Atreyu, Crown the Empire, and Tetrarch Bring Christmas Cheer to the Observatory

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images

Christmas time is one of the most wonderful times of the year. What would make it even more wonderful is catching some heavy metal action. The Observatory is one of those places to be at. Just like every other venue I have been to this year; it has been a couple of years since the pandemic. The last show I saw there was during the Holiday Season 2019, where Rabit and I caught High on Fire, Creeping Death, and Power Trip (the last OC show with the late Riley Gail). It was an emotional month because my father had passed away two weeks before. On December 16th, it would be just as emotional because we made our return there to catch Atreyu baptize the Santa Ana crowd with fiery rock ‘n’ roll. Joining in on the baptism were Crown the Empire, Tetrarch, Saul and Defying Decay, but we unfortunately missed the last two groups. Ready to ignite our Christmas spirits just like August Burns Red the week before.

After Defying Decay and Saul did their sets (I am sure they killed it), the unstable Tetrarch took to the stage. Promoting their sophomore masterpiece, Unstable, Tetrarch brought brutality to the Santa Ana metalheads. Frontman Josh Fore is a screaming machine and a melodic rhythm guitarist. During their second song, he sliced his finger (or thumb) open and blood flowed over his guitar. Instead of stopping, he soldiered on and it made him look like a badass. Diamond Rowe is amazing to watch on lead guitar. Her combination of nu metal riffs and metalcore licks made her a dangerous weapon for the group. Bassist Ryan Lerner and drummer Ruben Limas did their part by the crushing the beat with their double whammy approach. Most of the songs Tetrarch performed came from Unstable like “Stitch Me Up,” “Negative Noise,” “You Never Listen,” “Take a Look Inside,” and their new signature tune, “I’m Not Right.” They finished their set with their classic “Oddity” from Freak. Chaos always ensues when Tetrarch performs.

Full Tetrarch gallery below:

Up next was Dallas’ own Crown the Empire. Last time I caught them in action was at the inaugural Swanfest 2019 in Anaheim (before they decided to move the festival back to SF, the pricks). When I first saw them there, they were amazing. Promoting their 2019 release, Sudden Sky, they were still a burst of amazing charismatic energy. Frontman Andy Leo still knows how to scream his balls off and make it an art form. Guitarist Brandon Hoover is not only electric with his solos, but he is also a wow factor with his clean vocals. Bassist Hayden Tree is still a beast on his instrument and helping with the screams with Leo. Drummer Brent Taddie was solid behind the kit, wailing thunderous beats that danced between the post-hardcore and metalcore sound Crown the Empire is known for. From “In Another Life” to “Sudden Sky,” “Memories of a Broken Heart,” “BLURRY (Out of Place),” “Zero,” “MZRY,” and “Machines,” they were way better this time around. When they went into “Dancing with the Dead,” Diamond from Tetrarch came to join Hoover on guitar and together, they created metal magic mayhem. The crowd was loving every minute of Crown the Empire, and so was I.

Full Crown the Empire gallery below:

After serenading the fans with a recording of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer,” Atreyu came on stage to begin the baptism. Promoting their new hit album Baptize, Atreyu was happy to perform in front of their hometown fans once again. This is our first Atreyu show without frontman Alex Varkatzas (he departed last year), but Brandon Saller was more than up to the task. Becoming the frontman full-time now, he was a fiery ball of energy with his melodic voice. His voice has this capability to woo the fans. Bassist Porter McKnight not only sizzled on bass, but he has a roaring voice the metalheads ate up. The guitar twin attack brought to us by lead Dan Jacobs and rhythm player Travis Miguel. While Miguel was razor sharp with the melodic flow of the songs, while Jacob brought crunchy substance to the solos. This is Kyle Rosa’s first run on the drums for the group, and just like I heard on the album, he did not disappoint that night.

Atreyu that night had a laundry list of songs that made the crowd feel nostalgic for their high school days. While five songs came from Baptize (“Baptize,” “Save Us,” “Untouchable,” “Warrior,” and a surprise song), six of them came from their most commercially successful album Lead Sails Paper Anchor (“Becoming the Bull,” “Lose It,” “When Two Are One,” “Lead Sails (and a Paper Anchor),” “Falling Down,” and “Blow”). They also performed tunes from a mixture of their albums like “Right Side of the Bed,” “The Time is Now,” “Ex’s and Oh’s,” “Bleeding Mascara,” and “Battle Drums.” For their surprise new song from Baptize, Saller had a bowl with the names of non-single songs and had a fan choose. They pulled out “Sabotage Me,” where Saller had his wife Ashley come out to help sing it. It was breathtaking to watch. For the encore, they performed their classic “Lip Gloss and Black.”

Full Atreyu gallery below:

That night was a real Christmas treat for us metalheads. After having to hunker down last year because of the restrictions (thanks for that Newsom), we were ready to gather for some Christmas fun with Atreyu. COVID-19 be damned, Atreyu and company put on one of the best damn concerts of the year. We felt baptized and unstable at the same time. I even ran into my old friend Jose Mangin, the Metal Ambassador. With 2021 winding down, Rabit and I are eager for shows in 2022, and this was the perfect show to end the year with. To Atreyu, Crown the Empire, and Tetrarch, I salute you. Horns up!!!

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