Article & Photos by Steven Sanchez | firstname.lastname@example.org
From Ashes to New, Bad Wolves, Five Finger Death Punch, and Breaking Benjamin all on the same bill together! That’s a metalhead’s fantasy. It was a reality when the bands came to Fresno on November 12th at the Save Mart Center as a part of Blazefest, an annual concert event that is hosted by local rock station, KKBZ 105.1 The Blaze. It was definitely one of the top showcases in the genre of rock this year in the Central Valley.
The majority of the time, when a band on the rise or a high-profile act comes to the area, usually it’s the club venues or theatres in the downtown area like the Tower District’s Strummer’s, Fulton 55, Warnors Theatre, Crest Theatre, or the Rainbow Ballroom that are the go-to destinations. So, to see touring groups like these headlining one of the top arenas in the state was pretty awesome. And that goal, to headline venues all around the world spreading their message through music, is something that Pennsylvania natives From Ashes to New hope to do for a long time.
They’re a nu-metal band, an infusion of rock and rap, inspired by past rap-rock pioneers like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, and Korn. Matt Brandyberry is the rapper, and Danny Case is the vocalist, a very similar setup like Linkin Park, where Mike Shinoda would provide the rap flow and rhymes, and when the song needed to turn up during the chorus Chester Bennington’s high octane vocals would be the musical closer. Their idols and their home have cultivated inspiration to their musical content, appeal, and identity as a band.
If you check out From Ashes to New’s website, their description of their origin city, Lancaster – along with other American cities or towns of disillusionment – is that “suburban boredom, broken families, substance abuse, limited opportunity – this is an environment in which authentic, compelling creativity can thrive…” it’s places like these where the genres of rap and rock have the most appeal and relatability.
“Both the styles of music, it allows for people to have an outlet for whatever pent-up aggression or frustration on whatever situation they’re in to get it out and it feels like someone understands them and somebody else can put into words what their feeling,” says Danny. And there was a time where the blend of rap and metal was at its mainstream peak in the late 90s/early 2000s. It’s worth asking, do they feel the pressure of carrying the flag of the genre as a new band into the next decade of the millennium?
“I sure would like to believe so,” Danny proclaims in a hopeful voice. “I think that over the years the nu-metal genre has been overlooked. And some of the biggest bands playing the biggest stages in the world are nu-metal bands like Disturbed and Korn, and there’s a lot of longevity in that style of music. I think people want more of it.”
This drive to prove themselves serves as a good reason as to why they’ve been included in the charts during their tenure as a band since 2013. Five years and several lineup changes, they’ve gotten Billboard recognition on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart for their singles “Through It All” (#6), “Crazy” (#3), and Broken (#16). Conventional wisdom shows that for most popular bands it usually takes them upwards to almost ten years to receive chart-topping success. And they don’t let that chart acknowledgment steer their trajectory with their creative endeavors to be more pop or having to change in order to be accepted. Nor do they pay attention to the detractors who criticize them for being copycats of previous bands they look up to. They take it with a grain of salt when compared to bands they admire.
When From Ashes to New took the stage, they may have been the openers, but they owned the arena as if they were the main attraction. Matt and Danny scurried around the stage, marking their territory on every square inch. Even without a bass player, they had a complete sound. They demanded the audience move their hands in the air and they followed in unison. One heck of an indication that soon their name will be in the top slot wherever they play.
They were followed by the LA five-some, Bad Wolves, who are straight-forward heavy metal. Formed in 2017, the band is comprised of members from different groups. One of the best moments of the night was everybody hoisting their cell phones and lighters in the air as they busted into their rendition of The Cranberries classic “Zombie.”
Then came Five Finger Death Punch, and pun-intended, after their performance that’s what it felt like. Even without original drummer Jeremy Spencer due to back surgery, being replaced by a guy named “The Engine” (later revealed to be Scale The Summit’s Charlie Engen) there was no change in tempo. A gigantic skull occupied most of the space with explosions, a levitating platform for the guitarist, lasers flashing, and confetti, regular things you expect to see at a rock show. Their pro-American show got everybody into an enjoyable frenzy.
Breaking Benjamin was the headliner. They didn’t have much theatrics, except for some pyrotechnics here and there, but they didn’t need them. They played a crowd and personal favorite early in their set with “I Will Not Bow.” They’ve been a consistent touring rock act and name stay in rock radio, and after seeing them live, I see why.
The show took place in the aftermath of the Thousand Oaks shooting and the wildfires. So, this lineup was definitely well-needed to cope with the frustration surrounding the recent tragedies. For the band, with moments like these, this is the purpose they want to serve. From Danny’s perspective, he isn’t in it for the vices that come with the rock life, he’s all about quality and giving it to his fans. “I feel we should stand for something, I think we should provide hope and inspiration for people, so I feel we have a job as artists to touch people’s lives in a meaningful way.”
And the message Danny had for the Fresno attendees before the show… “There’s always going to be bad times in life, and bad things happen, it doesn’t mean that it has to define you. Let the bad times make you stronger, not tear you down.”
For more photos and videos of the event check out Steven’s Instagram account @stevensanchez5807