Guess who’s back, back again. Howard’s back, tell a friend! Fresh off a handful of dates opening for the almighty GWAR, lead singer Howard Jones, guitarist Francesco Artusato, bassist Ryan Wombacher, and drummer Mike “Scuzz” Sciulara, collectively now known as Light the Torch, headed out on a headlining run to finish out July in support of their latest release, Revival.
After nine years and three studio albums as the lead singer of Killswitch Engage, Jones left the band in early 2012 for, at the time, undisclosed health reasons. Later that year he would join Artusato (All Shall Perish, Hiss of Atrocities) and drummer John Sankey (Devolved) to form Devil You Know, adding Wombacher (Bleeding Through) on bass in 2013. The band would go on to release two albums, ‘The Beauty of Destruction’ and ‘They Bleed Red’, but in 2017 were forced to change their name due to legal issues regarding Sankey’s departure from the band. Fast forward to March 30, 2018, with the addition of Sciulara (Extinction A.D., This is Hell) behind the drum kit, the band made a triumphant return as Light the Torch with ‘Revival’, which debuted at No. 169 on the Billboard 200 chart, a significant feat considering the name change and popularity of pop-tinged music on the Billboard charts.
For the first date of this quick July headlining tour, Light the Torch and four local bands hit up the Diamond Pub Concert Hall in Louisville, KY, a small room in the back of a pool hall and bar which provided a uniquely intimate experience. Up first on the bill was, in my opinion, the surprise of the night, Evansville, IN based metalcore band Torn Confidence. These young guys had the stage presence of a well-seasoned rock band, with lead singer Jacob Wallace not afraid to jump offstage, get in the pit and throw down with the crowd while not missing a lyric. The crowd, though still small and gradually trickling into the venue, was more than happy to form a quasi-circle pit around the singer and get the party started early. If Torn Confidence can somehow catch the ear of and tour with a successful nationwide touring metalcore band, these cats could possibly make some noise in that scene. Check out their 2018 release ‘Disintegrate’ on your favorite streaming service.
Up next was Louisville’s own Era of Machines. Much like the Torn Confidence, these guys were stocked with skilled musicians. According to their online bio, Era of Machines recently added rhythm guitarist Chris Lague and lead singer Tyler Sexton to their lineup and watching them onstage one could get a sense that the band was still developing their onstage chemistry, but this didn’t affect their performance as the band barreled through riff after riff of their five-song set, only pausing for Sexton to sooth his throat with a refreshing Budweiser. The growing hometown crowd showed their appreciation after each song with loud and rowdy cheers. Era of Machines is due to release a new EP in early September, but in the meantime head to their social media accounts to sample their new song “Voyager.”
Third on the bill was another Louisville based band, Lethean. Early in July, Lethean announced on their Facebook site that they were welcoming back original lead singer, Michael Lyons. And much like Stella, it didn’t take long for the guys to get their groove back and really show out for the hometown crowd, who really seemed to welcome Lyons back whole heartedly. Sandwiched between the blazing riffs of Dale Donaldson and Jeff Dowell and the rumble of Tony Bassa on bass (did he pick the bass or did the bass pick him?), Lyons voice covered the full gamut from guttural screams to pure melody, but I left most impressed by the octopus armed drumming of Tyler Martinez. With sticks flying all over the kit and machine gun like feet that pummeled the bass drums, Martinez steered Lethean quickly through their six-song setlist. Check out their Facebook account to get the latest news and tunes from Lethean.
The final opener of the night was Guerrilla Red, a nu-metal band based out of Vine Grove, KY. Take a little Mudvayne, add in some early pre-Nookie Limp Bizkit minus the turntables, sprinkle in a tad of Slipknot’s anger and then blend it all together with some red dye 40 (shown to potentially cause hyperactivity in children and headbangers) and you have the gentlemen in Guerrilla Red. The crowd, now getting close to full, was really feelin’ it by this point and Guerrilla Red showed them that they came here to fight by breaking into one of their more popular songs, called, you guessed it, “Fight,” with its bass and drum heavy intro that builds into a riff and scream slugfest between vocalist Steven Stitch and guitar player Matt O’Riordan. Rounded out by a red plaid kilt wearing Erik “the Red” Marchand on bass and Richard “Dew Drop” Dewey on the drums, Guerrilla Red really know how to get the party started and seem to be pretty active in the Louisville area rock scene. Head over to their social media accounts to keep up with their upcoming shows and news.
After a brief 15-20 minute break for the equipment change, the time had finally come for the main course. The crowd quickly staked their claim to their spots on the floor, the stage being lined with most, if not all, of the ladies in attendance. There was no barricade for this show, this was as up close and personal as it gets! The lights dropped and the intro music kicked in and the fellas in Light the Torch got into position on the small stage. Howard appeared, mic in hand, to raucous applause. He stepped to the front of the stage and asked the eager crowd, “Ready to do this?” and after a 12 count on the hi-hat from Sciulara, the boys broke into “Bitter End” off the new album ‘Revival.’ The first thing that jumped out if you’re a fan of these guys is how great Wombacher’s voice complimented Howard’s aggressive yet soulful approach, especially in the live setting where no studio tricks are being used. The guy has legit pipes and his clean upper harmonies during the choruses really popped live versus the album. Next up were two tunes off their first album ‘The Beauty of Destruction’, when they were known as Devil You Know, “Embracing the Torture” and “Seven Years Alone,” both of which really showcased Scuzz’s drumming and blazing fast feet on the bass pedals. Somewhere between the next two songs, “Calm Before the Storm” and “My Own,” Howard was kind enough to remind everyone of the new album . . . a few times, and jokingly insisted that we not forget to remind him later to mention it again.
After battling a few health issues in the past couple years and being away from music for a bit, Howard’s clearly feeling grateful to be back. Once they finished “The Safety of Disbelief,” Howard shared a heartfelt moment with the crowd, saying “I guess all I have to say is that, if you followed what I’ve done throughout the years, like, from Blood Has Been Shed, Killswitch Engage, Devil You Know, Light the Torch, I’ve been extremely fortunate to do this for as long as I’ve done it and then to just kinda have it pulled away and just not think I was gonna do this again. To be back and for us to go through everything we went through and to be able to stand here and say you know, we put our heart and soul into what we do and for you guys to come along for the ride with us, I will never be able repay you for that. I will never be able to. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Having said that, let’s do a heavy song, does that sound ok?” And heavy it was as they proceeded to “Consume the Damned,” the first song of the night off their second album ‘They Bleed Red,’ a song with one of many blistering Francesco Artusato solos. Immediately after the crowd erupted in unison with chats of “Light the Torch, Light the Torch, Light the Torch!” The fellas kept the heavy rolling with the next tunes, “Shut It Down” and “The Way We Die,” before swiftly exiting stage left prompting the traditional “one more song” chant from the crowd. Not even one minute later, they appeared from the darkness . . . “You’re still here. One more? Alright, well, this is the last one, if ya know it, sing along. This is “Die Alone.”
As a metal fan, Light the Torch is a band that’s easy to cheer for . . . but after having the luck to chat with Ryan and Mike at length prior to the show and then Francesco and Howard after, that fact was hammered home even more. Rarely will you encounter a band with such pedigreed and gifted members who are willing to spend 10-15 minutes chatting with fans without first having purchased an upgraded VIP ticket. You probably won’t ever witness the bass player of not one, but two successful international touring metal bands working the merch stand either, but you will with Light the Torch because these guys are humble, hungry and are primed for a fiery future.
Light the Torch hits the road again beginning October 3rd in Tampa, FL supporting Trivium and Avatar for the US leg of The Sin and Sentence World Tour, which runs through November 3rd. Dates and cities available online. When you hit up one of the dates, make sure you visit the merch table and grab a shirt or CD and support these hardworking bands to ensure they can continue to put out new tunes. Rock is indeed not dead . . . it’s just beginning a ‘Revival!’