Asking Alexandria

support Blessthefall + Chelsea Grin
author AP date 30/01/12 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

As I arrive at Amager Bio half an hour before doors, the queue outside is already stretching further than it did when Machine Head played here last year - the only difference is that I can see over the heads of just about everybody. It is no secret that the three bands tonight tend to attract a considerably younger crowd than I'm used to, but with recent new albums from all three bands on the bill tonight, I'm eager to check out the live worthiness of their recent produce.

Chelsea Grin

In charge of initiating proceedings tonight is the polarizing deathcore force known as Chelsea Grin, who have been garnering significant attention of late with their stomping beatdown-driven chug. As such it is no surprise that a large portion of the audience here is composed of hardened Chelsea Grin fans looking for a fix of violent moshing from the five songs that the band has time to play. I myself continue to not understand what the fuss is about; the opening track "Sonnet of the Wretched" literally consists almost exclusively of breakdowns with a single short bout of sweeping arpeggios to interrupt an otherwise crushing wall of low end chugging - something Chelsea Grin need three guitarists to achieve for some reason. Nonetheless the response from the crowd is as impressive as you might expect, with a wide, if scarcely populated, moshpit operating for the full length of the set, and loud screams of approval resounding from it in between the songs ("Lifeless", "Recreant", "My Damnation" and "Everlasting Sleep").

But I'm afraid I'm not here to judge the performance of the audience, and sadly Chelsea Grin is not exactly a sight to behold on stage. Apart from the occasional synchronized deep angle headbanging, guitarists Jacob Harmond, Daniel Jones and Jason Richardson, as well as bassist David Flinn, are meticulously focused on getting their parts right, thus ruling out any sort of energetic expression on their behalf (which is extremely baffling to me, considering the simplicity of much of the band's music). Vocalist Alex Koehler is somewhat more engaging with his confrontational demeanor and admittedly impressive growls and shrieks, but the overall impression that I get watching Chelsea Grin is that they're still very much a young band without the experience needed to put on a show to remember. As such, even though you might think that my grading of their set is then based solely on the fact that musically Chelsea Grin do next to nothing for me, the real reason is that there are bands that are heavier and less simplistic in this genre that manage to put on fantastic performances (the relatively unknown Desolated comes to mind). Chelsea Grin, on the other hand, are painfully average.

5

Blessthefall

Blessthefall are up next, and as expected, begin their set with the eponymous intro track from their latest album, "Awakening", followed by the subsequent "Promised Ones", to kick things off in energetic style. Indeed, what sets Blessthefall far apart from Chelsea Grin is the relentlessness with which they perform, not sparing any of their respective energy reserves to deliver the best show that they possibly can. Combine that with songs like "To Hell and Back" and "Guys Like You Make Guys Like Us Look Bad" that are instantly memorable, contain ample opportunities for moshing, circle pits and walls of death, and humble personas, and you'll understand why Blessthefall manage to maintain my undivided attention throughout their set.

Although vocalist Beau Bokan has trouble with his stamina - this due to his constant movement on and running across the stage from side to side - and so fails to hit many of his higher notes, there is something ultimately engaging about the way he commands the crowd's attention from start to finish. During "Hey Baby, Here's That Song You Wanted" he even decides to celebrate guitarist Elliott Gruenberg's 18th birthday by inviting all the girls (and some guys) on stage to give him a kiss - and they happily indulge, causing an enormous stage rush that Bokan soon declares a bit of a mistake, as there is still a sizable queue of blushing females on stage by the time the band is supposed to launch into "2.0" and the finale "What's Left of Me".

But even so, the sound mix is not on Blessthefall's side tonight, drowning out much of the catchy leads and doing Bokan no favors either. The response from the crowd is a mixture of violence and bewilderment, however, and given the band's resolve to give it their all despite the circumstances, I see no reason to berate the band for issues that are completely out of their hands in the end.

7

Asking Alexandria

Turns out the vocal problems are not exclusive to Blessthefall - though in Asking Alexandria singer Danny Worsnop's case it seems to be not so much a matter of lacking stamina as actual throat problems. As a result, his delivery is about a semitone lower than usual and includes numerous moments that sound downright out of tune; couple that with his recent transition into 80s style singing much in the vein of Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows, and the older songs in particular sound nothing like they used to (the otherwise brilliant guilty pleasure "I Was Once Possibly, Maybe, Perhaps a Cowboy King" is thus a bit of an anti-climax).

Another thing that bothers me is the huge difference between the Asking Alexandria of now and the Asking Alexandria I saw for the first time at Groezrock two years ago. Then a band of hyperboles, controversy and boundless energy, Asking Alexandria have become a rather standard fare entertainment machine after Worsnop's rehabilitation and oath to lay off the hard drugs. Everything about the performance seems somehow dampened in comparison to the explosiveness of that festival concert, and Worsnop's trademark cheekiness is nowhere to be heard in the between-song banter. The guitarists - Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell - and bassist Sam Bettley are also rather conservative in their expression, settling for the occasional headbanging and instrument swinging instead of charging into the crowd like raging maniacs as they liked to do in the past.

Indeed, with their sudden rise to fame, it seems, Asking Alexandria also became much too self-aware and lost the unpredictability that I hoped would surround them in infamy on par with their countrymen in Bring Me the Horizon. So although songs like "Dedication" and "To the Stage" sound fantastic tonight, there is nothing in the band's performance to suggest that they deserve the badge of a great live band, contrary to what the UK press seems to believe. It might of course simply be that Asking Alexandria are not at the top of their game tonight physically or mentally, and are therefore treating it as a sort of off-day and playing with automatic gear. So even though they still manage to enamor the young crowd, the performance hardly gives credence to the band's steadily growing reputation as ones to watch.

Setlist:

  • 01. Welcome
  • 02. Closure
  • 03. Breathless
  • 04. A Lesson Never Learned
  • 05. Not the American Average
  • 06. A Prophecy
  • 07. I Was Once, Possibly, Maybe, Perhaps a Cowboy King
  • 08. Dedication
  • 09. Dear Insanity
  • 10. To the Stage
  • 11. Morte et Dabo

--Encore--

  • 12. Alerion
  • 13. The Final Episode (Let's Change the Channel)

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