Words and Photos by Masen Smith

If nothing else, metal fans are among the most loyal fans in music.  Their love for artistry through musical aggression is unmatched. That passion was on full display last Sunday, as thousands flocked to the Ritz in Raleigh, through the cold and rain, for a near-sold-out rager.  Swedish heavyweights In Flames brought a killer support package along last Sunday, ensuring the night would be unforgettable.

First up was California rockers All Hail the Yeti. As I was unfamiliar with their music, I was intrigued by their ornate stage setup.  An altar, featuring a deer skull, incense, and candles, presented a very occult and ominous vibe. As the band took the stage, I was pleasantly surprised by the commanding atmosphere of their performance.  Frontman Connor Garrity kept all eyes locked on him as he paced the stage, his aggression demanding (and receiving) ravenous response from the crowd. This manic energy even extended to drummer Ryan Kittlitz- the most stationary member of the band was still a whirlwind behind the kit. His raw and expressive style added yet another facet driving the band’s impressive stage presence.

Next up were Massachusetts heavy metal giants All That Remains.  Following the tragic death of guitarist Oli Herbert, many thought that the band would take some time away from the road.  However, All That Remains kept going strong, welcoming ex-Born of Osiris and Chelsea Grin guitarist Jason Richardson into the fold.  Even with Richardson’s technical prowess, there was a definite void onstage without Oli.  Vocalist Phil Labonte took several pauses to pensively reflect and talk about his late Brother, and the outpouring of emotion was physically palpable.  The audience didn’t seem to have the same reverence, though- often yelling out indiscriminately as Phil was lamenting and recounting their relationship.  All in all, All That Remains delivered a crushingly heavy, emotional, aggressive set, and Jason Richardson proved why he was a perfect, permanent addition to the band.  Musically, ATR was tighter than I’d ever heard, but it just felt very strange to see them without Oli.

Finally, In Flames took to the stage to the roar of the crowd.  To my surprise, guitarist Niclas Engelin was nowhere to be found – in his place was ex-Megadeth axeman, Chris Broderick. As the set began, vocalist Anders Friden grabbed the crowd immediately, opening with the first track off their latest record, “Voices.”  Friden bounced around from right riser to left, the intensity never relenting. I didn’t have much prior experience with In Flames’ catalog, but their renown as consistent festival headliners in Europe set high expectations- which were definitely exceeded.  The 16-song setlist spanned their entire 25-year discography, placing emphasis on “I, the Mask” (yet to be released) and their 1999 album “Colony.”  Featuring songs from all 12 releases, the night provided something for fans of every In Flames era.  The obvious enthusiasm of both Bjorn Gelotte and Anders was contagious, instigating a raucous and lively atmosphere all night long.

This lineup is just too good to miss. With two massive bands spearheading a three-hour headbang-fest, what more could you ask for?

Catch this tour while you still can- the run continues from the northeast to the west coast until it wraps up on March 19. Check out the remaining  dates of the tour here.

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