Atreyu and Bless the Fall at the House of Blues Last Night

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Atreyu, Bless the Fall

Oct. 20, 2010
House of Blues

The Show: There's nothing inherently wrong with Orange County's Atreyu. The metal core band who's been rocking out for more than a decade brings incredible intensity to the stage combined with expert musicianship. 

Guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel bust furious solos, harmonize with one another and perform  six string call and responses.  

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
​Watching this band last night at the House of Blues made me marvel at the skill and endurance necessary for singer Alex Varkatzas to screech like a pterodactyl show after show for more than an hour at a time. In addition to this, he trades his death-metal-meets screamo growl for drummer Brandon Saller's melodic punk whine at the drop of a hat making for an unusual combination of performance techniques. 

As the throngs of people in front of the stage crowd surfed, pitted and bounced, their enthusiasm was clearly demonstrated. But when all was said and done, the true grit found in earlier metal bands such Pantera, Slayer, Megadeth or Metallica was nowhere to be found in Atreyu.

Sure they have talent 'til Tuesday, and vocally Varkatzas does things mainstream metal bands of the '80s and '90s didn't dare attempt. But compared to even slower-tempoed, less esoteric groups such as  Pantera or Slayer, Atreyu's style, with its pop-punk infused hooks and monotonous shrieking, still comes across as tame. 

No amount of furious unintelligible squawking by Varkatzas on songs such as "Bleeding Mascara" or "A Song for the Optimists" could compare to Tom Araya's guttural howling on Slayer's "Angel of Death," or  Mike Patton's hyper-maniacal scatting with Dillinger Escape plan on songs such as "Hollywood Squares."

If last night Atreyu was singing about death, Satan, disemboweling or run-of-the mill tragedy, it didn't matter because their lyrics were unintelligible and delivered in a homogeneous screech. Of course vocals from bands like Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan are unintelligible as well, but the visceral intensity and abject wickedness of their overall sound is what makes people shell out money for the tickets. 

By comparison, Atreyu comes across as a group of guys who have learned the technique to a T, but have no authentic fire in their bellies--leaving the distinction to be drawn between the technically adept and the passion-possessed. 

Watching Atreyu singer Varkatazas shake his head from side to side, stomp his feet and patrol the catwalk behind the drum riser mitigated the commanding aura he was trying to create. And despite the fact that drummer Brandon Saller was rocking three bass drums, it didn't sound as if anything he was doing couldn't have been done with just two, particularly when he busted out a disappointing solo.  

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

​And despite some modest pitting and crowd surfing, Atreyu's audience was well behaved. Let's not forget Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell met his demise on stage at the hands of a gun wielding maniac and even pop punks like the Vandals and Guttermouth have incited riots. If Atreyu fails to incur these types of responses, we should all rest easy that the world is a safer place. But it seems the music, despite all appearances is as limp and docile as ever.

The Crowd: Not as flat ironed as one might expect. Lots of average looking young people sipping tall cans of PBR and Bud Light. Baseball caps came in a wide array and included the Hurley, NFL and MLB variety. There was also a smattering of wife beaters and sports jerseys.

Overheard: "I'm not really down to hop in the pit," said one young man to his friend as they walked toward the stage before Atreyu's set. "Just stand at the edge," the friend replied. "And go like this," he added as he lifted his elbow in front of him.

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