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[Review] Of Mice & Men, Metro Theatre, Sydney 24/02/2024

Two nights ago I was in Sydney for another gig and it was hotter than Satan’s armpit. Last night by comparison, I was wearing a hoodie, beanie, scarf and was still shivering! I also decided to brave the public transport system, since the train would be (and was) filled with a slew of Swifties, and also a smattering of Blink 182, Slash and Of Mice & Men fans, I figured it was safe to travel late at night.

Upon arrival at the venue, there was a growing line of black band tee shirts. Security staff came out to gather up those who had booked in for the Meet & Greet while the rest of us waited patiently to be let in.  The clock struck 8pm and doors opened. The floor area filled up quickly and I headed upstairs to find a seat with a view.

Bang on 8.30pm post hardcore 5-piece Sydney-siders, Sienna Skies take to the stage.  The bass guitarist did the harsh vocals, the drummer sang the clean vocals and the lead singer switched between both. Considering the limited amount of space they had on the stage, they played a very high energy 30 minute set which included singles, Even Stronger, brand spankin’ new release, Mess, Divided and finished the set with Let It Burn. They informed us that they are about to drop a new EP later next month and will be back doing their own headline tour in May.

After a timely gear changeover, we welcome alt.rock / metalcore 4-piece Melbourne band, Dream On Dreamer. With over 50 million streams and ARIA nominations, it’s easy to see why these guys were chosen as support band. They performed another high energy set which got the crowd moving and moshing with songs such as, Stay, Don’t Lose Your Heart and the new release, G.O.D. in the set list.  After an invitation to meet them at the merch stand, they leave the stage for the crew to prepare for the main act.

Hailing from So-Cal USA, RIAA gold record certified metalcore band, Of Mice & Men entered the stage to loud cheers and applause and opened their set with two 2014 bangers from their album Restoring Force, Bones Exposed, followed by Would You Still Be There, and then new song,  Castaway by this time the audience were singing along loudly, heads nodding furiously in time with the music. Then they played my personal fave, from their 2021 release, Echo, the single, Obsolete. Vocalist Aaron Pauley stopped to thank the audience for choosing to come to the Of Mice & Men concert stating that he was aware of all the choices available in Sydney that night, so the band are beyond flattered that the audience had chosen them. He then announced that it was time to play something heavy and that the next song was from their latest album, the mosh pit opened up and a circle pit ensued as they played Warpaint. Next up was another new track from Tether, current single, Indigo, then Pauley introduced the next song as a favourite of his from their latest album as they played, Into The Sun and then 2019’s Earth and Sky. Pauley asked if there were people in the crowd who had seen Of Mice play before to loud cheers in response and then he announced that it was time for OG and the audience shuffled back and a space was cleared in the centre of the floor, several people did back flips to cheers and applause, and as the band started playing OG Loko the circle pit began growing into a juggernaut of bodies. They played Instincts from 2018’s Defy album and then Pauley addressed the audience once again dedicating “the next song for anyone who is feeling grief”.  He explains that grief is that pain that’s right between the heart and the lungs, it’s the pain you feel when love has nowhere to go and leads into 2021 single, Bloom.  The set was rounded out by 2012 classic, The Depths.  Pauley thanked the Sydney audience again and the band left the stage for a minute or two, then returned to loud cheers and applause from the crowd as they played fan fave from 2010, Second & Sebring. Setlists, picks and sticks were tossed into the crowd as we all shuffled our way out to George Street.

It’s probably a strange thing to say but I noticed that the Of Mice stage set is so neat and tidy. After the support bands, everything except the OM&M drum kit was cleared off the stage. The drummer is positioned centre at the back and there are three risers placed at the front of the stage. The guitarists tend to stay on their own sides while vocalist Pauley moves around but mostly remains front and centre. In-between songs there is an ambient synth hum track played while guitars are changed and adjustments are made before commencing the next song. It’s like watching a well-oiled machine working. Of Mice & Men put on a well practised, professional performance, no doubt about it.

I mention these things as I’m coming off the back of just seeing another band two nights before in the same music genre but their performance was so different by contrast. Still professional and practised but the approach was far more relaxed and interactive with the audience.

What I did miss from OM&M was the presence of a human bass guitarist rather than a track, but so many bands appear to be taking this approach now. Overall though, Of Mice & Men perform their songs with such intensity and passion, taking the listeners along for the journey with them. Their songs inspire some of the most intense and somewhat aggressive looking mosh pits I’ve seen in ages, yet lyrically their vibe is dare I say, emotional and heartfelt. This dichotomy is fascinating to experience in a live setting – from a safe vantage point. I loved this concert for almost totally opposite reasons that I loved the concert from the other band two nights earlier.  If you get the opportunity, go check out Of Mice & Men.

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[Review] Atreyu @ Manning Bar, Sydney 22/02/2024

Atreyu are a metalcore band from California, USA, taking their name from a character in the movie, The Never Ending Story. 

Back in 2007 I bought a copy of Metal Hammer magazine and it had a bonus cd on the cover with “new” music. One of those tracks was Becoming The Bull by Atreyu. I was instantly sold on their sound and have loved that track ever since.

Fast forward to February 2024 and I finally got to see this band play live.

It was a steamy Thursday evening in late February and I was among those gathered at the University of Sydney’s Manning Bar. I entered the venue, perused the merch stand, grabbed a bottle of water from the bar and staked out a spot near the sound desk and with a good view.

First up was Sydney female-fronted metalcore band, Bridge Left To Burn.

When they walked on stage there was about a dozen people waiting on the rail but by half-way through the first song the floor was half filled.

They played a cracking 20 minute set, lead vocalist Ava Sukkar switching between harsh and clean vocals one moment angelic, the next demonic. The Sydney-siders were stoked to be on the bill and put 110 percent into their performance by warming up the audience for the following bands.

Strangely, as soon as the band finished, the floor cleared, people choosing to gather near the bar or outside on this hot Summer night.

After a gear changeover next up were Melbourne metalcore band, Bad/Love. Before they even introduced themselves, I could hear the distinct Melbourne ‘core sound. A bit Void Of Vision, a touch Thornhill with a dash of Windwaker. There’s a certain polish to the sound that comes out of Melbs. The Melbournites gave a strong 30 minute performance which included Social Suicide and their latest single, Ungød. There was a screeching lead guitar solo in the last song as they ended their set.  Again, the audience vacated the floor during the gear changeover, which was quite disconcerting. The Manning Bar isn’t a large venue, yet it felt empty and I was left wondering “where were Sydney’s Metal fans tonight?”.

The intro music started playing as Atreyu finally entered the stage, people started moving onto the floor as they began to play Drowning, all of a sudden they were at the chorus, I looked around and the floor was filled, and there’s a crowd gathered on the 2 levels and outside on the balcony. I teared up, grateful and happy that Sydney had indeed turned out for this fantastic band. Everyone was singing along loudly, and I mean LOUDLY! The song ended to loud cheers and my beloved song, the previously mentioned, Becoming the Bull was played next and I joined the crowd, yelling out the lyrics loudly. Vocalist Brandon Saller announced it was time for a circle pit and the audience complied as Right Side Of The Bed played. Next we were told it was time to help sing a part, “it’s only two words” Saller says, we practised it and then Save Me played with the audience screaming out “Save Me” loudly during the chorus. Next was When Two Become One and mid-song Saller takes someone’s phone and video records part of the song from the stage, then at the end he shared with the audience that the couple in the front row had used that song as their ‘first dance’ song at their wedding. Saller then mentions how twenty years ago on their first Australian tour, they heard this unique sound that they had always wanted to use in a song. The beeping noise from our pedestrian crossings. Almost twenty years later they finally used it in the song (i).  *side note: Billie Eilish and her brother Phinaeas had said and done a similar thing with their song Bad Guy.  Suddenly there’s movement on stage and they change instruments, the drummer is now playing bass, the singer is now playing drums and the bass guitarist is now singing lead vocals, and they proceeded to play Bleeding Mascara.

Everyone then returned to their regular positions and played The Time is Now, during which, Saller walked throughout the entire room through the crowd and out onto the balcony, singing. Ex’s and Oh’s and Gone are next we were asked to sing along but the audience just can’t get the timing right, which is hilarious and results in some good-humoured “shit talk”. Someone in the audience yelled out “Where’s Travis?” To which Saller responded, “right there”, pointing, “he’s been there all night”. Saller then said to guitarist Travis Miguel “they don’t recognise you with your shirt on, take your shirt off” the crowd cheered but Miguel politely declined and Saller quipped back, “c’mon, your body, their choice”. Then it was time for Battle Drums and the crowd were singing loudly again. Time for the “lucky dip” song. An audience member was chosen and asked to pick a song from the selection that the band puts written down into a clear pencil case. Watch Me Burn was chosen which was then followed by Falling Down and everyone was moshing again.  Saller then talked about how we all go through ‘dark times’ but it’s how we pick ourselves up and move forward that is important which is the segway to Warrior, during the bridge it took a short detour to Wonderwall, before returning to Warrior, then the set is finished with two middle fingers in the air and a rowdy rendition of the song Blow.

The band thanked the crowd and exited the stage. After a brief break, guitarist Dan Jacobs returns to the stage with a saxophone and plays short bursts of a few songs, including the standard, Tequila, the rest of the band rejoined him and they played the Whitney Houston hit, I Wanna Dance With Somebody as their encore. The band tossed out drum sticks, setlists, and guitar picks and bid Sydney farewell. Next stop …. BrisVegas!!!

Atreyu played an energetic and entertaining 75 minute set filled to the brim with bangers. They put on an amazing show, which included loads of banter with the audience. You get the distinct impression that these guys love what they’re doing, and it’s infectious. I walked in with an appreciation for this band and walked away drenched in sweat and completely hyped for them. They’ve now played their last show of this tour in Brisbane to a sold out audience, so sadly, if you missed this tour you will have to wait until next time.

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[Album Review] Lord of the Lost – Weapons of Mass Seduction

For the uninitiated, Lord Of The Lost are a German band from Hamburg. Formed by frontman, Chris’s Harms in 2007 and initially meant as a solo project, but later evolved into a group. Their industrial / goth metal sound with fetish-adjacent imagery gets them a lot of attention, particularly in their homeland. They have earned themselves several top ten positions and even a number one chart placement over the years. While having a “cult following” Internationally, they have yet to break out of Europe in a big way, until now.

Barely one year after the release of their album, Blood and Glitter, Lord Of The Lost return with a new album released on December 29th, to close out a successful 2023.  

After representing Germany (and metal music in general) at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, England in May this year, and following that up with touring heavily during the Northern Hemisphere summer, Lord of the Lost surprise us with a new album made up entirely of cover songs.  

Weapons Of Mass Seduction opens with a 1993 Billy Idol rocker, Shock To The System, that powers along at a cracking pace and makes you want to get up and move. I made a mental note to add this to my “housework” playlist.  It’s a cracker of an opener! It’s followed up with the 2016 Sia hit song, Unstoppable, also a single from this album. It’s slightly darker than the original but Harms stays true to it.

Then Bronski Beat’s 1984 hit, Smalltown Boy, gets a darkwave makeover  where we hear Harms open up his harsh vocals for the first time. The next song starts and I am smiling as I recognise it as Judas Priest’s 1997 single,  Turbo Lover, a personal favourite of theirs, I sing along with Harms and by mid-way through I’m up and dancing. Harms honours Midge Ure’s vocal styling in the 1982 Ultravox song, Hymn. Next up is Give In To Me from the 1991 Michael Jackson album, Dangerous, sounding more goth than pop, followed by the 2018 single by Bishop Riggs, River which gets its bluesy roots styling eliminated and down tuned into more of a heavier rock ballad. The Keane 2004 banger Somewhere Only We Know gets a LotL style gothic revamp and then we get another 1980s hit with Cutting Crew’s 1986 number one hit,  (I Just) Died In Your Arms. LotL have made it into a duet with Berlin-based Independant Darkpop / Soft Rock singer Anica Russo. Russo is probably best known for her previous collaboration with Adam Lambert. Her sweet vocals harmonising with Harms’ gothic tones give the song a darkwave pop vibe. Next Lord Of The Lost tackle the 2015 Zella Day song, High, giving it a metal treatment with some harsh vocals. The album is rounded out with the 2014 Pretty Reckless song, House On The Hill with the original’s acoustic guitars being swapped for a piano intro that turns into a heavy rock ballad.

Weapons Of Mass Seduction is an eclectic mix of pop and rock tunes that comes off being surprisingly cohesive. However, I suspect that fans of Lord Of The Lost might find this album on the “lite” side of their usual sound. 

Vocalist, Chris Harms, has an approachable vocal style that has a nice measure of husk and grit.  Harm’s deep baritone gives dark, gothic vibes, especially when coupled with the heavily down-tuned guitars and darkwave-style keyboards. His use of harsh growls and screams are used (very) sparingly on this album, but fits perfectly when applied. I could have actually enjoyed more ‘grit and grunt’ had they been added. Overall, Weapons Of Mass Seduction is an accessible album, loaded with familiar tracks that are obviously aimed at a wider audience and I suspect that this was planned on the heels of their Eurovision appearance. 

A good one to dip your toe into the LotL discography.  

Weapons of Mass Seduction is released on December 29th 2023 and is available on all streaming services and in several different versions of CD and Vinyl through Napalm Records

Track list:— 

Shock To The System – Billy Idol cover

Unstoppable – Sia cover 

Smalltown boy – Bronski Beat cover

Turbo Lover – Judas Priest cover

Hymn – Ultravox cover

Give In To Me – Michael Jackson cover

River – Bishop Briggs cover

Somewhere Only We Know – Keane cover

(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight [ft Anica Russo] – Cutting Crew cover

High – Zella Day cover

House On A Hill – The Pretty Reckless cover

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[Review] Electric Callboy @ Hordern Pavillion, Sydney 30/11/2023

Review By Raelee Atkinson

Choo-Choo … climb aboard and let's ride the Tekkno train …

This time last year, Good Things Festival was in full swing and the German band formerly known as Eskimo, now Electric Callboy, took to the stages of Australia, wowing crowds and winning over new fans.  A few months later in February 2023, a headlining tour of Electric Callboy was announced and it was met with much excitement. It took no time to sell out and the venues were upgraded to house more fans, and again the entire tour was sold out quickly.  The buzz around this band has kept going throughout the year as they have been travelling the globe with their Tekkno World Tour.  

I’ll admit, I’ve been so excited for this concert that I’ve been counting down the “sleeps” like a kid waiting for Santa. 

Finally, its a balmy Thursday night and we’ve just fought off the peak-hour traffic and arrived in Sydney’s Moore Park, the location of the Hordern Pavilion, to be met by an eclectic sea of black clothed metalheads and neon attired techno-heads. Electric Callboy’s genre-bending mix of metalcore and EDM attracts an interesting demographic ranging in ages.  

Bro and I nick across the street to the pub for a quick pre-gig feed of French fries and a lager, then passed through the security check to the awaiting hordes. We joined the long line for merch that snaked its way around the outdoor area that enclosed the Hordern, eventually got our tee shirts and entered the venue. We were early so we were able to get up pretty close to the front. 

At 7.30pm it was time for the first support band, Future Static, a five piece band from Melbourne. Future Static are a fusion of alt rock, indie pop, and metalcore with a dash of prog for good measure. They have recently released their first full length album titled, Liminality. After a minor ‘false start’ they hit the stage running with an energy reserved for the young. Spinning like a dervish, lead singer Amariah Cook's clean vocals are lovely, then she surprised with some filthy harsh vocals and injected so much emotion into her performance. Bassist, Kira Neil complimented Cook’s vocals with some sweet harmonies and gave an indie/alt vibe to the performance. There’s three dudes in the band, but to be honest, apart from a random thought that they were good, the focus was on the women, who put on a great show.

Four songs into their set, they played a cover song titled Gasolina and I realised that this was the band that my brother had sent me the link to three times. I turned to him and he's grinning. Future Static entertained the growing crowd with a cracking 30 minute set, which included Waves, Venenosa, Chemical Lobotomy, Gasolina, The Hourglass, Roach Queen and Dead End

The next band up is Stockholm-based, Self Deception. The Swedish foursome enter the stage and it's obvious that there are sound problems. The singer isn’t singing in tune (and I know he's an experienced and talented singer) and every time the bass hits there’s a horrible vibration and popping sound emanating from the speakers which hurts my ears.  Part way through the second song the singer, Gabriel Keyes, better known as the current vocalist for fellow Swedes, Crashdiët, stopped the band and said that they are having ‘technical difficulties’. Roadies scattered on the stage looking busy while the bass player, Patrik, chatted with the crowd and announced that he’d like to do a “shoey”. It’s an obvious distraction that overseas bands seem to think Aussie audiences enjoy. The crowd cheered him on and then the band re-commenced by playing Scandinavian Dream. The sound is still horrible, so again the crew scamper on stage trying to “fix” the problem and this time the bass guitarist suggests that the guitarist, Ronnie, do a “shoey” now, again, the crowd cheer him on but it's getting awkward, thankfully Keyes, the singer took over and explained that they’d had a dreadful day. That their flight from Melbourne had been cancelled and they had been told that they were no longer going to be able to play the gig in Sydney, but the band wanted to come and play so much that they decided to hire a private plane and flew up, having not long arrived. The audience cheered encouragingly,  the technical issues seemed to be resolved and singer Gabriel introduced the next song, Roxette classic The Look. The audience dances and sings along loudly and the Self Deception set continues without the earlier sound problems. They have a heavy rock industrial-electro sound with a Marilyn Manson flavour. Their stage presence was a tad confusing to me as the drummer wears a mask, the man-buned singer prowls the stage semi (and eventually) shirtless and the bassist is dressed in a neon pink cowboy hat, matching Hawaiian shirt and shorts set and long pink socks, looking more like he's on an island vacation rather than playing at a metal gig. It’s definitely a “vibe” I'm just not quite sure which “vibe” though. I enjoyed their songs, the band were tight, and Gabriel Keyes is an enigmatic frontman. Bass player Patrik Hallgren ended up playing in the mosh pit crowd at one point. At the end of the set, they thank the audience for their patience and say that it had been the most memorable night of the tour.  Self Deception played an interesting 30 minute set that included, Six Feet Under, Scandinavian Dream, The Look, Psycho, Holy Water, Fight Fire With Gasoline

The Hordern had now filled with people and everyone was hyped and excited for Electric Callboy to take to the stage. To pass the time, some people had brought a couple of beach balls and a spaceship shaped balloon, which the crowd tossed around ooh-ing and ahh-ing as they rose and fell.

The time had finally come, the excitement from the crowd was palpable as the lights dim and the big screen at the back of the stage is illuminated with a video clip of a woman dressed up as an airline stewardess announcing the beginning of the Electric Callboy set. Towards the end of the announcement, the band entered the stage, the lights came up, a confetti bomb exploded and the audience was bouncing and singing loudly to Tekkno Train. Vocalist Nico Sallach asked the audience to form a “Ninja Wall of Death” for the next song, MC Thunder (Dancing Like A Ninja) then when the song ended, Nico mentioned what we’d all been thinking, “where was Kevin?”. Sallach explained that after the Melbourne show the previous night, Ratajczak had to leave straight away to the airport to return home for “family reasons”. Then Nico asked us all to sing loudly for Kevin as Spaceman played. The Spaceship balloon from earlier flew around during the song. Then they played Love/Hate followed by the Cascade cover, Everytime We Touch, The Scene, Castrop X Spandau and Arrow Of Love.  At this point, the band left the stage leaving the drummer to perform his solo to Darude’s Sandstorm. The band then returned and to the delight of the crowd, and the much loved Hypa Hypa played next, followed by Parasite, then a stripped down acoustic version of the Backstreet Boys cover, I Want it That Way which had the audience singing along very loudly. Sallach explained that the next song is based on German Schlagger music and separated the crowd in the centre to form a space and encouraged everyone to “couple dance” to Hurrikan. They rounded the set out with MC Thunder, leaving the stage as the audience cheered and called out for an encore. They complied and returned to the stage to play Pump It to the excited and energetic crowd as another confetti bomb went off and followed it with Mindreader, leaving briefly once again. With more encouragement, the band returned once more to perform the hit single, We Got The Moves to a final confetti bomb and streamer bomb. At the end, the band lined up for the obligatory band with the audience in the background pic, then Nico spotted a couple of youngsters who had been perched on their dads shoulders during the show, singing along enthusiastically, and called them up on stage to join the band in the pic. The crowd cheered, everyone posed and then there was the scrum for the picks, sticks and set lists. The house lights come up at 10.45pm and everyone is buzzing as they exit the venue. 

What a night! Electric Callboy delivered a high octane set, even without their co-vocalist, Kevin Ratajczak. The sound and lighting were on point, the multiple confetti and streamer bombs added to the party atmosphere and the energy from the audience was like being at a dance club or a rave with everyone dancing, bouncing up and down and singing along loudly. This definitely felt more techno than metal and even though lyrically, the songs imply something a bit “rude”, the absolute silliness of the band and their songs appeals to all ages, so there were parents there with their children. The fanbase is varied to say the least, with the black parade of ‘core and metal fans mixed with the brightly coloured ‘fits of EDM fans. There were a lot of fans dressed up like the characters from their videoclips, with matching  outfits, wigs and headbands. The support bands were high energy and did their job of gee-ing up the audience and firmly established the party vibes. Venue staff were friendly and polite, and security kept everyone safe. Overall, there’s a legit reason why this band totally sold out this tour so quickly, because they bring the dance party 100 percent, even with a missing bandmate. The night was exactly what you would want for an event like this and I’ve walked away feeling like I could very happily do that all over again! I'm definitely up for seeing these bands again, especially Electric Callboy, so who’s coming with?

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[Review] Thornhill @ Moore Park, Sydney 28/10/2023

I’ve been wanting to see Thornhill for a while now, so last Saturday night, I finally got to tick that one off my list. It was October 28th and at Moore Park, The Entertainment district in Sydney. It was a busy night, with a Halloween dance party at the Hordon Pavilion and Sir Paul McCartney playing next door at Allianz stadium. But at Liberty Hall, Sydney metalheads lined up early and gathered for the final night of the Prom Queen City Tour. Which had the amazing line up that was Bloom (Syd), Thousand Below (USA), Holding Absence (UK) and Thornhill (Melb).

First up were Sydneysiders, Bloom. I wasn’t familiar with them but colour me impressed! They brought the energy and entertained with a 7 song setlist warming up the crowd with Laughing Stock, Bound To Your Whispers, Sink Into The Soil, Daylight, Siren Song, The Service and finished the set off with Cold. At the end of the evening I was chatting with a fellow and he said that Bloom is his new favourite Sydney-based band! Big call considering the bands in Sydney, but I admit, these lads are impressive, so keep an eye out for them on future tours – definitely worth checking out.

Next up were American “homies” Thousand Below, who took to the stage with a powerful 8 song set including, Hell Finds You Everywhere, Venenosa, Tradition, Silent Season, 171 xo, The Love You Let Too Close, No Place Like You and rounding the set out with SabotageThousand Below did a great job of hyping the crowd where Bloom left off. At the conclusion of the set, the singer introduced himself as James and said he was going to be over at the merch stand and wanted to meet everyone. I’d already staked out my favourite spot at this venue, so I wasn’t moving for anyone, not even a friendly American (soz), not even for the line up at the ladies loos, nope, not budging. 

Then it was time for Welsh post-hardcore alt rockers, Holding Absence, who played an energetic 8 song set which had us all singing along to songs like, Like A Shadow, Aching Longing, Gravity, Scissors, A Crooked Melody, Her Wings, Afterlife and ended the set with The Angel In The Marble. The night before, Holding Absence had played a full set in my hometown of Newcastle, but with a “bangover” neck ache from the previous weekend seeing Bury Tomorrow, I’d piked out to save my energy for the trip down to Sydney and this show – but now I’m kicking myself for not mustering up the energy and seeing the full set show cos these guys are fan-bloody-tastic. 

Finally, it was time for the headliners, metalcore / alt rock,  ARIA nominated Melbournites known as Thornhill.  The line up currently consists of guitarist Ethan McCann, Drummer Ben Maida, Bassist Nick Sjogren and Vocalist / guitarist Jacob Charlton. The lads blazed onto the stage with latest single, Viper Room, then led into Heroine favourite, Arkangel,  followed with Views From The Sun, The Haze and Red Summer where Holding Absence vocalist, Lucas Woodland joined them on stage to add some gnarly growls. Next up were Hollywood followed by Casanova, then the band left the stage with no explanation and I still have no idea why, for about a 2 minute interlude, then they returned to the stage to play Something Terrible Came With The Rain. The crowd moshed hard and sang along loudly to The Hellfire Club, and Leather Wings. Next up was the moody All The Light We Don’t See, then the crowd sang along enthusiastically to Lily & The Moon, the audience circle moshed during Coven, and RawThornhill finished the set and the tour with Where We Go When We Die

Frontman, Jacob Charlton’s falsetto vocals are transcendent, taking you on an emotional journey with him, and his dance style and hip movements took me right back to the days where I was on the rail watching a young Michael Hutchence in INXS. The band were tight and played a good mix of songs from both albums. The Sydney audience showed their appreciation as Thornhill put on an impressive performance and definitely lived up to the hype.

All four bands put on a great show and left the crowd happily satisfied and a bit tired from all the moshing and singing. Holding Absence are currently continuing their Noble Art Of Self Destruction tour with Thornhill as their guest support band in Germany and the UK.

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[Review] Polaris @ Bar On The Hill, Newcastle 13/09/2023

Review By Raelee Atkinson

Most people generally aren’t fond of the mid-week gig, but when Sydney Metalcore band, Polaris announced a mammoth tour with three other ‘core bands from the USA and coinciding with the release of their new album, Fatalism, Novacastrians put aside the fact that it was a weeknight, and bought up their tickets quick smart! In no time, the concert was sold out. 

At the last minute, the gig was moved outside and a few extra tickets were released for the stragglers.

Finally, Newcastle’s turn to headbang and circle pit had arrived.

This mammoth metalcore extravaganza was held at Bar On The Hill, the University of Newcastle's student union bar. Upon arrival at 6pm I could hear that the first band had just begun their set. I made my way swiftly to the outdoor area to watch Currents, from Connecticut, USA, who played a cracking 25 minute set consisting of Living In Tragedy, Remember Me, The Death We Seek, Monsters, Better Days and ending their set with Into Despair. Currents’ melodic, riff heavy, djenty sound, while singer Brian Wille alternates between clean and harsh vocals was the perfect way to start the evening. Personally, I would have been a happy camper if these guys played for at least another half-a or so. 

After a quick stage changeover, the next band who walked on stage were Kublai Khan TX, hailing from Texas, hence the TX in their name. The band's main sound consists of heavy, slow breakdowns, heavily downtuned guitars and raspy, harsh vocals. It’s like treacle in your ears. Kublai Khan TX played a 25 minute sludge-fest of a set that included, The Hammer, Self-Desctruct, Boomslang, Resentment, Swan Song, Theory Of Mind and ended with the crowd favourite, Antpile. The crowd gave Kublai Khan TX respect by making dog noises and circle moshing themselves into a lather of sweat.

It was time for another efficient stage changeover and then the crowd welcomed Grammy nominated, Pennsylvanian metalcore minotaurs, August Burns Red, to the stage. 

August Burns Red’s signature sound is a combination of progressive and djent metal elements which include melodic guitar riffs, technical time signatures and heavy breakdowns. Unlike most other melodic metalcore singers, lead vocalist, Jake Luhrs generally does not mix clean vocals with his screams and growls. The other element that sets August Burns Red apart from other metalcore bands, is that most of their songs do not contain a chorus. ABR played a powerful 45 minute set that kept the crowd entertained with circle pits, headbanging, moshing, and even a spot of rowing, the crowd was warmed up and ready to give their all for the main band to follow. ABR’s set included bangers old and new such as The Truth Of A Liar, Meddler, Invisible Enemy, Backfire, Revival, Bloodletter, Paramount, Composure, Mariana’s Trench and rounded out the set with White Washed. Bro’s mate was frothing these guys, a long time fan, who growled along with Luhrs – it was impressive. I admit, I’ve struggled to connect with this band, listening on Spotify leading up to this gig, but live, OMG, live these guys shine. 

The final changeover progressed quickly, then the stage lights dimmed and the PA played an assortment of classic songs that had the crowd singing along loudly. At 8:45pm it was finally time for the beloved ARIA nominated Sydneysiders to take the stage. The crowd swelled and shuffled towards the front, Polaris appeared on the stage amid a thick fog with cheers and applause, opening with Harbinger followed by single, Nightmare. The audience was divided in half and as Hypermania played, and as the chorus hit, the crowd ran towards each other in a ‘wall of death’. After With Regards was performed, the mosh pit began rowing enthusiastically. During Lucid, All Of This Is Fleeting, Landmine and Overflow, there were several circle pits, some crowd surfing and a lot of energetic moshing. Girls were perched upon shoulders bobbing in the crowd as the audience sang and danced. Vocalist Jamie Hails, informed the audience that it was the largest headlining audience that Polaris had ever had in Newcastle and expressed his gratitude for making their recently released album, Fatalism, Number 1 on several ARIA charts. 

Midway through the set, Vocalist, Hails quieted the audience as he spoke of their recent loss of guitarist, Ryan Liew, and thanking the crowd for the outpouring of love, support, and messages, he talked about the importance of finding someone to talk to and how difficult it is for the family and friends who lose a loved one by suicide. He encouraged everyone to “be there” for each other. The crowd was quiet and respectful during this chat then the band played Martyr as the audience held up their mobile phones with the torch on, lighting up the area, making the courtyard look as if it were lit up for fairy lights as everyone sang along loudly. I could feel the outpouring of love and respect for this band by the audience. 

Then it was time for more circle pits, crowd surfing and moshing during  Parasites, Consume, Dissipate, Massochist and the set was rounded out with Fatalism single, Inhumane. The band left the stage briefly while the audience cheered and yelled for an encore. Polaris complied and returned to perform Pray For Rain and ended the evening with fireworks and The Remedy.

Post gig wrap up:

What an epic night! I’m still buzzing. Three killer bands from the United States and a much loved Aussie band for eighty bucks! That’s a freaking bargain! 

Each band gave their all, each giving a tight set, entertaining the audience, and taking time between songs to communicate a similar message, that the metal community is a family so have fun, do what you want, express yourself any way that you wish, but also that we need to be there for each other, to listen, to care, to share our grief and to pick each other up if we fall. I definitely felt that there was a sense of community amongst the crowd and during the memorial for Ryan there was a shared sadness as we all stood quietly listening to Jamie sharing his thoughts. I no longer hang in the mosh pit, choosing a safer spot at the side instead, but as an observer, the pits looked like so much fun (for youngsters whose joints don't creak and ache), people looked happy and I think the bands really enjoyed the enthusiastic vibe of the audience. 

Polaris put on an incredible performance. The band are energised, riding high on an almost sell out headlining tour, and the massive support for their current album, Fatalism, which is positioned at number one on several charts. I didn’t catch the name of the guitarist, but the dude can shred! It was a pleasure to listen to and watch him perform. The band sounded at least as good as their recordings and Jamie Hails was in fine voice! Expectations surpassed! 

The light show was well coordinated and included quite a bit of fog / smoke and fireworks at the end. For an outdoor gig, the sound was ok, we all know the best sound is back up next to the desk, so from our position on the right side and closer to the stage, the vocals were muddied in the mix, but what you lose in sound quality you gain in vibe and energy. And we got that in spades! From my observation as we exited the venue, everyone appeared to be highly impressed and thrilled with the evening's entertainment.

There are only a couple more dates left on this tour, so if you are Brisbane or Sydney, get your skates on and grab one of the final tickets available. I highly recommend fans of metalcore go and check out this tour – Details on the Destroy All Lines website.

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[Review] We Came As Romans @ Liberty Hall, Sydney 31/08/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

It was Thursday night but there was still a close to a capacity crowd at Liberty Hall in Moore Park, Sydney. Not bad for a “school night”. 

Liberty Hall has gone through several name changes and incarnations over the past decade, it's been quite some time since I ventured to this part of Sydney, so I am pleasantly surprised to find that there’s now a cool adjoining pub that has a nice selection of burgers and fries and has Newtowner on tap, so bro and I are set for a quick feed and a beer or two before the show  and after our long drive down to the “big smoke”. We enter the venue and everything has big, easy to see signage. Toilets, Bar and Merch. Bro and I head straight to the merch line and then find a good spot on the floor near the stage to watch the bands. It’s an all ages show tonight so the punters include mum, dad, the kids and everything in-between.

At 7.30pm there was a sense of excitement in the air as the first cab off the rank was local support band, Harroway, a metalcore quintet of Sydneysiders, who took the stage. 

Harroway warmed the crowd up with a handful of solid ‘core tracks, including current single, Parasite. Lead vocalist, Matt Banks did a great job of getting the audience involved and gee’d up for the next band on the evenings trio of metal. 

Next up were Texan metalcore heavyweights, Invent Animate

Invent Animate released a killer new album, Heavener, in March 2023 and finally made their first trip to Australia.

Everyone is finally inside the venue and energised for the show. You could feel that this audience came to participate, so after a quick stage change over, Invent Animate made their Sydney debut, opening with the in your face, Shade Astray then a blistering set of Heavener bangers followed with False Meridian, Labyrinthine, Absence Persistence, Elysium, then finally my favourite, Without A Whisper and rounded the set out with Immolation of Night. Every member of the band was wearing all-white outfits, even the lighting effects were lighter and brighter – it was refreshing visually. 

Lead vocalist, Marcus Vik interacted with the crowd between songs, and  encouraged, in fact, practically demanded jumping, moshing and crowd surfing. He asked if the audience had heard of Invent Animate, to which the audience responded with a resounding “yes” and enthusiastic applause. The crowd sang along loudly and circle-moshed. A handful of people crowd surfed, no need to ask this crowd twice, this is what they came for. The set ended sooner than we all wanted but the crowd remained excited as we awaited the main act, We Came As Romans

It’s been almost 8 years since we've seen Michigan-based metalcore/hardcore outfit, We Came As Romans. A lot has happened during that absence. Aside from the pandemic that shut down touring for 2 years, We Came As Romans suffered a great personal loss with the sudden death of much loved keyboardist, Kyle Pavone in 2018. Even after this great sadness, WCAR chose to push forward and in 2022 they released a total banger of an album with Darkbloom

At 9.15pm, the stage lights dimmed, Mr Brightside by The Killers played through the speakers while everyone sang along, then the lights came up as the band entered the stage to thunderous cheers and applause. We hadn't seen WCAR since 2015 so the audience was beyond thrilled to finally see them return to a Sydney stage. The set opened with the title track and single, Darkbloom and from the opening notes, the room was electric with anticipation. Vocalist David Stephens sang, “ I won’t pretend that I can see the end, the light may fade, but I won’t wither away, ohhhhh, I won’t wither away, ohhhhh, I won’t wither away…..” then the AI voice announces, “I am Darkbloom” … and with that the band and audience exploded into movement, jumping and dancing.  The crowd was headbanging and moshing, singing loudly, I looked to the left of me and there was a young boy with his mother. He was maybe 10 years old and he knew every word and sang loudly with such enthusiasm. It warmed my cold dead heart to see the younger generations loving metal music with such passion. At the end of the song, Stephens stopped to greet the audience and said, “it's so great to be in a country when I can say the word c*nt. If I did that in the States I’d be cancelled” the audience responded with cheers and the band started playing Doublespeak

Next they played Wasted Age. Several members of the band assisted Stephens as he divided the audience on the floor area in half before unleashing the “wall of death” as they play Cold Like War from the 2017 album of the same name. Then it was back to the Darkbloom album’s second track, Plagued. Stephens stoped to converse with the audience again, saying that the next song was Kyle's favourite and dedicated the song to him, the band played Tracing Back Roots, followed up with The Anchor, when David stopped to talk with the audience this time, the mosh pit gets down on the floor and rows together and as the band played Lost In The Moment, from Cold Like War, the moshpit became a juggernaut of circular, swirling movement. During Cold Like War’s Learning To Survive, Stephens jumped down from the stage into the crowd, who held him up as he sang, then surfed back up onto the stage.  At the end of the song, Stephens talked about how he wanted to do a “shoe-y”. The audience cheered him on and chanted “shoey shoey shoey”, Bassist, Andy Glass agreed to do it as well, and both band members proceeded to drink beer from Stephens’ sneaker. It’s gross, its an Aussie tradition and the audience loved it. Then it was time to play the Darkbloom song, Golden, at the end of the song, Stephens calls an audience member to join him up on the stage. He informed the room that this lady had supported the band from the start, had travelled all around Australia and even the world to attend their concerts, then a crew member brought out a broken guitar that the band had signed and Stephens presented it to her as a thank you gift. Everyone cheered and they played Hope from the 2013 album, Understanding What We’ve Grown To Be and finished the set off with another Darkbloom track, Daggers. The band thanked everyone and left the stage for a couple of minutes while the audience cheered loudly and yelled out for “one more song”. The chanting brought the band back and they returned to the stage and performed one final song from Darkbloom, Black Hole, then as they left the stage once again with thanks and waves, tossing out some guitar picks and handing out setlists to the hungry hands of fans up near the front of the stage. The lights came up as the house PA played the Thirty Seconds To Mars hit, The Kill. Phew! What a night!

Each band brought so much positive energy to the evening. The setlists were filled with bangers. They each entertained the crowd who were hyped for a great evening of moshing, headbanging, crowd surfing, and singing along loudly, all of which were done with respectful, animated enthusiasm. The atmosphere was electric for a much-loved band's long awaited return. The venue was clean and the staff were friendly and accommodating. I honestly can't find a negative thing to say about the concert. From go to whoa, my expectations were exceeded. If you haven’t checked out Invent Animate yet, then put that on your To-Do List. We Came As Romans were incredible, putting on a highly entertaining, energetic performance with a set list that included new and past faves. I couldn’t recommend this tour more highly.  For remaining dates and further details, check the Destroy All Lines webpage. 

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Filter – The Algorithm

“Everyone has an algorithm. An algorithm is a problem that needs to be solved.”  — Richard Patrick

It’s been seven long years since the last studio album by platinum-selling Post-grunge, Industrial / Alt Rock pioneers, Filter.

A lot has happened in those seven years and my first thought is, how relevant can a band from the nineties that has been on hiatus for seven years, be at this point in time. My second thought is, perhaps they just need the cash, like we all do. It's jaded of me to think this way, and I'll be the first to admit that I was happily surprised and delighted by this album. It feels and sounds relevant and is obviously written by an artist who loves being creative for a living. As the saying goes, ‘do what you love and love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life’. Richard Patrick surely has taken this concept and run with it.  

Filter is primarily the project of American singer, songwriter, musician, producer, Richard Patrick. Formed in 1993 in Cleveland, Ohio, with guitarist / programmer Brian Liesegang after Patrick decided to leave his role as touring guitarist for Nine Inch Nails. Their debut and sophomore albums both  achieved platinum status. Current touring members include Jonathan Radtke, Bobby Miller and Elias Mallin.

The Algorithm is the eighth studio album for Filter.

Patrick stated recently in an interview that The Algorithm is essentially a concept album.  The premise being, that an astronaut comes back to earth to find it is almost completely destroyed, there are only a few people left living on the planet.  The Algorithm is the story of the astronaut trying to find out why this has happened. Song themes include addiction, war, misinformation and climate change. 

The Algorithm starts with a moody yet chaotic track titled The Drowning, with rumbling bass and metallic guitars it is a heavy introduction to the album and is a part of a triptych that plays alongside Up Against The Wall and first single from 2022, For The Beaten, whose heavy riff is almost jarring but is saved by an anthemic style melody and swelling chorus. This trio of songs carries all the angst that fans of singer/songwriter Richard Patrick and Filter, love and have come to expect. The angst meter is dialed up to 11 and I’m feeling the apocalyptic gloominess engulf me. 

Next up is Obliteration, a song about alcoholism. Patrick is quite open about how he realised that he needed to deal with his own alcohol addiction, saying it was his “algorithm” to solve. Celebrating 20 years of sobriety next month, Patrick sees this as his greatest achievement. In Obliteration, he expresses the chaos of addiction with heavy riffs, power chords and a soaring chorus. It’s only three and a half minutes long but I'm feeling emotionally exhausted.

Facedown starts with an electronica style groove and showcases Patrick’s falsetto. The chorus hits with chugging, crunchy guitars. There’s a lightness that juxtaposes the message of misinformation. Patrick says he wrote this “after being inundated with lies, deception and pure vitriol every day”

The next track is Threshing Floor. It has that industrial rock sound that is  synonymous with artists like Marilyn Manson, in fact, I can easily imagine MM performing this track. 

Be Careful What You Wish For is where I can clearly hear the Nine Inch Nails / Trent Reznor influence the strongest. There’s a groove to this track that makes me want to dance. As I’m shaking my tush, the repetitive mantra “be careful what you wish for” feels almost hypnotic by the end of the song.

Burn Out The Sun is a soft melodic guitar-driven track that meanders along gently, giving the listener a reprieve from the heavy moodiness of the previous tracks. Did we just time travel to the 1970s? Maybe, but we quickly return and the album is rounded off with the acoustic sounding, but lyrically bold, Command Z. It’s raw and in your face, but I feel more heard in these lyrics than I have in a very long time. 

“Sometimes the shit just piles up, I wash my hands and then what, Played by the rules and got fucked, Cross my heart swear to god but something died”….. “I gotta find my life on backup, Command Z undo my fuckups, Outside world is theirs and blown up, Fade to black, Open wide, movie screen live love and die”. 

This poetry is real life and I daresay we’ve all felt that way at some point over these past few years. 

Richard Patrick has spent three decades pushing musical and lyrical boundaries. A pioneer who has been applauded and awarded for giving a generation a soundtrack to their lives. At 55 he is still relevant and has plenty of relatable stories to share with us. As a peer, I was vaguely aware of Filter, back in the day, but to be honest, I was more a NIN / Reznor fan during Filter’s heyday but this album has me delving through the Filter back catalogue and wishing I had caught the train at the time. Better late than never, I guess. 

As a whole, the album feels fresh and interesting and I put this down to the fact that Patrick has co-written the songs with several different people, all of whom have injected something different into this sonic landscape.

The Algorithm at first appears to be gloomy, bleak and depressing. It feels dystopian and almost claustrophobic in its heaviness at times, giving me the distinct impression that Patrick struggles to communicate any other way than through his music, with layer upon layer upon layer of angst, but after further listens, I realise it is more a search for understanding and positivity in a rapidly changing world and society divided. 

If you’re a fan of Nineties-Naughties Industrial Rock and Metal such as NIN, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Stabbing Westward, Blue Stahli, and Static X you might just like to add this to your playlist. 

The Algorithm was released on August 25th and is available on all streaming services and through Australian label, Golden Robot Records. 

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[Review] Evanescence @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney 26/08/2023

Review By Raelee Atkinson

After a long wait outside Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park, the crowd finally made their way to their seats as the support band entered the stage. Melbourne all-female band, The Beautiful Monument put on an energetic and entertaining  performance, which included their popular tracks, Give Up, Stay, Deceiver and Hellbound. The Beautiful Monument warmed up the winter-chilled audience and are clearly fans of and inspired by the main event – Evanescence.

After a short break to reset the stage, it’s 9pm, and the arena lights dim and Rage Against The Machine classic Killing in the Name played followed by The Bitter Truth opening track, Artifact / The Turn the stage lights came up and Evanescence took the stage to the excited roar of the crowd. Opening with Broken Pieces Shine, flowing into What You Want, then the opening track from Fallen, Going Under, and The Bitter Truth’s, Take Cover are played before the first medley for the evening. Lose Control / Part Of Me / and self-titled’s Never Go Back amalgamate into one song. Then it was time for The Open Door hit single (and my personal fave), Call Me When You’re Sober. 

Amy Lee chatted to the audience between songs and introduced their “new” bass guitarist, from Sick Puppies, Australian, Emma Anzai saying this felt like a “hometown tour” with an Aussie now in the band. The crowd cheered loudly then they played The Bitter Truth single, Wasted On You with Emma singing background vocals, blending beautifully with Amy. 

A grand piano was then wheeled onto the stage and Amy Lee sat and began to  play Lithium, from The Open Door. The audience sang along loudly to this fan favourite. They followed with Far From Heaven, Better Without You both from The Bitter Truth, then as the band played Fallen’s Imaginary a video montage played on two large screens, commemorating 20 years of debut album, Fallen. Lee’s voice soared as she sang End Of The Dream from the self-titled album, then it was time for another medley – Haunted / My Last Breath / Cloud Nine / Everybody’s Fool / Weight Of The World /  and rounded out with Whisper

Lee stopped to introduce the next song telling the audience that no one can speak for us only we can speak for ourselves, and that we aren’t just one small voice, that we are stronger together, the speech received a rousing applause and segwayed into Use My Voice, and Blind Belief from The Bitter Truth. The grand piano is wheeled back onto the stage and as Lee played the opening notes from My Immortal, the audience, cheered, sighed, applauded loudly, and sang along, lighting the torches on their mobile phones. It was an incredible sight to see the large arena filled with what looked like thousands of fairy lights as Amy’s lush voice filled the auditorium. 

Saving the best till last, it was finally time to hear the song that started it all for Amy Lee and Evanescence, Bring Me To Life. As Lee begins singing the haunting, opening notes,

“How can you see into my eyes like open doors? 

Leading you down into my core where I’ve become so numb…”

I could feel the excitement and anticipation from the audience.  It’s the one song we’ve all came to hear. Love it or loathe it, it’s just not an Evanescence concert without it! Everyone came here to sing along to this classic song and when the chorus hits, I could hear people around me singing the male vocal part, originally performed by 12 Stones vocalist / rapper, Paul McCoy. 

During the song, Lee encourages everyone to join in as this is “(y)our last opportunity to be part of it this evening”. By the bridge, the audience are practically shouting and many have stood up from their seats and are dancing.

It finally feels like a celebration of a milestone as a “cannon” shoots out purple and mauve streamers overhead. As the streamers fall, the song finishes and the band come to the front of the stage to toss picks, a guitar pick guard and a drum head into the GA (General Admission) audience in front of the stage. They pose for the obligatory end of show band pic and the band left the stage with waves goodbye, and the house lights came up. I turned to my brother and said “what? no encore?” This seems to be a trend we are seeing, though. 

So, in summary, I loved the Evanescence concert. It was a long 20 years of waiting to finally see this much loved band perform some of my favourite songs live, but so worth the wait. Sharing the experience with my brother was the icing on the already delicious cake. The band were tight and professional, entertaining the audience without overly drawing attention away from Amy Lee. The sound was a bit muddy at times, but I’m thinking that is the venue, not the band. Cameras filming the show and projecting onto 2 large screens either side of the stage meant that whether you were front row on the rail or back row in the nose bleeds, you had some kind of view of the band and as a shorty, that gets bonus points from me! I loved seeing Emma Anzai play – one of my highlights. Amy Lee is beautiful and charming, she chats with the audience, is gracious and expressed her gratitude for the 20 years of “love and support” for her music career. Her vocals are stunningly on point and it’s my opinion that she has improved with age as a vocalist and a performer. First album, Fallen is a gothic, emotional album and latest album, The Bitter Truth has a more current, political vibe to it, so it is no surprise that the audience was a veritable melting pot that varied in age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economically. It was heartwarming to see mum, dad and the kids all enjoying the concert together.  I highly recommend that if you enjoy Evanescence’s music and don’t already have a ticket for the remaining dates on this tour, that you do so forthwith – it’s totally worth it! 

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