Written By: TIFFANY MITCHELL
Baltimore has many great attractions and people come from all over to soak up its rich history. So of course it would be a stop for Fit For A King and In Hearts Wake‘s double-headlining tour this past November. What made it even more special was this was FFAK’s very first tour as headliner. Now, I have seen both bands play live shows many times and each gave noteworthy performances. On this occasion, FFAK and IHW was accompanied by Like Moths To Flames, Phinehas and Baltimores own Artifacts, who have been creating quite a buzz amongst Charm City’s local music scene.
Faithful fans didn’t seem to notice or even care about the bitter chill outside while leaned up against Baltimore Soundstage’s walls, as they chatted with each other or joked around with security. With roughly another 20 minutes until doors open, folks got in a quick smoke, readied their id’s and tickets, and faced front to keep a watchful eye on the line movement. As the line started moving forward towards the front, it continued to extend from the back as more and more people showed up closer to doors open.
After obtaining my photo pass and weaving in and out, the hungry crowd rushed to the barricade. I stopped off at the restroom to quickly check on my gear. A good friend of mine, Kayla who works as the bathroom attendant, lets me keep my gear bag with her stuff because it would have been really difficult moving through this heavy crowd with it all strapped to my back. Armed with just my camera, I stayed close to the bar and walked to the photo pit to wait for the show to begin. Stage hands, lighting techs and sound engineers shuffled around the stage to prep for first the bands set, which is super important because it sets the tone for the rest of the night. When all was ready, the lights dimmed and local Bmore band Artifacts, took first crack at kicking this double-trouble tour in gear.
Artifacts may not be a name that everyone knows just yet, but fresh talent they are not. Whether coming from another band or being thrown together by fate itself, hard work and kick-ass determination brought Matt, Zach, Dany and Christian as one and to Baltimore Soundstage. Starting off, they hit hard with “Consumed,” off their newly released EP called Apparitions, which was done with the help of guitarist Chris Davis of The Ghost Inside. Out of the five song set list, four were off of Apparitions with “Shetani” being played live for the first time. Progressive metal is what Artifacts are said to be genre labeled as, dayum good is what I call them and proud to say they come from my home town. Watch out for these guys, after all if the infamous 98 Rock opened the airwaves to interview Artifacts, something tells me you should open your ears and give them solid listen. Better yet catch them at a live show destroying the mic like they did this night.
All the way from the sunny state of Cali, this metal til you taste it multiplied by four, called Phinehas jumped right in place after Artifacts, to continue the heart racing, body raging assault on your being. Classified as New Wave Of American Metal makers, these dudes brought the heat right up in your face and then turned it up hotter. As they sent you traveling through the rocky rings of Saturn with their djents and rough riffs, the set took off with “Dark Flag” which is the title track off their latest album. With heavy laden lyrics, deep, yet catchy choruses and sonic-sational delivery, I felt like six songs was not enough from the looks of the crowd’s reaction. Phinehas has quite a lot of faithful followers and either they all came together that night to this show, or it was as I suspected, the house felt the power of Phinehas. The scene was super charged and flying high, and the night accelerated with each passing moment.
Metalcore/ Post-hardcore favorites, Like Moths To Flames made last-minute preparations before claiming their rightful place under the lights. Folks scurried about getting drinks and going for pee breaks and the barricade doubled in body count with those too short to see above the tall folk. Drummer Greg Diamond, guitarist Jeremy Smith and bass player Aaron Evans walked out under a dimly backlit stage and the mass below erupted in cheers and whistles. Lastly vocalist Chris Roetter stepped out and walked up to the mic surrounded by the rumble of yells that bounced off of the walls. Beginning with a song off their latest album Dark Divine, “New Plagues” is just one of many on this album that you want to hear again and again. Hearing it live reminded me why I love this band like so much. LMTF is a genre favorite, and they continue to create, evolve and set the bar high for other bands old and new. Songs like “GNF,” “You Won’t Be Missed” and “I Solemnly Swear” have been a part of every playlist I have created over the years, so playing them was a must for LMTF. These songs along with tracks off of Dark Divine are a must participate by singing, moshing and crowd surfing songs. There is no way you can stand still at a Like Moths To Flames show and not feel it in your bones to let it take you along. They also hooked us up with “Nowhere Left To Sink” and “Shallow Truths For Shallow Minds” also new songs off last album and took us all home with “Bury Your Pain,” which is one of my absolute faves, that was a standalone release on 7″ Vinyl called The Dream is Dead. One after another, LMTF shot us full of a crowd pleasing rounds of sure to make you move music, with flawless delivery. Sad to see them walk off the platform, the urge to chant for their return was on the tips of many tongues, they knew we still had two performances left and the excitement still sparked in the eyes of every patron.
The time had come for the first part of the double headliner to take this night to the next level, and that’s precisely what In Hearts Wake did. Being my fourth opportunity to witness in person one of post-hardcores most liked group of aussies, this time I came equipped with my dslr and a pass for the photo pit. Taking my place in the middle with my fellow photogs on either side, I’m excited to photograph them for the first time while hearing them kill it on stage above me. After introducing themselves in that thick Australian accent, the intro called “Ark” echoed into the space around us with intensity, until vocalist Jake Taylor popped off like a 12-gauge blasting a crater in the wall with “Passage.” “Passage” is just one of the new tracks of their latest album release called, Ark. IHW played a 15 song set list with a mix between their last three albums, the 2017 release Ark, Skydancer wowed many fans and the 2014 always loved Earthwalker. Although they are sharing the spotlight with Fit For A King as the top guns, make no mistake IHW have been consistent creators who continuously surprise their huge fanbase and gain new ones with every step. Songs like “Warcry” and “Breakaway” kept the fiery frenzy below stoked and hungry, and adding others like “Divine” and “Badlands” provoked every voice to sing along. It seemed to be over too soon, and the lot wasn’t ready to see IHW go. Many encore wishes must have been heard, by the “one more song fairy,” as a final song was granted. “Refuge,” would break out the get-up-off-yo-feet and bounce-till-your-breathless, and put this tour on the One Of This Years Best Tours list.
With the other half of this headliner minutes away from hitting the mic, I think the house was just as excited as our next arrivals just had to be. This was Fit For A Kings first tour as bill toppers, top dogs, masters of the universe and their performance that night was metalcore-licious. But don’t get it twisted, if you know the genre well, you know FFAK have been making a name for themselves on tours with bands like Gideon, For Today, Whitechapel, Beartooth and Every Time I Die. They have top the Christian, U.S. and Rock Billboard Charts and have released four studio albums, including their latest most popular release, Deathgrip. I have seen FFAK four times so far, this being my fifth and most anticipated because this is their first tour as the H.M.B.I.C (Head Metal Band In Charge.) You could feel the stirring of enthusiasm swirling around the room, like the pull from a wind tunnel, all eyes were fixed straight ahead as each member from FFAK walked out and took their places and grabbed their instruments. Vocalist Ryan Kirby followed behind as an explosion of praise from every corner of the room brought smiles to his face and “More Than Nameless” to a start. Executing with matchless vocals, lyrics and sick sonic bombs, the first three songs were straight from Deathgrip. Next they gave us “Cold Room” and “Disease,” “Hollow King (Sound of the End)” and “Warpath,” both from their 2013 album Creation | Destruction. I want to describe every song and how epically they rendered it in live form, but we could be here all day, so I’ll take you on a best of the best highlit run of the ya-need-ta-know right now. The fog rolled thick and heavy, as the blue and green lights peeked out of from behind, the trusses above shook from the mosh goers just getting warmed up to go hard.
Jumping ahead to one of my favorite songs, “Shadows & Echoes,” 10 songs flew by so fast. Being caught up in the inertia of hearing the music you love by a band worthy of seeing, at a place you consider home and surrounded by people who are just like you, makes every moment one of the greatest moments. To hear the song that helped you discover the rest of the album delivered in stereo by its creators makes each second worth remembering. Even as headliners, Fit For A King played with the same unparalleled talent as I have come to expect of them. Whether in a festival setting, small crowd or large, they have earned their place in the spotlight and I am really looking forward to watching FFAK get what they deserve and just destroy stages all over the world.
One thing is for sure, I never tire of seeing any of the bands on this bill because no matter what, they never disappoint. I’m already searching for the next tour or show that either band will jump on, to make sure I’m present to lend my support. Till then I will try not to bite my nails down to the cuticle while I wait. If I find out first, I’ll try not to keep it all to myself. Ha, I would never do that, wink-wink.
In Hearts Wake @ Baltimore Soundstage
Fit For A King @ Baltimore Soundstage
Check out Artifacts Full Album Stream- Apparitions
Like Moths To Flames Full Album Stream- Dark Divine
Check out each band on social media:
Fit For A King
In Hearts Wake
Like Moths To Flames