The rise of Australian heavy music over the last decade or so has been nothing short of astounding.
The “Parkway Drive effect” has been firmly in motion since 2005, and has opened the floodgates for the likes of Thy Art Is Murder, The Amity Affliction, Hellions, Vices and countless more Australian acts to make their mark on the international scene.
Northlane and In Hearts Wake are two graduates of this wave, with both bands racking up respective chart-topping albums and sold out tours across the globe, and that’s just in the past twelve months.
The chance to see both bands go head to head on the one stage was enough to make any 18-year-old salivate all over their newest tie-dye, let alone light the fires of anticipation in old farts like myself (okay, 21,) so it came as no surprise that the Big Top show sold out before doors.
Ocean Grove opened proceedings. Although the band may still be stepping out of youth centres and onto the bigger stages, they were clearly not daunted in the slightest. UNFD‘s newest poster boys absolutely tore through their Black Label EP, before dropping their nu-metal throwback single Lights On Kind Of Lover to the sheer delight of the sizeable throng already amassed. Capped off with circle pits, crowd surfing and a bassist in green overalls with spray painted hair to match, Ocean Grove set a new standard for the complicated role of opening band.
Hands Like Houses were the ‘softer’ band on the bill with a stand-alone clean vocalist, but this in no way deterred the crowd from losing it when the opening stands of I Am rang through the PA. The past year has seen a dramatic shift in this band, with a slot on the Warped Tour and then a national juggernaut with The Amity Affliction seeing the band step up both on record and in concert. The sheer amount of energy coming from the stage sent the crowd wild, with vocalist Trenton Tyrell cutting above the wall of noise like a knife.
With the frenzy of the opening two acts out of the way, it was time for the main event. Having dropped a surprise EP earlier in the year, as well as the evening being billed as a “double headliner”, I was curious as to how the format to the evening was going to play out. As the lights dimmed, I noticed that not one, but two drum kits flanked either side of the stage and a range of guitars waited in the wings.
In Hearts Wake took to the stage first, strolling casually out to greet the crowd with a crushing rendition of Earthwalker. The Byron lads tore through their back catalogue, opting to zero in on the Earthwalker album, the counterpart to last year’s Skydancer, featuring a slower, heavier sound. Vocalist Jake Taylor led from the front, issuing a ferocious roar that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. However, execution in the live arena has never been a strong point for live metal, and clean vocalist Kyle Erich failed to meet the standard of vocals heard on the records. Rather than soaring above the chaos below, Erich seemed strained, with only Wildflower standing out of the bands opening set as a highlight for melodic singing.
It took just half an hour for In Hearts Wake to work the crowd to fever pitch. So when the band departed, only to be immediately replaced by Northlane playing their breakthrough hit Dispossession, the mosh turned from brutal to downright dangerous. Northlane as a live unit are simply stellar. Tearing through cuts from 2015’s Node, vocalist Marcus Bridge showed outstanding diversity with his ability to switch from piercing shrieks to throat splitting wails in a heartbeat. This was seen most clearly on Leech, with Bridge exploring the absolute extremes of human vocal ability before allowing the band to drop into, what is in my humble opinion, the downright most disgusting breakdown of Australian heavy music.
IHW returned to the stage immediately after Northlane’s opening 30 minutes, focusing on the more uplifting sounds of Skydancer for their second set. Given the sheer length of the event, I was beginning to suspect the audience was running out of energy, but I was wrong. Cue Badlands, a dynamic, stadium sized slab of metalcore.
Departing with the epic Breakaway, the band traded places with Northlane once again, who gifted the crowd with the one-two of Genesis and Scarab before working their way through some more mellow cuts, bringing it all to a close with the furious pace of Masquerade, sparking a wall to wall circle pit.
After more than two hours, both bands united for one last hurrah, performing the newly released Equinox EP in full. IHW took to the stage for a third time, dropping the wildly popular Refuge with Bridge on vocals, before Taylor returned the favour on Hologram, with glitter cannons and a four-man guitar cameo seeing out an exhausting evening.
Four years ago, both of these bands were struggling to pack out their local youth centres. To witness an all Aussie metal lineup transfix 2000 people in such a way was truly a privilege to be a part of. Every punter walked out of The Equinox Tour with a sense that they had witnessed a truly landmark event for the Australian heavy community. The sky is truly the limit for Australian heavy produce, and it’s no surprise that the rest of the world is rapidly catching on.
Image: Music Feeds