The Highly Anticipated Atonement Tour Brings Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red & Light The Torch To House Of Blues Orlando



There are so many cases of really great tours that were either cut short while on the road or in some cases, before it even began.  But Killswitch Engage’s Atonement Tour was certainly one of the biggest heartbreaks for music fans when it was declared just two dates in that the entire tour would be rescheduled.  That announcement came just a week before the original House of Blues date of March 18th.  For almost 2 years, fans have been waiting for any news of if and when 3 of the biggest names in metal would hit the road.  But on November 9th the internet was flooded with praise and excitement with the news that one of the biggest metal tours of the year was kicking off shortly into January.  Just short of 2 years to the day of the original date, the fans in Orlando will finally have their day.

As you walked up to the doors of the House of Blues it was impossible not to notice the extensively long line of fans eagerly awaiting their entry.  Something else that grabbed my eye was all of the posted signs saying “Event Sold Out!!!” which by all accounts could have been left up from the original show, as tickets were engulfed by fans the second they went on sale.  Walking through those doors for the last time was truly bitter sweet.  But the sight of the Light the Torch banner hung up behind August Burns Red’s iconic flaming U as the remnants of Killswitch’s massive curtain peeking out from the back of the stage, assures me that I’m leaving here on a very high note.

While the band’s intro fires up the fans in attendance, Drummer Alex Rudinger makes his way out and onto the drum riser.  As he unleashes fill after fill Bassist Ryan Wombacher and Guitarist Francesco Artusato walk out from the shadows.  The pair add the finish pieces to complete the brutal opening of More Than Dreaming” .  But it’s when iconic frontman Howard Jones jogs out on stage, the show is ready to begin.  Jones’s legendary voice and florescent green hat cut through the thick blue lighting.  During Francesco’s solo Howard stood at center stage and soaked in every cheer coming his way from the fans with total admiration.

The band’s intense stage presence heightened the level of energy from the crowd as they blast through adrenaline fueled tracks like Calm Before the Storm and Let Me Fall Apart.  There was one song that fans were probably looking forward to hearing the most, and to no surprise the reaction of the beginning of Death of Me pretty much all but confirmed it.

The powerful and emotional musical structure creates a crushing yet moving aspect as Howard’s vocal attack hits soaring highs and absolutely vicious roars.  The crowd took every possible opportunity to share their voices throughout the song, creating a very atmospheric experience.

After a quick “LET’S GO!” from Jones, the band launched into the fan favorite The Safety of Disbelief which had him dancing across the stage before his opening vocals.  Artusato’s hard driven riffs are complemented perfectly with his slightly melodic leads.  While on the other side of the stage, Wombacher’s low end rhythm keeps it heavy as he puts down his great-sounding vocal harmonies behind Howard’s own.  Light The Torch has no problem getting the action going in the crowd as they leave their feet in excitement while the pit flows angrily behind them.

It’s not often that an opening act can come out and just kill a 10 song setlist the way that Light The Torch did.  But their last song of their killer set would be the one to bring it all home for the fans as they unleash Die Alone.  The heavy chugs of Francesco’s 7 string get the head banging going on the fans throughout the building.  The powerful vocal duo of Jones and Ryan Wombacher really sore during the chorus’s.

But the tone would change dramatically as Light The Torch ends it all with the brutal combo of Howard’s intense growl and the crushing breakdown form the rest of the band.  And when the dust clears the fans scream and cheer with total admiration as the set comes to a close.



While we eagerly wait for the lads from Lancaster to take the stage, the very familiar sounds of System of a Down’s Chop Suey begin to not only entice the fans to attempt to sing along.  But as everyone in this room knows, it is also an indicator of the insanity that is about to ensue.  As soon as the music stops, the lights go out and the stage glows from the band’s trademark flaming U behind the drum kit.

A lone stop light shines over the drum kit just as Drummer Matt Greiner jumps up and waves to the screaming fans while the rest of the band hit the stage with devil horns raised high.  But when Singer Jake Luhrs rushes the stage, he stands high above the crowd as he lets out a mighty mic’less roar of “LET’S GO!” cueing ABR to jump right in with the album Messangers opening track Truth of a Liar.

The energy jumps right off the stage and immediately serves as a shot of adrenaline in the arms of the sold out crowd.  One thing that can not be disputed is the amount of ferocity that August Burns Red brings every time they perform.  The connection that they have with their fans is one of the main reasons they’ve had such a devoted following for so many years.  While we’re on the topic of live ferocity.

ABR took it up a notch as Matt Greiner set off the explosive double bass tempo of Paramount.  With a light show bursting with Philadelphia Eagles pride of rotating green and white lighting, Jake commanded the stage while the locked in fans head banged under a blanket of white lasers and green spotlights.  JB Brubaker’s hypnotic leads seemed to dance much like the lighting under the punishing rhythms of Dustin Davidson and Brent Rambler.

The bands latest record Guardians dropped just before the pandemic and contains some of the heaviest music to date.  One of those is without a doubt Defender. From the pages of the comic book inspired video right to the House of Blues, August Burns Red unleashes verse after verse of crushing guitar riffs and motivating lyrics.  But as the song carries on the anticipation and momentum is building towards just 3 words.

While Brubaker and Rambler play their sinister sounding notes each phrase from Luhrs culminates until he and the entire room growl “DELIVER THE SENTENCE!”.  As the last syllable leaves his mouth pillars of air erupt across the stage while the mosh pit swells up across the entire floor as the screams from Dustin Davidson ring out high and loud.

And what better way to follow up such a punishing song, than the one that Jake Luhrs has officially dubbed as “The heaviest song we’ve ever written.”.  Between that statement, Dustin now totting a 6 string and Brent now on bass, it’s all too obvious that Bloodletter is next.  The song is just jam packed with so many breakdown style riffs that the brutality never seems to end.  The only break would be when Davidson takes center stage to rip his virtuosic solo, but it wouldn’t last long.

The main breakdown dropped like a sledgehammer as the fans on the floor exploded off their feet while the rest transcended into the night’s largest circle pit.  Dustin wasn’t ready to hang up his guitar just yet as August Burns Red would switch things up and go instrumental for their killer cover of the iconic theme from The Legend of Zelda.  This time having 3 layers of guitars and creating an amazing wall of sound.  Like any other cover that ABR tackles, they put such an original spin on it and truly make it their own.

It is always a treat when August Burns Red includes Matt Greiner’s percussion swan song Composure.  As Matt’s steady kick drum pounds under JB and Brent’s guitars the fans immediately start clapping along, almost triggering the pulsating lights around the drum riser.  As Jake belts out lyrics he occasionally would swing the mic out over the crowd to capture their energetic voices.  To add to the fury of each breakdown the band’s intense arsenal of lights ignite off the stage to every corner of the room thanks to their lighting maestro Dave Summers.

As the last notes ring out, Luhrs announces “This one is our last song.  It’s called White Washed.” The screams from the crowd only solidify their approval while Jake asks them to give him the biggest wall of death of the night.  While the band leads us in, a simple count to 3 triggers mayhem from wall to wall.  Anyone who was not involved in the chaos might have caught Dustin playing bass and hitting symbols at the same time as the final detonation of O2 across the stage.  But it would be Jake’s final yell into the mic that would ultimately be ABR’s send off of their set.  But in typical fashion, the band tosses everything from pics, to drumsticks out into the crowd.  Giving their fans everything they can to say thank you.


With 2 down, there is only 1 band left on this amazing show as our headliner Killswitch Engage make their way to the stage.  While the band set up for Unleashed’s crashing opening breakdown, Singer Jesse Leach slowly walks under the drapes of red and amber lights behind the drum riser.  The band kicked off their set with the perfect song which really harnesses everything you love to hear from a Killswitch song and it was obvious by the fans reaction that they agreed.

After a couple songs, including another solid track from KSE’s latest record Atonement with The Crownless King, Jesse jokes that “Every time we play Florida it seems to rain, or something happens.  So it’s nice to play inside.  But this is an old one for ya’s.”.  As the unmistakable intro from My Last Serenade starts to play, Leech walks to the edge of the stage and begins to conduct the fans in singing those iconic lyrics.

But when the band launches into the song it causes the energetic Adam D to jog up and work the front of the stage while trading pinch harmonics with fellow Guitarist Joel Stroetzel.  From the second floor looking down, the heavy hitting rhythm and furious double bass had the masses in a headbanging like trance while they proudly displayed their devil horns in the air.

Mid-way through the set, Adam D announces “So, we’re about to play this song for the first time live. Ever. So, we might fuck up a lot. So cut us a little fucking slack!”.  It always is a treat when Big D steps in front of a mic as the fans can’t help but laugh.  “It’s a song called Reject Yourself.”.  One of my favorite songs off the band’s 2006 album As Daylight Dies the fast and furious guitar riffs and blasting drums had the crowd moving.  This was also the first song of the set that really allowed Adam extended time to show off his impressive melodies.  It was a really cool feeling to be present to hear this awesome song played live for the first time and the fans ate up every second of it.

One song that I had hoped would end up in their set was the song Always off of Disarm the Descent.  It’s not exactly the rager that would make up most of the songs as it has more of a ballad feel to it.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Bassist Mike D’Antonio and Justin kick off the songs intro while Jesse gets the fans clapping along.  I don’t think there was a better song for Jesse to let his voice sore than this one.  Vocally it was emotionally engaging and it really showcased the full power of his voice.  During the chorus’s layers of range between Jesse, Adam and the crowd it was incredible to sit back and take in.  At the end of the song, the band stops and Jesse engages the crowd to finish out one last verse with him acapella.

When the tour was announced, well, both times, the hopes of Howard Jones joining Killswitch Engage on stage for any length of time was high.  He has done it in the past, but that’s not always a guarantee it would happen again.  Following the conclusion of Strength of Mind Jesse tells the crowd “I’m gonna go ahead and take a 2 minute break. I’ll see you guys.  Mr. Howard Jones get the fuck out here!”.  As Jones comes out and embraces Adam the crowd screams as they jump up and down under the house lights.  The chants of “Howard!” serenade him as Justin four counts and the band shoot right into their notorious Rose of Sharyn.  

You could just look down the barricade and see the fans reaching out with their hands and pointing at Jones screaming his name as he walks to the front of the stage.  This would be the start of the most memorable part of the night.  Afterwards Leach walks out and says “How cool was that shit?”.  I don’t think he could have asked a more appropriate question.  Without missing a beat Dutkiewicz leads the charge into another KSE classic The End of Heartache. 

As Jones and the boys chug along, Jesse serves as conductor once again while he mouths the lyrics to the fans and directs their vocal pitch.  Just seeing both singers on stage at the same time sharing the moment together was amazing.  But it really came together when they locked an arm around each other at center stage with a mic in the other hand and smiles on their faces.

When Jesse announces the last song is Signal Fire the crowd absolutely erupts with excitement.  Adam D gives a quick look back at the drums and yells “Hey Mr. Foley.  Give me a Goddamn beat!”.  And Killswitch Engage explode into their final anthem of the night with killer aggression.  The red and white lighting flicker violently over the stage while the seemingly endless roar from Jesse Leach rumbles through the monitors.  This song would certainly give Jesse and Howard more of an opportunity to have those back and forth exchanges and the fans had no problem singing both parts for themselves.

The amount of energy and dynamism being generated on that stage for this last song was absolutely incredible.  Signal Fire by itself has that drive and progression that makes it stand alone on the record.  But standing here watching Killswitch Engage rip this with Howard Jones himself with such an electric sold out crowd makes it a lot easier to admit that this show, this tour, was well worth the 2 year wait!  Don’t just take my word for it.  There are plenty of dates left on the Atonement Tour for fans to catch this unbelievable experience in person.  So make sure you get your tickets while they last!