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Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red and Light The Torch Delight Portland’s State Theatre! [Photos & Show Review]

Killswitch Engage dropped by Portland, Maine’s State Theatre and brought along their metalcore friends August Burns Red and former KSE vocalist Howard Jones’ supergroup Light The Torch. Let’s revisit that night through Nathan Katsiaficas’s close-up coverage!

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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.”

Killswitch Engage (w/ August Burns Red, Light The Torch) @ State Theatre (Portland, ME) on February 5, 2022

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

When he's not out in the woods, clomping around in streams, or looking at shiny rocks, you can find our U.S. Managing Editor and contributing photographer Nathan Katsiaficas in the photo pit, covering everything from heavy metal to punk, alternative, indie, and hip-hop.

Album Review

Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]

While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.

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Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork
Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork

Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”

The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.

With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.

Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.

Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”

Read our interview with Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen at last year’s Download 20.

Exit Emotions Track Listing:

1. Where’s the Exit
2. Deadzone
W3. olves of California
4. XOXO
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
7. Phobia
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
11. Flatline
12. One Last Time… Again

Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records

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Silent Planet Bring Their “Superbloom Tour” to Worcester Palladium [Photos]

Silent Planet brought their “Superbloom Tour” to Worcester Palladium with support from Johnny Booth, Aviana, and Thornhill.

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Silent Planet on Feb 20, 2024, photo by Christina Altamirano
Silent Planet on Feb 20, 2024, photo by Christina Altamirano

Silent Planet brought their “Superbloom Tour” to the Worcester Palladium on February 20, 2024. They had Johnny Booth, Aviana, and Thornhill join them on this fun adventure.

I had no idea what to expect during Johnny Booth and was happy with the outcome. Johnny Booth is a five-piece hardcore band from New York. They performed a seven-song setlist with a few cuts like “2040,” “Full Tilt,” “Asymmetrical,” and “Deep Fake.” Johnny Booth stands out with their crushing melodies and multi-genre influences.

Following Johnny Booth was the Swedish alt-metal band Aviana. I had heard a few songs off Spotify, but I’ve never seen them live, and I loved every second of their time! The band wore masks and cloaks, so you can’t see anything under it. When they opened with “Rage,” the crowd chanted “Rage” with frontman Joel Holmqvist. Other songs were “Illuminate,” “My Worst Enemy,” “Oblivion,” and “Obsession.” This is definitely a band worth checking out!

Next was the Aussie alt-metal band Thornhill. If you know Thornhill, then you know you’re going to have a good show! They played eight songs, consisting of “Arkangel,” “Viper Room,” “Coven,” and “Casanova,” and closed with “Where We Go When We Die.” During their set, you can see fans all over having fun and dancing to the music.

Lastly, Silent Planet! The band incorporates a screen in the back for stunning visuals to accompany the songs being played. They performed mostly new songs off their latest album, Superbloom, and other beloved songs like “Panic Room,” “Native Blood,” and closed with “Superbloom.” Towards the end of their set, they did a jam session, which was fun to watch! During their encore, they performed their popular song “Trilogy.”

The “Superbloom Tour” is coming to a close this week. If you got to see it, then you know you got to go to an awesome show. Here’s to the next one!

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Seven Cities Dead Unleash Single “Take This To My Grave” feat. Josh Gilbert

Milwaukee outfit Seven Cities Dead released their latest single, “Take This To My Grave,”  featuring As I Lay Dying’s Josh Gilbert.

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Seven Cities Dead
Seven Cities Dead

Milwaukee outfit Seven Cities Dead released their latest single, “Take This To My Grave,” featuring As I Lay Dying’s Josh Gilbert. SCD’s new single embodies the best attributes of classic and modern metalcore, pulling influences from Trivium, Wage War, and Motionless in White.

The story of “Take This To My Grave” in the words of the band:

“All the way back in 2021, we had this new demo for a song that was a little different than anything we had written before. It felt heavier than anything else we made but also somehow the most accessible. It had blast beats and a nasty breakdown, but it was also still structured like a radio single with a really catchy chorus and epic singing outro. We were already excited about it, but this was also the time when Featured X first came out.”

The story continues… “This was a website where artists, including some big names, signed up to make themselves available for people to request as features. At first, when we saw Josh Gilbert there, we thought he was way out of our league. As I Lay Dying was one of our favorite bands as teenagers and even to this day they’re a huge influence on our style. But we fantasized about what it would be like to have him on our song, and it genuinely felt like he would be a really good fit. So we reached out.

“We weren’t sure if we’d get a response, or if he even checked his messages on the site. And if he did, what are the odds he would agree to feature on a song by a no name band like us? But… he did! A few days later we got an email that he really liked the song and he would do it. What’s more, we learned that he’s also a professional producer working with Joseph McQueen at Sparrow Studios in Los Angeles. This is where Shaped By Fire was recorded.

“They’ve also produced records by bands like Bad Wolves, Bullet For My Valentine, Jason Derulo. We knew it would be the best experience and also the best song possible if we could go down and record it with him in person. So that’s exactly what we did. It was an amazing experience! We had planned to release this song in 2022 with an epic animated video which we had a whole script drawn up for – but things fell through with the animator after several months and delayed deadlines. And then things fell through with the next animator. And the next one. Two and a half years later, we decided this song just HAS to see the light of day, one way or another. We still have dreams of bringing the full story to fruition, but for now – we just want to release the song!”

Seven Cities Dead “Take This To My Grave” (ft. Josh Gilbert) single artwork

Seven Cities Dead “Take This To My Grave” (ft. Josh Gilbert) single artwork

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