Thursday, 9 June 2016

Escape The Fate - Thekla, Bristol, 08/06/2016

I booked tickets to this Download warm-up performance before I knew I was going to Download, so this is the first of two times I'm seeing Escape The Fate this week!

Opening act Heaven Asunder announced that they'd be appearing a matter of days before the show, but I was already familiar with their name - hailing from Bristol, they're held in high regard in the local touring circuit.
I had seen the band live before, but I couldn't remember their set at all. I was surprised by just how metal they were; when the first words out of the mouth of vocalist Matt Boyd's mouth were "let me see you guys bang your fucking heads!" it was intimidating to say the least. Co-vocalist and guitarist Ally Roberts definitely made their sound a bit more palatable, adding a harmonizing vocal to the unbreakable roar emanating from Matt - if they'd only had the one vocalist I don't think I would have enjoyed their set as much as I did.
I will happily admit that I wasn't too sure about them at the beginning of their stage time. Their first two songs blurred in together in an unbroken stream of noise, and I was very daunted: I'm not a huge fan of heavier music, particularly in a live environment. However, their new song 'Hell Away' managed to sway my opinion, as it stood out from their other songs and showed a departure from their other material which was indistinguishable. The three songs that followed it were also more enjoyable, with more intricate guitar work compared to the ceaseless strumming, and by the end of their set I was wishing that they had a longer stage time.
If you live in the area around Bristol, I highly suggest you keep an eye out for Heaven Asunder: especially if you like your metal music! 

Main support hadn't been announced when I purchased tickets, but when Fearless Vampire Killers - sorry, FVK - were added to the line-up I was disappointed. I'm a fan of their older music but I haven't been able to gel with their new material: I popped in for a couple of songs when they performed at Takedown last March and saw just half of a song at Warped UK because I find it monotonous in a live environment.
Despite the fact that they only played for half an hour, I could already find myself getting restless. Co-vocalists Kier Kemp and Laurence Beveridge are both very talented and have a great on-stage chemistry, and musically the band are faultless... There's just something about their newer songs that make them remarkably average. I was happy that Laurence was finally taking more of a lead vocal on the songs, but the constant switching of vocalists means there's no cohesion in their set at all: it makes it rather uncomfortable and disjointed to listen to.
The band have an extremely avid fanbase and they came out in force to this show. When Heaven Asunder asked who was excited for FVK and who couldn't wait for Escape The Fate, FVK had a much more explosive reaction. The crowd were squealing at Kier's jokes, chanting the "Neon in the Dance Halls" refrain back to the band and jumping so energetically at every possible opportunity. You could feel how important they are to so many people: personally, I just don't understand the appeal.
I was surprised they only played for half an hour, as the majority of the crowd seemed to be attending for them and they definitely have enough material to play for a longer set. With old fan favourites 'Bow Ties on Dead Guys' and 'Could We Burn Darling' both missing, combined with the recent abandonment of the Fearless Vampire Killers moniker, the band are taking steps to distance themselves from their early days, which is a shame - instead of standing out as unique leaders of the goth resurgence, FVK are fading into the background. 

Neon in the Dance Halls
Like Bruises
All Hallow's Evil

I am surprised I haven't been to see Escape The Fate before, because 'This War Is Ours' is still one of my favourite albums of all time. I haven't followed their new releases too closely, but the moment this show was announced I knew I had to get tickets: hearing 'The Flood' and '10 Miles Wide' live was not an opportunity I was going to pass up. 
The moment 'Just a Memory' started, I was startled. Craig Mabbitt viciously spat into his microphone, screaming the first verse in an unrestrained scream that shocked my eardrums. I couldn't remember this from Escape The Fate! I could only remember the pop-punk-esque singalongs and catchy lyrical content from their second album: I hadn't realised it would be a metal show.
Suddenly the support slot from Heaven Asunder made complete sense. I'd thought that they were too heavy for the bill, but it dawned on me they were perfect. Listening to the screaming vocal earlier in the evening had put me in the mood for this heavier version of the band, and I adjusted quickly.
The special thing about Escape The Fate is that they're not afraid to play with genres, push the boundaries of their sound and challenge their fans to keep coming back for more. 'Fire It Up' has a country-esque sound to Craig's vocal, while the newer material sways from the unmentionably heavy to the soft singalongs I'd come to expect - most notably 'Live For Today' and 'Remember Every Scar', both of which have inspirational lyrics and a much more restrained but technical musical style. Added in a surprise cover of Guns 'N' Roses track 'Paradise City' was certainly the biggest shock of the evening, but based on the fact that every person in the room started singing and swaying along it was also the perfect choice. If I was right and some people did only come to the show to see FVK, at least Escape The Fate added in a song that was bound to appeal to every attendee.
Of course I was the most impressed by the early material, and the fact that '10 Miles Wide' and 'The Flood' still sound note perfect almost ten years after their release is a testament to the band's writing. They might not have released any songs that have surpassed the popularity of their earlier songs, but they have a timeless feel and still appeal despite their age. 'Ashley' making it into the set surprised me - based on the heaviness of the evening I hadn't been expecting them to play the closest thing to a ballad they've ever written - but it reminded me exactly why I used to like this band so much, and I think I've fallen in love with Escape The Fate all over again. I still prefer their songs with clean rather than unclean vocals, but by closing their main set with the catchy yet vicious 'Hate Me', it definitely convinced me to give their new music another chance.
This certainly wasn't a perfect set, filled with problems with the drum kit that led to multiple breaks for Craig to talk to the crowd, but that's the point of a warm-up show: they're meant to help iron out the kinks and get you ready for the big day! If you haven't heard the band before and you're attending Download festival, I hope you'll pop along to their stage for a little bit on Saturday afternoon. These songs grip you in a live environment and will definitely make you think twice about dismissing a band who have been sadly ignored by the scene in recent years.
I don't think Craig Mabbitt will be stage diving off of any balconies at Download - more's the pity - and you won't get to sing happy birthday to touring guitarist Max Georgiev, but it will definitely be a fun and memorable show worth attending. 

Just a Memory
Fire It Up
You're Insane
The Flood
10 Miles Wide
Live For Today
Paradise City cover
Remember Every Scar
Gorgeous Nightmare
One For The Money
This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)

Now I'm off to bed to get ready for Download tomorrow - see you on the other side! 

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