As I Lay Dying

support Chelsea Grin + Unearth + Fit For A King
author AP date 02/10/19 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

I had half expected to find some kind of protest outside of the venue, but when I arrive, delayed due to a football match on the other side of town, I am met only by the buzz of a nearly sold out crowd, waiting to get the first glimpse of As I Lay Dying since they last played in Copenhagen in 2012. The San Diego, CA-based metalcore titans made a powerful return with their seventh full-length album last month (reviewed here), and now they are on tour hoping to prove that, in spite of frontman Tim Lambesis’ deplorable actions in 2013, the band deserves a second chance. And to add some extra oomph to it, they have pulled an impressive support caste with them, though unfortunately I get to Amager Bio too late to see the opening act, Fit for a King. But not to worry — our editor-in-chief PP steps in…

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen


Fit For A King

Fit For A King are supposed to start at 18:40 according to all available information, but they kick off ten minutes early, so by the time we are inside the venue and have the first beer in our hands, they've already completed half of their set. Inside, a decent turnout is watching bassist Ryan O'Leary spin his instrument around in wild fashion, which he has plenty of time to do given the one-chord breakdowns that largely dominate the Fit For A King soundscape. Given that the sound is a bit muddy and the clean vocals sound a bit off, the overall expression leaves much to be desired, and it is not until final song "Tower of Pain" that the crowd starts moving in a circle pit instigated by the vocalist. Decent metalcore but not exactly with strong enough material to leave behind a memorable impression.

PP


Unearth

Metalcore veterans Unearth shine the primary spotlight on their new album "Extinction(s)" during their set tonight, starting with "Incinerate". Its intricate guitar melody is back-chilling and serves as a great introduction to Unearth for any AILD fans unaware of the band despite their influence on the headliners. "Survivalist" and especially "My Will Be Done" continue to demonstrate awe-inspiring riffage at the top of the metalcore class. But here's the thing: It has now been two decades of Unearth mostly in supporting role during various metal/core packages for one simple reason: their vocalist just isn't particularly good. With a monotonous growl lacking in charisma, the incredible instrumentals of this band have always felt like they are a wasted opportunity. Just imagine what this band could do with, say, John Henry of Darkest Hour at the helm? As such, songs like "Dust" and "The Great Dividers" are solid live as usual, but at the same time disappoint for what they could have been with a vocalist capable of varying his range even minimally. Still, it's something special witnessing guitarist Buz McGrath work his magic on the fretboard.

7
PP


Chelsea Grin

Setting off with the title track to 2011’s “My Damnation” LP, this Salt Lake City, UT-based four-piece make their intentions clear without delay or hesitation. They are here to incite a violent pit, and it does not take long before their chug-based riffs and dissonant breakdowns bear fruit. I have to admit: I have never been a fan of Chelsea Grin, but I can still admire their ability to get an entire venue onboard with their sardonically heavy brand of deathcore. “Open this place up! Circle pit!”, roars vocalist Tom Barber before leading his crew into the older “Cheyne Stokes” (off the band’s 2010 début “Desolation of Eden”) and much to everyone’s amusement, his call is first only heeded by a wheelchair-bound patron, who takes a few laps around the gaping hole before the rest of the crowd joins in to mosh around him. Somewhat unfairly, he is chucked out of the pit by security guards presumably for safety reasons, but he has nonetheless provided enough inspiration for the mayhem to continue for the entire duration of the set. Say what you will about the music, but Chelsea Grin, and especially the charismatic presence of Barber, make it extremely difficult to hate the band in the live setting. Their demeanour on stage is not particularly wild, but all four musicians come across as confident and imposing, reflecting a kind of we own you attitude that constantly demands a more cacophonous reaction by the audience.

Astonishingly brutal though most of the material is, “The Wolf” and “Across the Earth” (both taken from 2018’s “Eternal Nightmare”) do nonetheless deliver sorely needed injections of melody, with the latter even standing out as a clear highlight by virtue of an eerie, neoclassical lead by guitarist Stephan Rutishauser, supplemented by a sampled piano soliloquy. It stands in stark contrast with the likes of “Outliers” and “Hostage”, both of which drop breakdowns so stupendously heavy one fears the floor of this newly renovated venue might buckle under their weight. And the audience is of course doing its part in trying to achieve this kind of devastation. If I was to judge Chelsea Grin purely from a musical perspective, this review would have taken on a completely different tone, as I have a hard time taking these songs seriously. But even though two guitarists have been shaved from their line-up since their concert here in 2012, I feel like Chelsea Grin have developed immensely as a live act, and it seems to have helped their game to embrace their true spirit instead of the more complex style they tried on 2014’s “Ashes to Ashes”, with nomad guitarist Jason Richardson in charge of songwriting. I will not pretend to like this stuff, but I must humbly admit to being proven wrong by a thoroughly invigorating performance.

7


As I Lay Dying

As the intro piece from the new album “Shaped by Fire” erupts from the PA, a wave of excitement seems to pass through the audience, for the time has come to welcome back As I Lay Dying. Just as on record, the track is followed by a live rendition of “Blinded”, and as soon as it reaches its chorus, bassist Josh Gilbert receives a resounding boost from an audience that is clearly not shying away from singalongs. I had feared that the San Diegan quintet might have trouble eliciting the same sort of response as Chelsea Grin were greeted with, but when “Through Struggle” off the group’s breakthrough album, 2005’s “Shadows Are Security”, is aired, I feel shame for ever doubting their handle on a crowd. If anything, the moshing happening now is more violent than during even the heaviest moments of Chelsea Grin’s set, and it is easy to understand why, when you observe how much energy the five musicians themselves are willing to expend. As “Within Destruction” (from 2007’s “An Ocean Between Us”) erupts from the speakers and sends guitarists Nick Hipa & Phil Sgrosso storming from one side to the other, spinning around in their step, it is hard not to be convinced that the band is genuinely happy to be back — and during their seven-year absence, they to have developed into even better showmen than was the case previously.

While addressing the showmanship of As I Lay Dying, it is impossible to look past the dominating presence of vocalist Tim Lambesis of course. His bodybuilder frame and bestial growling still have the capacity to humble even the grizzliest metalheads among us, including Fit for a King’s frontman Ryan Kirby, who makes a cameo during the bulldozing “Redefined” and looks pretty feeble when he stands next to the hulking Lambesis. With so much of the emphasis in As I Lay Dying’s music placed in the vocal department, it is crucial that both Lambesis & Gilbert bring their A-game, and it is a joy to find virtually nothing lacking in either of two’s performance tonight. Gilbert has some trouble with hitting the highest falsetto notes in the likes of “Shaped by Fire” and “Parallels” (the latter of which appears on 2010’s “The Powerless Rise”), but all in all, he gives us no reason to cringe. Quite on the contrary. With the arrival of each chorus, the moshing stops on cue and most people in the crowd join him in celebratory singalongs that make me forget As I Lay Dying were ever missing from the gig circuit. And witnessing this reaction during “Parallels”, Hipa triumphantly commandeers the spotlight and delivers a ripping guitar solo from a platform in the middle of the stage — something mimicked by the entire band during “My Own Grave”, with all four standing members hovering over the edge of the stage singing the words of the chorus.

It is hard to deny that this tour was designed to please rather challenge existing fans, and as such, the setlist offers little else than new songs, live staples and fan favourites like “94 Hours” off 2003’s “Frail Worlds Collapse”, which concludes the ordinary set as it has tended to in the past. But there is one instance that leaves me wondering whether As I Lay Dying might be considering a new direction on the eventual follow-up to “Shaped by Fire”. As the band transitions between “Forsaken” and the big hit “Darkest Nights”, they unleash a blackgazing intermezzo reminiscent of Deafheaven, and while the style itself is not novel, it nonetheless has that sweeping character that immediately catches my attention and draws a smile on my lips. It remains to be seen if this is a teaser or simply a quirky interlude, but it certainly makes an impression on the audience, which then greets “The Darkest Nights” with even more enthusiasm than is usually the case. Back to the end of the concert and it is time for the encore, which, expectedly, provides both “Nothing Left” and “Confined” to end an altogether invigorating experience. A bit too safe perhaps, but still a powerful statement from a band that is far from finished.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. Blinded
  • 02. Through Struggle
  • 03. Within Destruction
  • 04. Redefined
  • 05. The Sound of Truth
  • 06. Forsaken
  • 07. Shaped by Fire
  • 08. The Darkest Nights
  • 09. An Ocean Between Us
  • 10. Gatekeeper
  • 11. A Greater Foundation
  • 12. Parallels
  • 13. My Own Grave
  • 14. 94 Hours

— Encore —

  • 15. Nothing Left
  • 16. Confined

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