Remember the first time you witnessed a band make that all-important leap that proved, once and for all, that they had completed the evolution from 'enticing new prospects' to 'certified rock stars'? That moment when, be it through a song, a video or a career-defining live show, they were no longer part of an exciting new scene or leaders of an uprising of young talent, but a force entirely in their own right? Think Avenged Sevenfold shunning the makeup and hair-dye and rocking up to Download in England football shirts in 2006. Or Bring Me The Horizon booting their cynics into the stratosphere with Sempiternal. Goosebump-curating stuff, right? Well, every so often a band comes along that, kinda, um, forgets about the whole 'enticing new prospects' thing and pretty much lands in your lap, fully formed and ready to go. A band looking like they could out-star power your favourite arena-fillers, out-swagger the sleaziest Sunset Strip veterans and out-play the techiest of guitar nerd heroes. A band that, essentially, arrive as the finished article, ready to burn their way through the world and take out anyone that is silly enough to stand in their way. A band that look like fucking gangsters.
Upon A Burning Body: Gang Warfare
Heads UpI Upon A Burning Body are coming back to destroy the UK – and they're taking no prisoners
Alright, in the case of Upon A Burning Body, that last point is a fairly specific one, but it’s one of many reasons that the Texan five-piece are unlike any other band you’re likely to read about in these or any other pages. And it’s in the UK that they seem to be making serious waves.
“In the States, we’ve toured and toured and seen us slowly grow, a little bit more each time we come back to a city, but we come to the UK for the first time and it’s already awesome,” explains UABB frontman Danny Leal of the quintet’s fast-established affinity with our fair isle.
“The first time we went over there, we didn’t know what to expect, but we had a ton of kids turn up that were all singing our lyrics. It was like, ‘Are we dreaming?’. Now, we’re in cool [UK] magazines, doing interviews with you guys... It just blows me away that we can do all these things having only been to the UK twice. That is why we’re the most stoked about going back.”
We should probably rewind a bit here. In May 2012, two months after their second studio full-length (Red. White. Green.) landed in a flurry of Pantera-fuelled hooks, deathcore-heavy grooves and booze-soaked chantalongs, Upon A Burning Body were booked to open up the UK’s moderately-sized Slam Dunk festival, sharing a bill with the likes of Of Mice & Men and While She Sleeps – bands about to make a leap into music’s wider consciousness and set to make all the headlines that weekend.
Except that’s not the whole story. For just after 1pm each day, at both Leeds and Hatfield’s University venues, a sea of kids flooded the stage floor, cramming into the modest space available and flocking straight to the barrier to await the afternoon’s openers. When UABB walked onstage, pandemonium quickly ensued, with building-levelling circle pits, seas of crowd surfers and enough fist pumps to cause an earthquake creating some amazing scenes – all overseen by a band dressed like fucking gangsters. Needless to say, the gig made an impact, and UABB ended up being one of the bands of the entire festival. Not a bad way to make your UK bow...
“That’s the name of the game,” states Danny without a hint of doubt as we catch up with the singer hours before he’s due to join his band-mates on a brief US jaunt with Parkway Drive. “Usually, you’re touring with bands that are, or maybe become, your friends, and it’s a good time and whatnot, but when you’re onstage... My job is to make my band the band that you go home and talk about. ‘Yeah, the show’s cool, but that one band? Upon A Burning Body!’. That’s what I want to send people home thinking, and if we can do that, we’re in pretty good shape. We’ve stayed in that mindset, so yes, we try to steal every single show.”
It’s a habit they’ve kept up. With demand for the band in abundance both on these shores and back in their homeland, UABB found themselves booked on a number of enviable slots, including a well-received debut at Download that summer, as well as a stateside sting with Trivium soon after that led to Matt Heafy personally inviting them to join the Floridian heavyweights across Europe.
“Matt’s a guy that I’ve looked up to since Ascendancy came out,” offers Danny somewhat humbly. “I was the kid driving from San Antonio to Austin, Texas to see those guys, and I’ve been a fan ever since. We did a run of dates [in America] with Trivium, and our tour manager said Matt was a fan of our band. I thought he was lying. Sure enough, it was true; Trivium brought us on their bus, we hit it off, and they got us on their UK tour. The next thing you know, we’re playing a sold-out show in London.”
They took their opportunity well. Stealing the show once again from under the noses of both Trivium and fellow support acts Caliban and As I Lay Dying, UABB proved that they are the real deal – packing a swagger and sense of showmanship rarely seen among bands at such an early stage of their career. It all ultimately means that when they finally return to the UK later this month as support to Five Finger Death Punch, you’d have to be nuts to bet against them having their name put on even more lips – and all right in time for that crucial next album.
“We’re trying to tap into a much larger audience, but we definitely don’t want to lose the audience that we’ve had the pleasure to have to date,” reveals Danny of their new material. “Being in this business, you have to grow. What we’re trying to do is have a nice balance for the kids who really like good musicianship, and the people that just wanna bang their heads. I think we’ve accomplished that on this record.”
Although it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing any new UABB tracks aired on this tour (“We wanna hammer it at people when they have somewhere to go and hear it”), it’s fairly safe to assume that people will be talking about this band for some time to come yet. Best make sure you get down the front nice and early and prepare to get your face blown clean off. By fucking gangsters.
This feature was published in Metal Hammer issue 255