strengthens the impression. Aside from this staple quirk, the encore dips into all but one of the records that succeeded “Messengers” (or will succeed, in the case of the brand new track, “Invisible Enemy”), with the final piece “White Washed” off the group’s 2009-effort, “Constellations” inviting both a riotous physical response and a thunderous scream-along from the attendees. It serves as a worthy finale to August Burns Red’s finest Danish concert to date.

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Setlist:

  • 01. The Truth of a Liar
  • 02. Up Against the Ropes
  • 03. Back Burner
  • 04. The Blinding Light
  • 05. Composure
  • 06. Vital Signs
  • 07. The Eleventh Hour
  • 08. The Balance
  • 09. Black Sheep
  • 10. An American Dream
  • 11. Redemption

— Encore —

  • 12. Drum Solo
  • 13. Invisible Enemy
  • 14. Empire
  • 15. Ghosts
  • 16. White Washed

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