The first time I saw Hellions live was in Ballarat (of all fucking places) at the Mechanics Institute in support of In Hearts Wake back in early 2014. I had little knowledge of who they were apart from the fact they were born out of the ashes of The Bride and sounded infinitely better than that outfit ever did. But upon seeing them live, in full blistering passion and energy, I was blown away. Ever since then, I’ve followed Hellions exploits as they’ve released two albums I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with and toured countless times across the country. With each tour, I have missed out on them all. Every. Single. Fucking. Time.
It’s somewhat of an achievement, really. But alas, on Saturday, July 30th of 2016, let it be known that I, Matty Sievers, found myself poised and eager to reignite the spark in our otherwise dormant relationship as I finally saw Hellions live once again.
Descending upon Melbourne venue, Arrow on Swanson, all by my lonesome, I was eager for a night/afternoon of local talents that would eventually build up to the night’s main event – Hellions. This show’s lineup had pretty much been picked and sorted through the Facebook event itself by the punters. Some may call that unprofessional, but I’m all for it if it means that the people get the bands they want. Though in saying that, I didn’t seem to have the huge pulsating erection for the lineup as did most other attendees.
Local heavy-act, Thornhill lose their gig virginity with this being their first ever live show. But it really did not show! Had there been no mention of this being their live debut on the event page or by the band themselves, you’d be hard done to pick it out. See, the quintet smashed out a killer first set, playing with confidence and the poise of a well-seasoned act. Their vocalist encouraged the crowd to participate often, though being the opening act, that was easier said that done as punters were still warming up and not quite ready to throw themselves into one other without zero care just yet.
There’s definitely a variety to Thornhill’s music, with sections transitioning from pure metalcore and almost, dare I say it, djent like influences, right over to nu-metal centered riffs that occasionally found themselves within a melodic framework. Though the band excels at the slower, more melodic tinged work, their heavier material fell just a little flat for my taste but not for lack of trying. I’m definitely keen to check these guys out in the coming weeks when their debut EP drops!
Up next were Dregg. And man, were they a bunch of weirdos! Jumping on stage in face paint and makeup, a la cheap circus clown and Dr. Frank N. Furter, the band launched into their set of chaotic, nu-metal tinged hardcore in frantic form. Bashing their instruments with aggression and force as they slammed about on stage, Dregg were one noisy and energetic bunch. Christopher Mackertich was a damn solid vocalist and front man as he pranced back and forth, punching the mic into eager fans’ faces to scream words of disenfranchisement and political unrest. Though in saying that, I have one issue with Dregg.
The small speeches throughout the set alluding the songs to the generation gap, media BS and politics were all well and truly meant with good intent, but I stood there and thought to myself, “What was the fucking point?” Maybe I’m just getting too old for shit, but while these were great songs with great messages, I can’t help but think that there’s a lot of preaching to the choir going on here. Seriously, who in that room of mostly under 25-year-olds wouldn’t think that inequality is a serious issue nowadays? I get why the band was saying it and why they are preaching that message – they care about these topics. Though call me cynical, but is saying this to a host of young people all in agreement with you before repeating that message in song format really the best form of protest you can muster up? Apart from an eye roll from myself here and there, Dregg is without a doubt a band that’s going places with their great live show and enigmatic presence. I just hope that along the way they’ll find a stronger delivery for their beliefs.
I’m probably committing some form of blasphemy in saying this but Harbours really do not do it for me. They’re a band who are talked about throughout the scene with extreme admiration and while I get it, I don’t really get it. Sure, they knocked out a solid set of decent alternative/pop-punk tracks, but that’s all it ever was – decent. There wasn’t really anything to them that made me say “Whoah” or even “I’m really keen to see these guys next time around“. The energy and presence between the band and crowd were commendable but they didn’t have the quirkiness and eccentricity of Dregg or the youthfulness of Thornhill to keep me all that engaged. It feels like I’m going to have pitchforks shaken at me at the next local gig I attend but I owe it enough to Harbours to tell them that I felt nothing when the band ended their set. That’s not to say they turned me into some form of nihilist but I wasn’t moved in the way that the band probably intended their audience to be.
Next up on the bill was another heavily jocked local band, Void of Vision. The metalcore five-piece were however plagued by a few technical difficulties that resulted in a shorter set than intended. Which really sucks. Because this is one of the few times I’ve seen the band play where I was really getting into it. I’ve always been indifferent to these guys in the past. They’ve always been a cool band to see yet they’ve never been an act I’ve gone out of my way to catch. I find them relatively derivative of other bands in this edgy metalcore genre and scene but for whatever reason, they had a very different air to them this time round.
They played extremely tight and with a degree of finesse above previous performances that instantly stood out to me. I’m pinning it down to the band feeling much more cohesive with one another as musicians and members nowadays. The songs had a great life and vibrancy to them and I was sincerely impressed with their set closer of ‘Sun//Rise‘. It’s the one song by them I’ve genuinely loved since it came out and to see it close off this above tier set by them was a damn good clincher.
With that being said, here is the moment I was waiting for. This was the reason why I came to this gig in the first place.
For the uninitiated, Hellions recently dropped their magnum opus, ‘Opera Oblivia‘. It shows a local hardcore band breaking free of any restraints set by the genre and creating a stunningly poignant and powerful piece of art. And oh man, oh man, was I eager to see these songs translated into the live setting.
Opening up with ‘Ghoul‘, Hellions charged through a blisteringly impressive set full of intensive hardcore spot fires and singalong anthems, and sometimes, a culmination of the two. ‘Creasy‘ goes down a motherfucking treat live as the crowd screamed it louder than the band, with everyone packing together like sardines to get as close to singer Dre Faivre as possible and have a chance at that glorious mic grab.
Having missed them the last few times they’ve toured, I got to live out a long time dream of mine of screaming my lungs out to ‘Nottingham‘, the beautiful and passionate epic from the band’s previous outing, ‘Indian Summer‘.
But what’s even more impressive and powerful is the delivery and subsequent response of the newer tracks. Hellions wasted no energy when they launched into ‘Nightliner Rhapsody‘ and ‘He Without Sin‘, each song generating a singalong and crush of fans who already knew the words to these brand new songs. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that ‘Thresher‘ didn’t take the cake for the set. It was absolutely monolithic with the crowd singing along to the motherfucking opening chord progression and then the intro lyrics themselves, at an even louder level.
I’ve been itching to scream that chorus since the day that song dropped and I felt like I was born again once it faded out.
Initial set closer, ‘Quality of Life‘, was as marvelous and as rowdy as you’d expect it to be. The whole crowd screaming “Validation, valediction, what’s the difference now?” was loud enough to rival gigs three-fold this venue’s size. It was a moment of true solidarity between the punters and band as we all somehow found ourselves upon the stage, face to face with the band members. Hellions left the stage momentarily but fans simply couldn’t get enough of the H-boyz, chanting their name over and over till they came back on stage. While I’m more than aware this was a planned encore, it was still a beautiful sight to see a room full of people scream the name of a band that only a few years ago was playing to deaf ears.
Spirits were lifted and jubilated when they returned to smash out their absolute barn burning self-titled track – ‘Hellions‘ – for our viewing and listening pleasure. This one got super messy and somewhat violent as the crowd forced themselves back on stage for the second time, surrounding Faivre as the song came to a close, leaving the band grinning from ear to ear like school boys seeing boobs for the first time. Only now they were seeing dozens of people openly loving their art, the very art they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. And that’s got to be one of the best feelings in this ugly, fucked up world of ours.
Also, massive thank you to Lord Media (aka Liam Davidson) for allowing us to use his sensational photos to spice up this review. Be sure to check out his work at his Facebook page and throw him a like to keep up to date with his concert photography shenanigans. The full album can be viewed below.