Words & Photos by Pat Gilrane

Metalcore pioneers Atreyu hit the road on Nov 9, 2018, in support of their latest album, In Our Wake, which included a stop at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. Also on the night’s ticket was Memphis May Fire, Ice Nine Kills, and Sleep Signals.

It’s an absolutely miserable night here in the Northeast, as I pull up to the night’s venue, I’m really surprised to see a long line of people waiting in the pouring rain for an opportunity to get a good spot inside. I made my way in, prepped my gear and watched the crowd stream in to catch the opening band, Sleep Signals.

Sleep Signals are a straight up rock band from Minneapolis who’ve earned a reputation for delivering kick ass shows and always being on tour. The band’s currently on the road in support of their latest EP At the End of the World, which dropped in Sept of 17. They were a perfect opening band who quickly engaged the crowd with their alternative/post-hardcore inspired riffs, punctuated by Robert Cosgrove’s vocal delivery.

With four bands on the ticket, Sleep Signals had a short but frenetic set of new and old songs that ignited the crowd at the Starland, who crowd surfed and worked up a good sweat. Sleep Signals set a nice foundation for the night ahead.

Ice Nine Kills took the stage, and you could immediately feel the energy bump up a few notches. The crowd surging forward as the first few chords rang out, Spencer Charnas dressed as a modern-day Freddy Krueger wasting no time getting right up front with the crowd. INK is one of several horror-themed bands currently in the metalcore scene, and it’s a truly glorious combination. Watching this band live it’s easy to get distracted by the theatrics, but let’s not get confused, this is a seriously good musical unit with slashing guitar work, driving drum beats and vocals that at times seem to come from somewhere, very dark.

INK’s set was dominated by songs off their latest album The Silver Scream, including “The American Nightmare,” Thank God Its Friday” and “Merry Axe-Mas” which had Charnas stalking the crowd while wearing a Santa hat, clearly in a festive spirit.  They drove the crowd to frenzied levels via their musical beatdown and strong stage presence; I only wish their set was longer!

As soon as Memphis May Fire took the stage the volume of crowd surfers crashing over the barrier increased dramatically, at time’s seeming to overcome the security staff inside the barrier. There’d be no rest for the crowd with the band setting a blistering pace from the first song. The band is currently touring in support of their latest album Broken (Nov 2018) but resisted the urge to overburden the crowd with a large volume of new music, choosing instead to spread the set list out over several albums as far back as “The Sinner” off the bands 2011 album The Hollow.

The set continued with frontman Matty Mullins working the entire stage from end to end while his bandmates laid down the background noise, an animated Mullins at times almost over the barrier sharing the microphone with the crowd, who sang along the entire time. Memphis May Fire played a total of nine songs during their set, getting the crowd pumped up and headbanging with the high energy delivery of their tunes.

Atreyu took the stage and wasted no time taking this show over, diving right into the title track off their latest album In Our Wake, Alex Varkatzas and Brandon Saller’s towering melodies drowned out at times by the crowd singing (screaming) along. This was my first time seeing Atreyu and couldn’t help but think what a beast (in a good way) of a band this was, their sound was primal and raw but somehow refined at the same time, and the crowd was totally involved.

As the intro for “Becoming the Bull” rang out the crowd pumped their fist in the air to the drum beats while being pummeled by the dominant guitar hooks and vocal harmonies. Alex Varkatzas and bandmates worked the crowd, Varkatzas spending time on the barrier while his bandmates stalked the crowd from the stage. The set continued with Atreyu playing a mix of old and new, including “Lip Gloss and Black” off the bands 2002 album Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, “Anger Left Behind,” and one of the crowd favs “Blow” off the bands stand out album Lead Sails Paper Anchors.

Atreyu played a total of fourteen songs during their set and returned for a three-song encore that included covers of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” Atreyu is an absolute musical force, and I look forward to next time!

Big thanks Atreyu, Memphis May Fire, Ice Nine Kills and Sleep Signals for the night of metalcore mayhem, and the staff at the Starland having our backs.

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