Urban Spread presents
with guests Hellions and Storm The Sky
9:00pm, Fri 1st May 2015
Chelsea Heights Hotel, Victoria
Northlane brought their high-energy live show to Melbourne’s outer-south-east suburbs in an epic of an intimate show at ‘The Heights’ for a crowd of die-hard fans on Friday night. The Sydney-based, beard-wearing hardcore heroes laid the smackdown with their highly-technical and uniquely progressive brand of metalcore. With them were fellow Aussie rockers Hellions and Storm The Sky.
To clarify a few things for those unfamiliar with the genre. Screaming is an incredibly passionate vocal style that stresses the vocal chords to produce a loud and I guess ‘raspy’ sound that helps convey very powerful emotions. The sub-genre ‘metalcore’ is an often high-speed, high-intensity, heavy sub-genre (often stereotyped as ‘screamo’ due the proliferation of screamed vocals) in which elements of hardcore punk meet heavy metal. Also note that I am writing this review as a long-time fan of the band, and my fandom will bleed nicely into this hopefully informative review.
The event was put on by up-and-coming promotion company Urban Spread, purportedly specialising in party-style gigs for the outer suburbs, inspired by the gig scene of the 70’s and early-80’s that saw Midnight Oil and AC/DC tour the suburbs on weeknights for the working class. This was evident.
Enter The Chelsea Heights Hotel. A staple venue in the town of the same name, the nightclub section (billed as The Heights) immediately struck me. It was a large, neon-lit, three-platform room with a bar, stool seating, VIP area and double-disco-ball-sporting dancefloor (comparable to Melbourne’s Billboards club, though larger, cleaner and ventilated properly). Alcohol was also very reasonably priced. I have no qualms with the venue, other than that it was only just over half-full.
It is at this point I want to acknowledge the mixing. At metalcore shows, mixing is more important than anywhere because with the incorrect mixing of performances, the intricacies of the bands’ instrumentation quickly becomes a blob of white noise due to the heavy nature of their music. I’ve seen great mixing and pitiful mixing in my 100-odd of metalcore shows and this show was truly stellar. Perfect mixing allowed people in any area of the room to hear with clarity. This was a true standout show for this very small, but substantial reason.
Despite the fact that many—if not most—of these metallers made the road trip from around Victoria to attend, cheap alcohol made the event feel, look and smell like a party… Okay, so that summarises most rock shows, but this one differs in a very distinct way: the galvanised fandom.
UNFD (pronounced Unified) is a Melbourne-based promotion company, management service and record label with a cult following. Though, I see it as a community. Some of Australia’s best hardcore bands are signed to this label including the likes of The Amity Affliction, In Hearts Wake, Deez Nuts and the bands of tonight’s bill. The company recently held its own festival in rural-eastern Victoria, aptly named UNIFY, sporting a line-up of bands exclusively of the UNFD bands. From this, the supporter base for the label and the bands was manifested. A true sense of community is held amongst fans of these bands and I felt that at this show, as with all the others. Seemingly angry music can often be the happiest and these Aussie bands typify this.
The lights dim.
The youthful six-piece Storm The Sky take to the stage with gusto, splicing brutal and ‘chuggy’ verses screamed by their first vocalist Daniel Breen with highly-complicated and inspiringly-melodic choruses sung by heart-throb Will Jarratt (who had a cheer-squad of his own on the barrier). A brilliant set was diminished only by the poor turnout and almost empty moshpit.
With the bar set high, chaotically grungy and heavy is the best way to describe the set played by rap-metal-punk-core band Hellions. The band is gaining traction as part of the aforementioned UNFD brand and their set was laced with high energy songs, and mellow, humorous banter in between. There was this one guy setting off fireworks somewhere in the room. They were lengthily-dispersed, but louder than the bands and made for some interesting, well-spirited jokes made by Hellions vocalist Dre Faivre. I was not a fan of this band before their set. After, I was turned.
“SET MEEE FREEEEEEE!”
The awe-inspiring vocal of Marcus Bridge’s screamed intro to ‘Quantum Flux’ echoed beside the deafening cries of fans delivering the opening line to Northlane’s quintessential track. Northlane had arrived.
Mic-man Marcus Bridge is a recent addition to the band, replacing the recently departed and beloved original vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes. Unlike previous singer changes in the world of music, fans of Northlane never hesitated to throw all of their support for this guy. I witnessed this at UNIFY where fans took to social media after the set, bearing the hashtag #marcusfuckingbridge. Previously, it took Marcus half a set to reach his stride. This is because Adrian laid vocals on the band’s two albums, whereas Marcus has only released one single with the band: Rot. Tonight however, Marcus Bridge gave the performance of a lifetime, surpassing the expectations of fans everywhere. Looks of excitement and pride struck the faces of strangers looking at each other in the crowd, acknowledging this bloke’s pure talent.
The mosh was brutal. Though spread openly due to the abundance of space, a beautiful and friendly congregation of tie-die coloured moshers birthed an awesome sea of flailing arms, legs and heads – dancing the only way they know how for the band. Those who fell over were picked up by everyone in the vicinity, those who were in danger were escorted out by friendly fans and a clear way was made for the one guy who left with a potentially broken nose (dripping like a tap) and one hell of a cheeky grin.
I was fortunate enough to see the majority of the show in front of lead guitarist Jon Deiley. Simply put, the guy is an octopus. His feet control 6 adjacent guitar preset switchboards constantly throughout all songs and breaks. He would have hit those switches more than I hit keys in this article. His hands take control of a seven-string guitar of which he plays in note-for-note perfection. I was mesmerised for the entirety of the set. Particularly interesting were his frighteningly eerie facial expressions, wide almost menacing eyes peering through his fringe at seemingly nothing. It was all very cool.
When Bridge signalled the beginning to ‘Rot’ (the only song he has released with the band) the place erupted. It was without a doubt the most exciting of all the songs played by the band. Vocal melodies to-and-fro like a river with the unnerving chiming of guitars overwhelming the tone of the song.
The focus was very heavily on songs from their Singularity (2013) album, constituting 8 of the band’s 14-song set. As an older fan, some more Discoveries (2012) tracks would have made for a more well-rounded set, however the band’s current setlist did all their releases enough justice to keep even the most stubborn fan content.
The band closed the set with an oldie: ‘Dispossession’. The opening lick of the song is the calm-before-the-storm because when the song kicks in, the bass drop sends fans into a frenzy. The song is laced with brutal breakdowns and djent-esque verses (‘djent’ being an onomatopoeia for the sound made by the specific palm-muting technique on guitar). I was (happily) bruised by the end of the first chorus.
“Cast aside the fear of reality, face the fucking world!” — the lyrics accompanying the breakdown of ‘Dispossession’
Fans calmly left the venue with hoarse voices, weakened leg muscles, sweaty hair and wide grins.
Of the five times I’ve seen the band, this was indisputably the best form I’ve ever seen these 5 guys in. I already can’t wait to see them tour the new album after July.
Northlane’s latest full offering Singularity is available on the web and at most good music stores.
Their new single Rot is online on all mediums. A new album is pitted for release in July.
9:30 – 10:00 Storm The Sky
10:30 – 11:00 Hellions
11:30 – 12:30 Northlane
Nameless (previously unreleased, ambient interlude)
I was not sponsored or paid to write anything in this article.
The photos in this article were not from last night’s show.