August Burns Red Brings Leveler Excitement To the House of Blues in Anaheim

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

The last time Rabit and I covered a show at the House of Blues in Anaheim, it was a month before the pandemic begun. Thrash legends Machine Head was performing two sets that night. The first set featured some of their classic tunes with the newest line-up, and the second set was performing the whole Burn My Eyes album in its entirety, celebrating its 25th anniversary with most of the original members reuniting to perform it. Too much time has gone bad since then and now to not be at one of my favorite venues of all time. Well, on December 9th, we returned to our stomping grounds to watch August Burns Red perform The Leveler all the way through. Joining the famed metalcore outfit with Christian backgrounds were Fit For a King, Erra, and Like Moths to Flames. Not only was it a celebration of the album’s 10th anniversary, but also a celebration of Christmas and metal.

First up was Like Moths to Flames. The metal warriors of Columbus, Ohio brought their “A” game, filling the Anaheim stage with post-hardcore and metalcore enthusiasm for over a half hour. Frontman Chris Roetter charged up the metalheads with his style of screaming and singing. The twin guitar attack brought to you by Jeremy Smith and Zach Pishney. While Pishney light the room up with his badass riffs and soulful singing, Smith brought some technical suave to the solos. The drummer who toured with them slayed it behind the kit. From “The Worst in Me” to “Habitual Decline,” “I Solemnly Swear,” “Preservation of Hate,” “The Anatomy of Evil,” and “Bury Your Pain,” Like Moths to Flames’ performance was as pure as porcelain.

Full Like Moths to Flames gallery below:

Following that was the progressive metal outfit Erra. I first saw them years ago at the Chain Reaction where they opened for Phinehas. After that night, I was hooked on what Erra was selling. I liked their performance back then, but on this night, they showed Anaheim how metalheads from Birmingham, Ala., bring the thunder. Frontman J.T. Cavey brought animal magnetism to the stage, screaming with passionate resolve. Jesse Cash can only bring sweet lead solos on the guitar, but he also has a majestic voice that enthralls the fans. Together, Cavey and Cash are lethal on the microphone. Rhythm player Sean Price, drummer Alex Ballew, and bassist Conor Hesse kept the beat flowing naturally. Having just released their new self-titled release, Erra turned up the heat with songs like “Gungrave,” “Scorpion Hymn,” “Eye of God,” “Irreversible,” “Vanish Canvas,” and “Snowblood.” Catching Erra live is always a treat for me and am I sure all the fans at the House of Blues felt the same.

Full Erra Gallery below:

Fit For a King is one of the most badass metalcore groups to come out of Tyler, Texas. Right out of the gate, frontman Ryan Kirby was blasting and blaring his vocal cords to the extreme. The guitar duo of Bobby Lynge and Daniel Gailey brought shredding ferocity to their metalcore beats. Lynge thrilled the fans of Anaheim with his razor-sharp solos. I tell you what though, the one member in Fit For a King that stole the show was bassist Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary. Not only was he electrifying with the bass lines, but he was also quite the showman as he spun his instrument of mass destruction around his body and danced & leaped around the stage. Tuck really knows how to supercharge the crowd. It is weird not seeing Jared Easterling behind the kit anymore (left the group earlier December to drum for grunge country artist Koe Wetzel), but Trey Celaya proved himself and ravaged the beats. Performing material mostly from their 2020 hit record, The Path, Fit For a King showed the metalheads of Anaheim the path to what a great metalcore band sounds like. From “Stockholm” to “Locked (In My Head),” “When Everything Means Nothing,” “Annihilation,” “Deathgrip,” “Backbreaker,” “The Path,” and “God Fire,” we all soaked in their incredible sound. Fit For a King is a true ruler of the metalcore realm.

Full Fit For a King gallery below:

After a 20–25-minute intermission, August Burns Red graced us with their presence. Unfortunately for Anaheim, frontman Jake Luhrs was not present to due to leaving the tour because of a family emergency. We were disappointed, but not for long when Convictions leader Michael Felker took over for the rest of the tour. As a longtime friend of the group, he was more than thrilled to fill in. He was a beast of a singer who wowed the crowd with his roaring and screaming. Lead guitarist JB Brubaker was a ‘wow’ factor as he pulled out the classic solos that helped make The Leveler a signature August Burns Red record. Rhythm player Brent Rambler and bassist Dustin Davidson were smooth as butter as they brought heavy melodic flow to the beat. Drummer Matt Greiner is a well-oiled machine behind the kit, wailing up a righteous storm fans were moshing to.

For over 90+ minutes, August Burns Red brought the House of Blues metal pleasure with The Leveler. Next to Constellations and Rescue & Restore, this album is a metalcore classic, and it was a real treat to hear the whole album in its entirety. For the opener, they started with the song “X,” which is featured on the 10th anniversary special of the album. This newly written tune is just what the doctor ordered to get the mosh pits going again. After that, the fun truly got underway as August Burns Red churned out the album’s classic tunes like “Empire,” “Internal Cannon,” “Divisions,” “Cutting the Ties,” “Pangaea,” “Carpe Diem,” “40 Nights,” and “Salt & Light” to name a few. When they reached the tune “Poor Millionaire,” Fit For a King’s Ryan Kirby lent his dominant voice to go along with Felker’s monstrous screams. After the group dominated “Boys of Fall” and “Leveler,” Greiner had some fun with a very passionate and intense drum solo. It was then we saw a woman flash the place. Do not really see that at a ABR concert. For the encore, they played two songs from last year’s Guardians (“Bloodletter” & “Defender”) and “White Washed” from Constellations. Also, as a special treat, they performed the Christmas classic “Carol of the Bells,” featured on their 2012 Christmas album, August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill, A Holiday Album. That is a fine way to ring in the Holidays.

Full August Burns Red gallery below:

This was one fine metalcore concert to be a part of. From the crowd surfers to the mosh pit warriors, it was a merry time to be a metalhead. August Burns Red is always fun to watch, and I plan on seeing them again in February with Killswitch Engage and Light the Torch. The other groups penetrated our souls with their awesome metalcore excitement. I felt such relief to be back at the House of Blues in Anaheim, and I cannot wait for the next one. To August Burns Red, Fit For a King, Erra, and Like Moths to Flames, I salute you. Horns up!!!

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