After fighting through what felt like years of stop and go in Dallas rush hour traffic, we arrived late Tuesday evening at the Dallas House of Blues only to catch the tail end of the set of ’68, a two piece fronted by ex The Chariot guitarist and vocalist, Josh Scogin.
Next to take the stage was In Hearts’ Wake, an Australian metalcore act formed in 2006. A short spoken word led into their first track, titled Refuge. Dancing around the stage, they ripped through a progressive and heavy metalcore set, headbanging to the groove and rhythm in between ambient, melodic breaks. Moments before returning to heaviness, the vocalist Jake Taylor addressed the crowd, demanding we “Make America Mosh Again”, parodying our newly elected President’s campaign slogan. Small references to the recently hot topic were made again throughout the set, as they asked the crowd to raise their fists in the air to a chant demonizing the growing presence of hatred in our world. As their set progressed, they played through songs such as Healer, Survival (The Chariot), and Breakaway. An inflatable alligator was thrown on the stage from the side, to which Jake mounted and surfed the crowd, held up only by members of the audience as he continued on.
To my excitement, progressive metal act Protest the Hero of Ontario took to the stage afterward and led straight into the thrashy track Yellow Teeth. Much like any other technically inclined Canadian band, the riffing and tapping strewn throughout made me completely rethink my own guitar playing and want to quit instantly, if only due to how robotically accurate yet humanlike the playing remained. Album quality or fantastic musicianship aside, the crystalline clean vocals of Rody Walker filled the room with a cornucopia of pitch perfect notes, tinged with a bit of filth when needed and clarity when not. Balancing out between the clean, the heavier moments blew my mind as I hadn’t expected Rody’s low distorted vocals to sound so nasty. In between songs, he kept a steady line of dialogue going with the crowd, from joking insults about Alice Cooper to the sadness of seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs annihilated by the Dallas Stars before the show. Noteworthy tracks in abundance, they performed many spread from across their discography, including “Sequoia Throne”, “Harbinger”, “Blood Meat”, and closing out with “Skies”.
Headliner August Burns Red was up next to the elation of the majority. In quite the theatrical manner, members of the band came into view amidst the darkness and pulsing of their introduction. Performing on the Messengers 10 year anniversary tour, they wasted no time leading straight into “The Truth of a Liar”. Immediately following, the album performance flowed consistently into the next few tracks, weaving the tightly wound guitar work with punishing rhythms. It was terrific to hear performed live as well, considering sound quality improvements over the years leading to more enjoyable and coherent music on the whole. Spinning the mic and headbanging viciously to sporadic breakdown patterns, vocalist Jake Luhrs kept momentum going with not only his flawless vocal performance but his visible immersion in the music. Dancing with their instruments on the risers as emissions from the light boxes cut through the openings made by members, the band ‘s passion shone through as they played through the entirety of the album just as it should be heard. As the crowd engaged in unison, I witnessed tons of people going absolutely off the walls, punching their friends with smiles on their faces, grabbing each other’s hands and throwing them up to dance to the music, and headbanging to their heart’s content. As the dust settled a bit, drummer Matt Greiner was accompanied by bassist Dustin Davidson on an additional smaller drum piece as they performed a lengthy drum solo, leading into a handful of encore songs topped off by the fan favorite, “White Washed”.
Joined by brothers of the same scene, the Messengers 10 year anniversary tour was quite the banger. Wielding a balance of technicality while still maintaining the emotion and feel of music, in place of instrumental olympics, makes quite the statement on the abilities of a musician. There’s something beautiful about music that shies away from ever feeling boring without being a spastic mess in place of it, and as nostalgia for an anniversary tour was joined by the energy of well seasoned and tight metal bands, the overall atmosphere was bordering euphoric. Whether you’ve looped Messengers since it’s debut, or your first foray into any of the bands that performed was the night of January 31st, the likelihood of either earning a first time fan or sating the desire for a lifer’s love of the music is undoubtable. I left the venue less of a casual listener, and more as an established fan.