If you were to take a look at some of the newer bands that have risen to prominence within metal over the last decade or so, it’s likely that the names of both BLACK VEIL BRIDES and ASKING ALEXANDRIA would come up. Both bands first appeared in the mid-2000s and have since become two of the biggest bands in their scene, with legions of screaming fans to show for it. It seems remarkable then, that it’s taken until now for them to tour together properly, but now the time has come. With both bands having recently released strong albums, they’ve finally headed out together on what’s dubbed The Resurrection Tour, and so we headed to Manchester Academy to see how it would go.
Opening the show tonight are German ‘trance-core’ TO THE RATS AND WOLVES, who are playing only their second ever UK show tonight and unfortunately only end up playing to a small throng of people thanks to their set beginning just ten minutes after doors open, despite there having been a line stretching halfway down the road from the venue hours before the show. This doesn’t seem to phase the band too much however, and they quickly go about putting on a brief but enjoyable set that fuses by-the-numbers metalcore riffs and screamed vocals with a strong electronic element and big pop-style choruses in a manner not to dissimilar to the likes of ESKIMO CALLBOY. This balance comes across best in their closing track, a cover of JOHN MARTIN’s 2014 dance-pop single Anywhere For You, which manages to incite the first of many singalongs to come tonight thanks to the infectious charisma of vocalists Dixi Wu and Nico Sallach. Although there’s only enough time tonight for the band to play a mere five songs, it’s nonetheless an impressive showing, and one that more than proves there’s still life in this kind of music.
It’s been a good couple of years at this point since ASKING ALEXANDRIA last played a full headline set in the UK with founding vocalist Danny Worsnop at the helm, and as such, there’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air as the band take the stage tonight. Opening strongly with recent single Into The Fire, it’s clear that tonight ASKING ALEXANDRIA feel like a properly reinvigorated band, and they proceed to put on a masterclass of a set, pulling fan favourite tracks from across their catalogue. Older heavier tracks like To The Stage and Not The American Average sound as strong as they ever have on this occasion, and there’s still an absolute riot when guitarists Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell kick into the intro riff of The Final Episode (Let’s Change The Channel), but really the highlight’s of the band’s set tonight come from their new self-titled album. Despite some calling the band out for “going pop” on the release, it’s impossible to argue with just how massive the likes of Alone In A Room and Eve sound in a live setting, with their trademark hard riffing melding near-perfectly into huge electronic soundscapes that feel earth-shakingly powerful in the relative intimacy of Manchester Academy tonight. There’s still room for a few quieter moments though, as Worsnop’s vocals take centre-stage on a mid-set pairing of ballads Vultures and an acoustic rendition of Someone, Somewhere, that both sound nothing short of utterly moving. As the band draw their set to a close with A Prophecy and promptly encore with Moving On and The Death Of Me, it’s apparent that the love for ASKING ALEXANDRIA in the UK has remained throughout the years, and if anything, grown stronger with this recent comeback. We have to wonder where they go from here next, but undoubtedly it’s to even bigger things judging by their showing tonight.
It’s a showing that BLACK VEIL BRIDES unfortunately completely fail to match in any way tonight. Despite the initial surge of expected screaming that greets the Californian five-piece, it becomes apparent almost immediately that something isn’t quite right on the technical side of things. Opening with Faithless, from their self-titled fourth album seems like a strong start on paper, but for whatever reason, vocalist Andy Biersack is almost entirely inaudible over both his bandmates and the audience. It’s a problem that never seems to be fixed for the duration of their set either, and as such, basically neuters the band of most of their impact in usually-anthemic songs like I Am Bulletproof and Rebel Love Song. Of course, this essentially doesn’t seem to matter at all to most of the audience, whose screaming remains virtually constant for the entire time the band are onstage, and Biersack himself clearly still throws full effort into his performance but it’s incredibly disappointing to see a band like this sound so completely lacklustre. Despite having released a brand new album just over a week before this show to strong acclaim, it’s also strange that BLACK VEIL BRIDES chose to air just two songs from said record, in the form of up-tempo rocker Wake Up and power-ballad When They Call My Name, instead culling a good third of their set from third album Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones instead. Despite the aforementioned massive technical difficulties putting a huge downer on things, BLACK VEIL BRIDES‘ show is not in fact completely devoid of enjoyable moments throughout the set (guitarist Jinxx’s violin and keyboard playing on Lost It All remain musically impressive to behold and provide a fun contrast to the band’s usual hard rock sound), but as a whole, it’s impossible not to feel like tonight’s set has been anything other than a massive disappointment from BLACK VEIL BRIDES, whether it be their own fault or the sound engineers.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Christopher Ryan Photography here: