The godfathers of metalcore, Killswitch Engage are currently in the midst of a long-delayed massive North American run in support of their latest release Atonement with fellow metalcore heavyweights August Burns Red and former KSE vocalist Howard Jones’ supergroup Light The Torch. Let’s revisit that last bit—Howard Jones sharing the stage with Killswitch every night of this tour—how amazing is that!? And to make things even cooler for KSE fans, Jones has been performing with his old band at the end of each night (at least so far), including the night of February 5th, when this absolutely stacked bill of bands made its way to Portland, Maine’s State Theatre to play before a completely sold-out crowd!
The night started off with an amazing set from Light The Torch, a band comprised of (aside from Jones) ex-All Shall Perish guitarist Francesco Artusato, Bleeding Through‘s Ryan Wombacher on bass, and at least for now—as it isn’t clear if he is a permanent addition—drummer Alex Rudinger (ex-Whitechapel, ex-Good Tiger, ex-The Faceless, and many more). It isn’t an exaggeration to call this group of exceptionally talented musicians a “supergroup,” and indeed they put on a superb set, kicking things off with “More Than Dreaming,” the album opener off their latest release, You Will Be The Death of Me. This segued into the driving guitar riffs of “Calm Before The Storm,” where Jones’ rich and soaring vocal melodies were really put on display!
While they are playing the role of opener on this tour, their set was much longer than opening acts typically get, and they made great use of that time, with Jones spending very little time chatting with the crowd as the band sped through 10 songs! The band closed their set with infectiously-catchy mega-hit “Die Alone.” Light The Torch is one of many bands that had their upward trajectories stymied by the pandemic. One can only hope that this tour will put them back on track to achieving the levels of notoriety they so greatly deserve.
After their signature, pre-performance song, System of a Down’s “Chop Suey,” played over the speakers to a massive crowd sing-along, Lancaster, PA metalcore giants August Burns Red emerged and got the crowd moving as they launched right into “The Truth of a Liar” from 2007’s Messenger. ABR have become frequent visitors to Portland, and as such, the gathered fans were more than happy to welcome the band back by spinning up a few mosh pits and surfing their way up to the stage from the very start of their set! Frontman Jake Luhrs sounded fantastic as he hunched on the stage risers, swinging his mic around like a madman and belting out his instantly-recognizable low growls. The band had a great array of music in their 10-song performance from across their discography, including old fan-favorites “Marianas Trench,” from 2009’s Constellations, and set-closers, “White Washed” and “Composure.”
Along with these were several tracks from the band’s newest record, Guardians, which came out in 2020. Because they made it more of a “hit sandwich” set, there was plenty to love for fans of just the older material, and fans of the new stuff too. In another highlight—midway into their performance, Luhrs disappeared and guitarist JB Brubaker led the band in a spectacular cover of the theme from popular Nintendo game The Legend of Zelda.
At roughly 9:45, with the crowd all warmed up and eager, Killswitch Engage took to the stage, down a member. Fans quickly realized that guitarist Joel Stroetzel was absent due to a positive Covid test on that very day. Luckily for them, KSE managed to pull off a day-of plan to perform both as a four-piece and utilizing members of August Burns Red and their own guitar tech to fill in—and the result seemed flawless.
This took shape right away, as ABR bassist Dustin Davidson appeared sporting a guitar for opening number, “Unleashed.” The night would go on to include a smattering of more songs from Atonement, including “The Crownless King” and “I Am Broken Too,” as well as a ton of beloved hits, some of which they pulled out right away, including “Hate By Design,” “My Last Serenade” and “Reckoning.”
Frontman Jesse Leach his bandmate/banterer, lead guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz sounded spot-on in their vocal delivery, and were their usual hilarious selves, be it joking between songs or Dutkiewicz’s penchant for making hilarious expressions at his bandmates mid-song. After an incredible rendition of their hit, “In Due Time,” August Burns Red’s Brubaker emerged, guitar in hand, to play “Daylight Dies” with the band. He looked like he was having the time of his life! Things only got more amazing as the night went on, with the band pulling out hit after hit, and the audience responding with their voices, especially for “Always” and “My Curse.”
As their set began to wind down, Jones emerged for an epic encore, kicking right into “Rose of Sharyn.” Leach let Jones take this one on entirely by himself, joining the vocalist after a big hug for “The End of Heartache.” Jones was clearly having a blast, as was Leach—as for the fans, they were completely held in thrall, moshing like mad, or crowd surfing their asses off, all while singing along the loudest they would all night! This spectacular evening of music came to a close with the track “The Signal Fire,” which features both Jones and Leach on the band’s latest album. It was a joy to see the interplay between the two vocalists live as they performed this final song of the night, ending with another big hug between the two.
One can only hope this lineup arrangement will occur again—it was too much of a treat to get to see both Leach and Jones performing together to not see it happen again! If you haven’t caught the tour yet, you’re in luck—it runs through early March, see the remaining tour dates below.
Remaining Atonement Tour Dates:
2/12 — Orlando, FL — House of Blues
2/14 — Houston, TX — House of Blues
2/15 — Dallas, TX — SouthSide Ballroom
2/17 — Tempe, AZ — The Marquee
2/18 — Los Angeles, CA — Wiltern
2/19 — Las Vegas, NV — Brooklyn Bowl
2/21 — Ventura, CA — Ventura Theater
2/22 — Riverside, CA — Municipal Auditorium
2/23 — San Francisco, CA — Warfield
2/25 — Spokane, WA — Knitting Factory
2/26 — Missoula, MT — Wilma Theater
2/27 — Seattle, WA — Showbox SoDo
3/1 — Boise, ID — Revolution
3/2 — Salt Lake City, UT — Complex
3/3 — Denver, CO — Fillmore
3/5 — Green Bay, WI — EPIC Event Center
3/6 — Minneapolis, MN — Fillmore
3/7 — Chicago, IL — Radius
3/8 — Columbus, OH — Express Live
3/10 — Detroit, MI — Fillmore
3/11 — Rochester, NY — Main Street Armory
3/12 — Philadelphia, PA — Franklin Music Hall