Seen on Wednesday August 10, 2016 @ The Assembly, Cape Town
A Wednesday evening is not usually a night you’d associate with a triple-bill metal show, but when the headliners are Grammy-nominated American juggernauts August Burns Red, you can see why The Assembly was packed to bursting with people braving the chilly night air.
The Pennsylvania five-piece were finishing up their first-ever tour of South Africa after playing a raucous, dusty set at Oppikoppi the previous weekend, but before that there was the matter of opening acts.
Zombies Ate My Girlfriend
First up were the interestingly-named Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, fresh from a sojourn in Germany where they performed an stand-out set at the Wacken Open Air festival, winning the newcomer Metal Battle. Ostensibly rather more metal than metalcore, they tore through their set with energy and tightness to an appreciative crowd that filled up as their set went on.
Facing The Gallows
Johannesburg’s Facing The Gallows are now seasoned performers on the live circuit, having been around for over 9 years now. Vocalist Bryan Binneman was impressive, adding dynamism on stage and bite to the ferocity unleashed by his bandmates around him. Their tunes often revealed a healthy influence from the headlining band they were opening for, as well as shades of bands such as Unearth. By this time the numbers in the audience had swelled considerably and, judging by the reception of fan favourite song “Hey! I Can See My House From Here”, there were plenty of die-hard FTG fans amongst them.
August Burns Red
However, as soon as the lights dimmed to announce the arrival of the night’s main act, the noise from those assembled went up a notch. As Rozalla’s 1991 dance hit “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” blasted over the PA to announce August Burns Red’s arrival on stage, there was an outpouring of joy from fans who had clearly been waiting years for this moment to come. Tearing straight into “Empire” and the fast-paced, melodic “Meddler” from 2009’s Constellations, it was clear that ABR wouldn’t be shying away from playing older material on their first appearance in the Cape.
Between drummer Matt Greiner’s bullet-train fills, Dustin Davidson’s low-end rumble and JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler’s vicious scythes of guitar, Jake Luhrs is a commanding presence at centre stage, often perched atop a road-case covered in sweat as he puts every ounce of energy he has into his vocals. Alternating between thrashy, higher-pitched screaming and guttural lows, he often let the music overtake him during instrumental passages, directing the band as a conductor would an orchestra.
With the crowd bellowing his lyrics back at him, he guided his band through a catalogue that not only showcased traditional metalcore brutality (“Truth of a Liar”, “Back Burner”), but also displayed musical influences often considered disparate with the genre. Songs such as “Identity” and “Majoring in the Minors” shone with diverse composition & instrumentation, the crowd continuing to crowd-surf and sing along throughout as the band members hared from side to side, never once delivering a wrong note. Thirteen years spent on stages around the world showed as they oozed professionalism from start to finish.
In between, the group seemed genuinely excited and humbled at the response received on their first visit to South Africa. Eventually drawing the set to a close, a baying crowd was having none of it and quickly demanded that the band return for an encore, prompting Greiner back on stage to deliver a blistering drum solo culminating in two more songs to cap the evening off.
Showing their appreciation, vocalist Luhrs took it upon himself to wait at the exit of the venue, shaking each and every person’s hand and thanking them as they left. It was sweaty, it was late, but it was glorious; let’s hope it’s not too long before August Burns Red graces our shores again.
Report: Gareth Allison
Pictures: Job Thomas