Asking Alexandria and Support, Ulster Hall, Belfast

Ulster Hall, Belfast – October 28th

What has happened to metal?

Metal shows used to be about sweaty, beer-swilling males, with the occassional lady present. Yet, when ASKING ALEXANDRIA brought their ‘From Death to Destiny’ tour to Belfast’s Ulster Hall, there were as many screaming teenage girls as sweaty males.

However, there is no doubting their passion for AA and the three support bands they brought along for the ride.

Opening proceedings were US act SECRETS, who bring a US metalcore take. Despite the rather insipid set, they engage the audience with charm and even manage to get the first wall of death of the evening. While there is no doubting their stagecraft, had the songs been more familiar to the audience it might have evoked more reaction.

Fellow Americans, CROWN THE EMPIRE seem to be more well-known to the crowd, and manage to play songs that some actually appear to recognise, at least joining in with the choruses.

They have a well-honed set, if at times it descends to formulaic ‘growl, clean singing, growl, clean singing, brief solo, harangue audience, growl, clean singing and out’.

However, the main support act THE GHOST INSIDE have a more muscular take on the night. More hardcore than metalcore, with an added industrial metal touch, rage through their set.

Notable were their songs ‘Between the Lines’ and ‘Dark Horse’ which blended the metalcore with a more straightforward attack.

By this stage it was clear that there was a significant minority of older rockers in the hall who had brought their offspring to their first rock show.

The excitement in the hall was palpable as the build-up to ASKING ALEXANDIA began. AC/DC’s ‘It’s a Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock ‘n Roll’ is played – even if it is clear to the older, more cynical present that this is a track Metallica use to intro their sets.

EUROPE’s ‘The Final Countdown’ invokes mass humming to that keyboard intro, even if the younger audience members don’t know the lyrics in the verses…

With amp-sized light boxes, and an impressive light show, the first clue that Asking Alexandria want to distance themselves from the metalcore cliché is Danny Worsnop’s mic stand draped in scarves á la Steve Tyler.

Indeed, by the time they play the power ballad ‘Moving On’ they show they want to be taken seriously as a band made successful through their touring, radio shows and TV appearances, not because of the media hype and furore around the band.

Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell certainly want to drive the set forward with their guitar work from opener ‘Don’t Pray For Me’ through to closer ‘Poison’.

Danny is not only a capable frontman and singer, he is also prepared to show that he can deliver jokes and repartee that are both engaging and well rehearsed.

By the time ‘Break Down The Walls’ arrives the band seems in fine fettle, which comes from their commitment to touring and hard work.

Sam Bettley (bass) and James Cassells (drums) are the unrecognised heroes of Asking Alexandria, who maintain the energy of the band. When ‘Someone, Somewhere’ was played the audience was almost at the proverbial fever pitch, especially as Danny takes time throughout to thank everyone who has bought AA tracks.

Audience response to each and every track was impressive and by the time ‘A Prophecy’ was played there were signs of exhaustion amongst some of the more inebriated young folks.

The three song encore energised those that seemed to be fading with ‘The Death of Me’ particularly impressive.

But, the problem for Asking Alexandria is where to go from here. Can they emerge from the metalcore tag line to become a band that crosses boundaries?

On the evidence of the Belfast show they can make that transformation; and at the same time many older members of the audience look upon the Ulster Hall gig as a ‘gateway’ drug for the teenagers trying out more diverse rock and metal.

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Review by Jonny Traynor

Images by Metalplanet Belfast

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