This was my first pub gig since Covid struck and I was ridiculously excited as I descended the stairs to 170 Russell (or Billboards as it will always be to me and those of my era). As I was arriving just as the first band on the bill, Banks Arcade was starting their set, I expected a thin crowd as you often see for the first band up on a bill of 4. So seeing the place heaving already was a very pleasant surprise and it also meant I had to elbow my way into my favourite spot at this venue. Either Banks Arcade has a lot of mates, or everyone was as keen as me for a dose of live music and made sure to catch all the supports.
Banks Arcade is difficult to pigeonhole (if you like your music in neat little boxes). Their 5 song set gave us everything from the dark, heavy electronica of Don’t Start, the Hip Hop/hardcore hybrid of Used, to the very poppy Sick (that had a very liberal nod to Amity Affliction’s pop/metalcore mix IMO). Describing something as “Poppy” is an insult in my book, but I actually really like this track with its’ many parts, tempo, and mood changes. These Kiwi transplants to Melbourne are definitely one to catch again.
I’m afraid I do not understand the appeal of full-on metalcore vocals so I could tell straight away, that I was going to have a bit of a hard time with Gravemind. But amongst the demonic vocals, was a bass that rattled the mirrors and made its’ way around the room via the floorboards and some very impressive lead breaks. Soundgarden they are not, but entertaining, musically proficient, and well appreciated by the crowd they were, even obliging with a circle pit on Billboards diminutive dance floor.
Dayseeker had made the trip out from LA to support Thornhill on this tour and this was definitely appreciated by the enthusiastic crowd. Henceforth, their style of music shall be called ”Popcore” as this was definitely Hansen meets Sepultura. There must be a “Metalcore 101” course out there somewhere as despite the obvious difference in style, the similarities in guitar and bass with Gravemind were unmistakable at times. But unlike Gravemind, Dayseeker has one foot firmly in the Pop genre, making it a bit more palatable to this old bag. I was reminded of Bullet for My Valentine with the liberal use of a double kick drum and metal guitar in The Colour Black and Crooked Soul and this is definitely to be encouraged. The more I’ve listened to Dayseeker since Friday, the more I like ‘em. You are welcome back in my city anytime.
I love atmospheric Aussie Pub Rock! Stick me in a room with Karnivool, Cog, or Sleepmakeswaves and I’m a happy bunny, so I was very excited when I started checking out Thornhill prior to Friday night’s gig and felt the goosebumps breaking out all over. But listening to a band on Spotify cannot always prepare you for the live experience and the experience of seeing Thornhill for the first time for me was one of having my tiny mind blown. It is many years since I have seen a front man like Jacob Charlton. His vocals are perfectly suited to Thornhill’s brand of heavy atmospheric rock and he slipped seamlessly into an impressive falsetto on a number of tracks. Resplendent in white singlet and a lovely pair of red driving gloves, often taking a backseat singing from the drum riser and letting bassist Nick Sjogren take the centre, he nevertheless OWNED it. At times channeling Michael Hutchence with “stripper hips” moves and other times, Freddy Mercury stalking the stage with half a mike stand, this guy was mesmerizing.
Right, enough gushing. Musically, Thornhill reminds me very much of a heavier Karnivool only more tightly crafted with less of Karnivool’s weird mucking around with the tempo in a song. And despite my aforementioned dislike devil summoning, vocal cord destroying screamo vocals, the occasional use of them is acceptable in my opinion and can add a heavy edge (I luuurve me a bit of Bullet for My Valentine and they are masters at this) and I was not perturbed by their use in songs like Views from the Sun. There was plenty of light and shade in this set with tracks like the near instrumental All the Light We Don’t See (the vocals don’t start until 1:10 on the album version) and Lily and the Moon sitting in contrast to the heavier tracks like Arkangel and Coven.
Thornhill looks to have a busy time coming up as they have a dozen US shows supporting Erra immediately followed by a week of headline shows. AND, they are supporting the wonderful Butterfly Effect on their Australian tour in October. Jacob said at one point that 170 Russell was a venue they had always dreamed of playing. I say, dream higher, as you guys are going places and I hope you don’t mind if I come along for the ride.