It’s still pretty early in 2016 and while there are many cool tours in the pipeline for later this year, the Burning Down Alaska tour, which is currently making its way across the UK and the mainland, is undoubtedly one of my favourite tours so far. The tour line-up consists of German metal-core heavyweights Burning Down Alaska, melodic hardcore titans Acres and Casey (who both hail from the UK) as well as local supports, Holding Absence.
At first impressions, melodic hardcore may appear, probably by virtue of its wordy title, to be an esoteric subgenre. However, many bands of our generation such as Hundredth, Counterparts and More Than Life have already carved out a path. The task for one of South Wales’ newest bands, Holding Absence is to try and stand out among the rest. Holding Absence are a band I’ve been dying to see live for the last year or so, so naturally I was stoked to finally have the chance to do so. Unfortunately, in their opening role, they have a criminally-short, four-song set. Despite this, they made the best of it, opening up with their most recent release, Luna; which sees vocalist Zac Vernon and bassist James Evans make their way into the crowd and displays how heartfelt and ruthless both the music and lyrics are of hard times gone by, and incorporates all elements of the band – which just adds to the overall atmosphere. Although I wasn’t really a fan of debut release, Immerse, at first, it really takes off with spacious guitars and melodic vocals that would please fans of Saosin’s brighter moments of the Cove era. Despite being local support for tonight, Holding Absence proved themselves one of the most exciting and genuine bands to emerge in a long time. Their songs are complex, tangled, intelligent but most importantly, real – striking every type of emotion that one could potentially feel. Watch out for this band, because they’ve got a bright future ahead of them. (8/10)
Casey is not an unfamiliar name to anybody who has been paying attention to the underground side of the British alternative scene. They broke into the spotlight as Well Wisher in 2014 but following a name change in 2015 and a platitude of singles off the release of their mini EP “Fade” saw people pleading for a full-length album. One of the most appealing aspects of Casey for me is frontman Tom Weaver’s vocal abilities. His mix of spoken word and traditional pained yelled/screamed vocals painted passionate tapestries that won the hearts and minds of fans worldwide. Fans of the band, both old and new were not disappointed as the band belted out the mandatory ‘Hell, Haze (You Buried It)’ and ‘Fade’ like it was no big deal. The crowd was also treated to two new songs, ‘Darling’ and ‘Little Bird’ in which the nature of both the song and the intimacy of the venue make the band sound even heavier than usual, putting plenty larger household bands to shame. I’ve always loved Casey, and hearing releases from the debut release sounds incredibly fulfilling – and exciting – to see them realising their potential to its upper limits. In a genre that is easy to get wrong, they nail everything, and when it’s over, you immediately want to hit play again; a true mark of genius. (9/10)
Acres are young and enthusiastic which comes across well in their set, with lead vocalist Ben Lumber engaging with the crowd throughout. Lumber’s vocals are formidable, both on record and during live performances, which is something that can set a band apart from the competition. More importantly, it helps in giving that all important energy boost to the heavier songs in their repertoire. Acres’ set is laced with dashes of melancholy and moody riffs pound underneath the melodies from start to finish. There’s sadness and anger as well and plenty of it, the kind of emotion that greatly empowers the furious melodic hardcore that the band excel at. There’s a lot that current bands could learn a lot from Acres, which is what I call “doing it right”. (8.5/10)
Finally, it was time for the headliners to take to the floor. Known across the mainland for their stage presence and unbridled stamina, Burning Down Alaska had the crowd in the palm of their hands right from the start. The perfect balance of cleans and screams has seen the band slide in amongst metalcore’s elite, and even though the vocals sound good on record – it’s nothing compared to their live performance. Kicking off the set with Monuments and Reality & Fiction, the heavy songs is executed with precision and emphasises that Burning Down Alaska have got both their vocal and live performances locked down. With such an exciting live performance and melodic hardcore style lyrics, they were the most perfect headlining band you can ask for whilst also completely fitting with the genre/mood of this tour. Every song was as fast and rowdy as the last, with the individual twist. Although Burning Down Alaska were better than I originally anticipated, by the end of Saviour and their 45 minute set – they started to fall into the ‘stalecore’ category that I loathe so much. Now the idea of yet another metalcore band hitting the scene may have you with your head in your hands, but Burning Down Alaska has got an atmosphere about them that is a breath of fresh air in a generic scene. They are an excellent live band, and if you get the opportunity to go and see them, do it. (8/10)
Written by Jack Simmonds (@renegxde86)