It might only be a short drive separating Buffalo from its northern neighbor Toronto, but that has proven to be a great enough divide for Protest the Hero. The Canadian metal act’s last visit was back in 2009, but thankfully that all changed with the kickoff to their 2014 North American tour happening right in the Queen City.
The night started out as any night in Buffalo would during our long winter stretch: discouragingly cold. And just as that’s an expectation, so too is the community’s passion for music. Without disappointment, The Waiting Room was packed with metal enthusiasts who were eager to see the eclectic mix of bands. Opening the night were up-and-comers Intervals and Night Verses. Both bands are relatively new to the scene and have only been around for a few years now, but neither disappointed.
The Safety Fire was the third band on and, at this point, the crowd was dialed in and beginning to get into the show. The band started their set with an audio clip of the Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2 which drew a resounding response from the crowd. As the clip finished, they dove right into their first song “Red Hatchet” off of their most recent release Mouth of Swords. The song had an underlying similarity in tone to the Sonic intro which made for a seamless transition into their set. The UK-based band has only been across the pond a few times to tour, with their first actually being in support of Protest the Hero back in 2012. With their understandably low exposure to U.S. audiences, the five-piece squeezed everything out of their set and really left everything out on the stage. Their guitarists Derya ‘Dez’ Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles employ custom, Telecaster-esque Wirebird guitars which gives their harmonized runs a sharp and unique tone. The third song “Huge Hammers” got the biggest crowd response and is one of the band’s most popular songs. With hands raised, the crowd echoed the beat and created a unified feeling with the music. As their set wrapped up, the band put their remaining energy into the last song, running circles around the stage on the anthemic “Glass Crush.”
Up next was Battlecross whose raw, thrash metal sound gave the crowd even more reason to move. Their modern take on a classic metal genre was energized by the thunderous double bass attack of Shannon Lucas who’s their temporary drummer on this tour. Lucas has played with the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder and All That Remains to name a few and is their current fill-in while they look to permanently fill the void left by the departure of longtime drummer Michael Keger last year. You wouldn’t have known the difference though as the band literally didn’t miss a beat all night.
Battlecross ripped through their set, focusing on their new album War of Will for the majority of the content for show. Their speed an aggression was balanced out by runs of beautiful melody via guitarists Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala. Calling Detroit home, the band fully embodies the Motor City’s drive and blue-collar mentality. With their set coming to a close, the band pulled from their 2011 release Pursuit of Honor in “Kaleb” and “Push Pull Destroy.” The throwback sent the crowd into a frenzy and lead singer Kyle “Gumby” Gunther only antagonized them more with his in-your-face attitude. These guys will be back in Buffalo in May in support of Killswitch Engage, so don’t miss another chance to catch their incredible live show.
The long-awaited return of Protest the Hero was finally over as the buzz in the crowd began to build for the imminent start to their show. Although it had been five years and two album releases since their last visit, the crowd was more than willing to forgive and forget as that was all about to change. The band took to the stage to a loud and warm welcoming. Since their last visit, the band lost longtime drummer Moe Carlson who has now been permanently replaced by the still unrecognized Mike Ieradi. Also new to the group was temporary bassist, Cameron McLellan. Arif Mirabdolbaghi is still with the band, but was forced to skip the tour due to scheduling issues with another endeavor.
The band kicked off their set with “Hair-Trigger” from 2011’s Scurrilous. The crowd was already amped up for this performance, but the song’s bridge was an early highlight in the show with a heavy push to get closer to the band. Protest the Hero seemed to be in mid-tour form with a rhythmically-tight execution of their difficult, math metal sound. The soaring melodies of Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin were met throughout the night by Rody’s equally expansive vocals.
The band took on the new album in a few instances, but none more effectively than the combination of “Clarity” and “A Life Embossed,” played back to back early on in the set. It was admittedly the band’s first performance of “Clarity” which went off without a hitch. The energy throughout the set continuously built as they progressed and touched upon each of their four releases. As expected, the band displayed their impeccable proficiency on their instruments on each and every song, rarely taking the instrumental easy road.
The wait was worth it in the end as the crowd appreciated the opportunity to catch one of metal’s most talented groups. All and all, the show was a great kickoff to the tour and I would highly recommend catching them towards the tail end when they make a stop in Rochester on April 4th.
Protest the Hero Set List:
Hair-Trigger, Underbite, Sequoia Throne, Clarity, A Life Embossed, Bury the Hatchet, Mist, Sex Tapes, The Dissentience, Blindfolds Aside, Bloodmeat, C’est la Vie
Editor’s Note: Photo Credit Thomas Sgori/UpstateMetal Staff