A new-millennium British invasion took over New York’s PlayStation Theater on Feb. 23, headed by thrash-inspired Welsh act Bullet for My Valentine. Having played a supporting slot on Slipknot’s North American Summer’s Last Stand Tour in 2015, BFMV is now leading its own continental charge, with English screamcore band Asking Alexandria carrying the second wave of support and fellow Englishmen While She Sleeps bringing up the rear.
Because screamo often features emotive yowling, radio-ready hooks and Hallmark-inspired lyrics performed by lanky males with flat-ironed hair, metal purists dismiss such offshoots of the movement and its supporters as music that’s generated strictly for the Hot Topic set. These sticklers also tend to forget the halcyon commercial days of ’80s hair metal, where eyeliner, fluffy hair and power ballads were de rigueur. In other words, for all the keyboard warriors who sneer at such music, they’re outranked by the fans who waited in a line that wrapped around the block to frantically mosh with fellow revelers inside the theater. (However, one oblivious male who filmed himself while he was enmeshed in the pit, blundering into several people as he held his cellphone above his head for a good angle, does deserve a side-eye on the grounds of general ass-hattedness.)
Performing amid a purple and blue haze pierced by semi-blinding strobe lights, Asking Alexandria launched its charge with “I Won’t Give In,” its slightly downtempo (for them) hit from upcoming album The Black. It also slayed with that project’s furious title cut and “Undivided.” Vocalist Denis Stoff perpetually encouraged the crowd to get rowdier and rowdier as the band plowed through songs like “Run Free,” “Breathless,” “A Lesson Never Learned” and “A Prophecy,” and the band responded in kind to the room’s hyper-charged atmosphere by steadily bouncing throughout its set.
While Asking Alexandria flailed and wailed nonstop, Bullet for My Valentine had a calmer physical presence, moving around the stage very little as they stood bent-kneed before their microphones. But the quintet is more dogged in terms of sound and performance.
Unlike AA’s slower-burn opening, Bullet fired its opening shot with “No Way Out,” a zippy track from its latest album, Venom, which supplied several of the evening’s selections, like the equally fervent “Skin”; call-to-arms “You Want a Battle? (Here’s a War),” which was another crowd boiler; and the moody title track. Given its straight, no-chaser metal style that’s rife with meaty rhythms and labyrinthine solos by guitarist Michael “Padge” Paget, Bullet didn’t need to do any heavy lifting to get a response: If a band member merely twitched, people were overcome with slam-dance raptures. Bullet delved into tracks from albums like The Poison, Fever and Scream Aim Fire, particularly killing it on “4 Words (To Choke Upon)” and “Scream Aim Fire” and encores “Tears Don’t Fall” and “Waking the Demon.” The band left the room limp with satisfied exhaustion — and the door wide open for more foreign musical raids.
BFMV will continue touring through May, hitting such festivals as Carolina Rebellion, Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma, before returning to Europe in June to join the summer metal festival circuit. The band will make appearances at events including Rock am Ring, Hellfest and Graspop Metal Meeting.