You know it’s gonna be a good night when the mosh pit crew shows up a full hour before the first band goes on. These makeshift posses - with assigned medics, matching shirts and even a large banner indicating where the action is - have been cropping up more and more frequently at music events, most notably at festivals. The Carolinas appear to be a major hub. I’ve seen them at most of the few dozen concerts I attended in the area last year, everywhere from metalcore to death metal to punk shows. It was a very chilly December evening at The Underground in Charlotte, North Carolina but that didn’t stop these folks from tearing the floor up at 7pm on the dot.
The first band of the night, Arizona’s Dropout Kings, hit the stage with a take-no-prisoners trap metal assault. Yes, that’s right: Trap metal. With booming bass, glitch effects, fast-paced bars, loud, hard-hitting riffage and enough energy to set off a room full of doubters, the band mixes the styles of yesterday into modern day noise that’s impossible not to jump along and bang your head to. There’s an exciting immediacy to their sound that recalls the music renaissance of the late 90s and early 2000s, where it felt like all bets were off and even the biggest artists were letting loose with genre mashups and hard-hitting ingenuity.
It’s only fitting that Dropout Kings found themselves opening the Until We Break Tour. The lineup for the winter trek across the U.S. offered a nice variety of different styles, including Seattle hardcore punks Dragged Under, modern metalcore staples The Word Alive and the headliners, From Ashes to New. Each act delivered their own distinct sonic assault that got the packed house up and moving, the mosh pit swirling and the crowd surfers, well, surfing, but there was an extra special sense of excitement and camaraderie that could be felt throughout From Ashes to New’s closing set.
Perhaps it’s that the band’s sound - a sort of sleek and modern update on the nu-metal / early 2000s rock that dominated the airwaves at the time - is one of the more accessible, relatively speaking, in a time where rock and metal music is enjoying a cultural resurgence. There’s nothing that’s distractingly showy or flashy in the impressive beats, riffs and solos of drummer Mat Madiro and guitarist Lance Dowdle. Likewise, the dual vocals of Matt Brandyberry and Danny Case - which effortlessly flow between screaming, rapping and soaring harmonies - perfectly complement and back each other rather than one outshining or overpowering the other. Even with the occasional flourishes, From Ashes to New are by and large just a tight rock group with a real ear for melody.
I’m being a bit facetious using the word “just” there; it’s not as if the band is lacking in the talent or ability to deliver more technically complex or less “mainstream” (whatever that even means nowadays) rock music. There's plenty of inventive bursts to be found throughout their music that keep things interesting. Listeners often aren’t sure what to make of them; some find them either not heavy enough or too heavy, not melodic enough or too melodic. But there’s no apparent desire for them to be the heaviest or the poppiest or the most experimental - what the band is shooting is for a firecracker blend of it all. It’s that sweet spot of mass appeal where there’s a little something for everyone, be it From Ashes to New’s hip-hop side, their heavier metallic side, or their arena-sized choruses.
If that kind of formula sounds or feels reminiscent of what made a young Linkin Park one of the biggest bands on the planet a little over two decades ago, rest assured that From Ashes to New have heard it about a million times before. “We love it and we hate it.” Brandyberry says of the repetitive comparison. Earlier that day, after chatting with a growing number of excited VIP attendees outside, I’m led into the venue to sit down with 3/4ths of the band: Brandyberry, Case and Madiro. It’s been one of, if not the busiest year of their careers, emerging from the uncertainty of the pandemic to some of their biggest shows yet. The Until We Break Tour is certainly a landmark headlining moment for them, with the band playing the longest and most varied sets they’ve ever done for sold out crowds across the country.
Needless to say, From Ashes to New have come into their own and more than proved themselves at this point. Still, the Linkin Park comments persist. “It’s funny because the band was not formulated or based on that at all.” Brandyberry tells me. “Hollywood Undead was actually one of my biggest influences to start From Ashes to New. I loved what they were doing at the time, they were pretty inspirational. Swan Songs and Notes from the Underground were really killer albums. They’re the ones who kind of made me go, "I want to do this, this is fun, this sounds cool. I want to try this style of music." But then we just get the Linkin Park reference over and over and over again because obviously they're the bigger band that did this style. To the point where in the last couple of years we're like, You know what? Fuck it. Let's cover a Linkin Park song. If we're gonna get this shit all the time then we're just gonna walk on that line. All the people who are like, "Oh, you can't be Linkin Park." Well, we’re not fucking trying to be.”
It’s true that the comparison falls apart under a little scrutiny. Although From Ashes to New have somewhat embraced rather than fully rejected it, going so far as to cover ‘Faint’ on their Quarantine Chronicles collection along with other acts like Evanescence, Dr. Dre and Avenged Sevenfold, their sound is still clearly different. Any real similarities end after Linkin Park’s first pair of albums and even then, From Ashes to New have been incorporating elements like modern metalcore (something that LP never bothered with) into their music since the beginning. “We've never tried to follow any trends or do anything like that.” Brandyberry continues. “We’ve always just tried to be who we are.”
Even so, rap rock and nu-metal type music has appeared to come full circle back into popularity these past couple of years, and bands both old and new have been benefitting. A decade or so ago, you couldn’t find an act that would even go near that sound - the early 2000s era of rock had already been overdone and memed into supposed irrelevancy. “I think that we're seeing a crazy resurgence in this style of music.” Brandyberry shares. “This genre that we're doing specifically, everyone's starting to do it again. It's funny, like in 2013-2014, when this band started coming together, people were like, "What are you doing? Why are you doing that?" Well, fuck what you think! This style has always been good and always will be. And I'm just gonna say it: I feel we’re currently the best at it. I just think that what we're doing is legitimate. I'm not throwing shade at anyone. It's just how hard we've worked, how we've gone through it, how when people said don't do it, we decided to do it anyway. And because of that we've been able to grow.”
Heavy and aggressive music as a whole has been enjoying a powerful return to form both artistically and commercially lately. Tons of younger bands have been blowing up online and seeing it translate to sold out tours, while the old guard have officially stepped into legacy status while still pushing their music forward into the future as well. If there’s anything evident from the immaculate energy coming from both onstage and out in the crowd that night in Charlotte, it’s that this kind of music isn’t going anywhere. It’s constantly evolving and at this current moment in time, the type of explosive and emotional release it provides appears to be as necessary for people as it’s ever been.
“I think that's where we're at as people, as humans, probably across the world, most definitely in this country. Right now people need something cathartic.” Brandyberry says of the current state of rock and metal. “I listened to hip-hop for pretty much all my teenage years. Even when I was younger, I was only allowed to listen to Christian music so I listened to Christian hip-hop. That’s what I gravitated towards. Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Korn…when you go down that list, all those bands that we came up on, they were way more cathartic. Now, don’t get me wrong. A little bit of DMX like It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, that’ll get you going, but when you start throwing all that screaming and shit…”
I understand exactly what he means, mentioning how the first time I heard Linkin Park (they were my gateway band the same way they’ve been for countless others), I was blown away mostly by the fact that I simply had no idea music could even sound that way. He had the same reaction. “When my buddy force-fed me Linkin Park back in the day, I was literally like, I didn’t know you could do this shit!” Even though the comparisons may be tiresome, Brandyberry and his bandmates still aren’t afraid of showing their love for those early (and continuous) influences. Madiro is rocking a Nine Inch Nails shirt that day and Case lights up once the return of Avenged Sevenfold - who he declares is his favorite band - gets mentioned.
The band isn’t afraid to embrace the old in their live shows either, filling their set with some of their earliest material and even making room for a destructive cover of Limp Bizkit’s essential nu-metal anthem ‘Break Stuff’ (“I thought people were just going to trample the barricade. They were just rocking it back.” Case tells me.) But the most exciting parts of the show proved to be the new tracks. ‘Until We Break’ and ‘Heartache’ have already become standouts in the From Ashes to New catalog. Both are excellent showcases of everything that the band has to offer and where they currently stand. More songs are set to be released throughout this year and the anticipation from both the fans and the musicians themselves is almost palpable.
“It feels right.” Case shares about the new music. “We’ve really got our bearings now. The first record, The Future, was us kind of assimilating and getting comfortable with each other and trying to figure out a sound. Panic was the very next record, so between that and this upcoming record we really feel like we're in a group now and that we're making music that we really enjoy and are passionate about. It feels like the next evolution for sure.”
Madiro is just as compelled to speak about the upcoming year for the band and how truly in sync they’ve become. “We know what we want and we know what the fans want as well.” he says. “We really understand what it is that we need to be doing. And we all come from very similar backgrounds, whether it be outside of music, or within styles of music that we listen to. We just really understand where From Ashes to New and as musicians we need to be.”
“It just boils down to us being the best possible version of ourselves.” Brandyberry adds. “We went into the Panic record with the mentality of taking a nostalgic approach to what we were doing. Hitting it with the way that we loved it 10-15 years ago. On this record, we went into it asking, "What did we do early on as a band that worked for us?” And worked to be the best possible version of that. That's what we're currently doing. And like I said, I feel like we're currently the best at it because of how hard we have honed in on what we're doing. How we're trying to be the best possible versions of what we can be. That to me, has a very genuine feeling to it, rather than shoehorning shit into music where it doesn't belong.”
Perhaps its genuineness that’s been the secret to the special connection that From Ashes to New share with their devoted fans. It manifested itself in various ways throughout the night: During ‘My Fight’, the band brought an ecstatic fan named Josh onstage to crush some surprise guest vocals. “Josh has been following this band since it started.” Brandyberry told the audience. “He hit us up on Facebook and said “There is nothing I’d love more than to come onstage for ‘My Fight’ in Charlotte.” Make some noise ‘cause Josh just fucking killed it for y’all.” Throughout the set, the chaos of the endless barrage of crowd surfers eventually led to one unlucky guy getting dropped on his head. The band immediately stopped the show to make sure he was okay, which he thankfully was thanks to fast-acting fans. “No one die!” Case joked as they restarted the song and the crowd began jumping again.
The pit stayed rowdy yet friendly and welcoming, even breaking off into separate Girls Only and Kids Only pits. The kids pit was a new sight for me, as was the literal cuddle pile that formed when the band played one of their slower, Lighters-In-The-Air type songs, ‘Let Go’. Everyone was clearly very comfortable with each other. With rock and metal and their various subgenres blowing up like never before and bringing in tons of new listeners, there’s also been an unfortunate rise in gatekeeping and hostility from some in the scene who aren’t as thrilled about its sudden popularity. From Ashes to New offer a refreshing break from that kind of mindset and that’s undoubtedly been a factor in what’s continuing to draw people to them.
The band’s future is looking bright, especially considering that they’ve secured themselves a slot on this year’s absolutely stacked and diverse Welcome to Rockville lineup.“I’m a big Hardy fan.” Brandyberry shares. “Being from Pennsylvania, we grew up with country stuff as well. Hip-hop, rock and country. What he's doing is like a perfect mix. All this gatekeeping shit has got to stop. Gatekeeping is literally killing music. For example, when we post something that says metal and there’s a guy going, “That’s not metal!” Anybody who’s spent any time in this scene knows that guy. “We're convinced that for every piece of music that has ever existed, there's one guy commenting on it.” Madiro chimes in. “I like to see an artist explore. You have to.”
“Being put into boxes as a creator is not good.” Brandyberry continues. “Doesn’t matter who you are. You have to have the freedom to be able to express yourself through your art. So it's cool to see the walls getting broken down because that gatekeeper mentality will only kill artists. The same goes for people who are like, “You were cooler when you only had 4 people at the show and I was one of them.” I mean, don’t you want the artists to succeed?”
Success is a relative term of course, but you’d be hard pressed to not call what this band has achieved in a relatively short time success. The sold out VIP line outside of the venue was massive, filled with fans of all ages and backgrounds who had either been listening since the very start or were brand new converts. There was genuine passion coming from every one of them. By the end of the night, it was clear that if From Ashes to New have achieved anything, it’s that feeling of catharsis that they’ve been chasing since the beginning. Just a few months earlier, they played this same venue opening for Memphis May Fire. Now they’re headlining the place, packing the house on a weekday night in the middle of winter. By the time their new album is out and they’re back on the road, I’m sure they’ll be playing somewhere twice this size.
"All the stress and all the industry bullshit aside, and all the being away from home that comes with this, there is no greater job on the face of the Earth than the one that we have." Case tells the fans during the show. "We get to come out here and play in front of a crowd that feels like home every night." As Brandyberry looked out into the crowd, he reflected on the long journey he's been on to get his band this far. "If you go through the story of my life, this isn't supposed to happen. This room is not supposed to be full of people." he said into the mic. "We're not supposed to be able to make the decisions that we think are best for our career. The label is supposed to tell us what to do. We're supposed to listen to what we find and see on social media. We're supposed to live up to impossible standards. It was the second in my life that I realized that if I was just me, this would happen."
From Ashes to New have confirmed a run of supporting dates joining Shinedown on their Revolutions Live tour set to begin April 3rd and conclude May 9th in Portland, OR. preceding a pair of festival appearances at Welcome to Rockville on May 19th and a spot at Sonic Temple on May 27th. A full list of tour dates and cities can be found - HERE
From Ashes to New are currently finalizing the details for their next full length release due out later this year on Better Noise Music. Stay tuned for more from the band in the coming months.
FROM ASHES TO NEW “UNTIL WE BREAK” Tour Dates
4/3 Saginaw, MI – The Dow Event Center
4/4 Cincinnati, OH – Heritage Bank Center
4/7 Bridgeport, CT – Total Mortgage Arena
4/8 University Park, PA – Bryce Jordan Center
4/10 Wilkes-Barre, PA – Mohegan Sun Arena
4/12 Huntington, WV – Mountain Health Arena
4/14 Jacksonville, FL – Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena
4/15 Orlando, FL – Amway Center
4/17 Savannah, GA – Enmarket Arena
4/19 Huntsville, Al – Von Braun Center
4/21 Memphis, TN – FedEx Forum
4/22 Baton Rouge, LA – Raising Cane’s River Center
4/24 Tulsa, OK – BOK Center
4/25 Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena
4/27 Ft. Wayne, IN – Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
4/29 Milwaukee, WI – Fiserv Forum
4/30 Minneapolis, MN – Target Center
5/3 Bozeman, MT – Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
5/6 Spokane, WA – Spokane Arena
5/7 Everett, WA – Angel of the Winds Arena
5/9 Portland, OR – Moda Center
5/19 Daytona Beach, FL - Welcome To Rockville*
5/27 Columbus, OH - Sonic Temple*
* Festival Date, No Shinedown & Three Days Grace