Back to back sets of sheer passion, aggression & energy characterised the recent Hellions victory lap of Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory, all with some help from Rumours and Endless Heights.
It’s been a strange experience witnessing the transition of the Sydney hardcore scene from the youth centres and skate parks of the 2000’s to the commercial venues of this current decade. In this particular instance, the Oxford Art Factory might only be of 450 capacity but is usually associated with hosting the likes of Amy Shark, Middle Kids and Remi (Triple J staple artists for those playing along at home).
However, while the rise of our home-grown heavy acts has been surprising but terrific to witness, it’s also given way to immense excitement and opportunity for the local alternative music community to step up to the plate. Which is exactly what this Sydney triple-bill of Rumours, Endless Heights and Hellions did this past Saturday night.
Support opportunities don’t come much better than a sold-out room full of a whose-who of Australian punk/hardcore, and Sydney quartet Rumours grabbed this chance right by the very throat. Gliding through a half-hour opening set of mellow punk rock tunes, the group looked relaxed and comfortable as they previewed both new and old material to a respectable early throng of punters.
These boys will actually be heading out on tour with Trophy Eyes come August, and as this set clearly proved, they more than deserve their chance to showcase their sound to the rest of our fine country!
Sydney natives Endless Heights have been one of my favourite Aussie act for the better part of four years now.
Ever since the band dropped their stunning debut LP, ‘In Bloom’, the evolution of this group from blistering, anthemic post-hardcore to a darker, more thoughtful and melodic alternative-rock beast has been simply thrilling. And here, they showed that the diversity of their ever-evolving sound can work wonders live too; bringing the perfect mix of new and old cuts to truly flesh out their set.
Beginning with my personal favourite, ‘Mosaic’, the quintet, supported by one tight fill-in drummer tore through 40 minutes of their highly energetic music; only applying the brakes for the shoegaze-y masterpiece ‘Teach You How To Leave‘. Further making this set a particularly memorable one, upon announcing that they (finally) have a new album in the works, the band previewed a brand new tune titled ‘You Coward’; showcasing what I find to be their grandest mix of heaviness and melodic sensitivity to date.
Everything is really looking up for these lads right now, and it was fantastic to see them showcasing their work to a packed out room before they hopefully explode into bigger venues and greater heights.
Now, look, I’ve never really been sold on the idea of 90 minutes of balls-to-the-wall sets. After enduring the two-hour assault of last year’s In Hearts Wake/Northlane dual tour, the prospect of seeing Hellions perform BOTH ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Opera Oblivia’ back-to-back in a room that had no barrier nor any insulation seemed exhausting.
Yet as the lights dimmed and as the drawn stage curtains theatrically opened, I made my way to the back of the venue to avoid what surely was about to become one of the most chaotic scenes of moshing and stage-diving the OAF had ever seen. From the opening chords of the’s band punchy self-titled track (which also doubles as the ‘Indian Summer’ opener), I knew that I had made the right choice. Also, for the sake of keeping my thoughts of the next 90 minutes concise I, like the band’s set, will split this final part of the review into two parts.
Act #1 – ‘Indian Summer’
The older, angrier, and more aggressive sibling of Hellions two key albums strikes like a stealth bomber when performed straight through. Lurching from the crushing grooves of the aforementioned ‘Hellions’ track to the anthemic, anguished singalong’s of ‘Nottingham’, ‘Indian Summer’ is a record in which every single bit of musical influence is jammed into 45 minutes of aggressive energy.
Yet I was left somewhat disappointed to see Hellions revert to a backing track for the percussive, world-music portrait of ‘ii) Technicolour Yawn’, as I felt that now was the time to take risks with presenting the “less-accessible” passages of their music in a packed-out live setting.
However, this slight annoyance soon evaporated completely when the emotionally charged hit of ‘Ghoul’ reared its head. A song well-known to be about guitarist Matthew Gravolin’s own struggles with his father’s alcoholism, things reached a cathartic climax with the pre-breakdown cry of “Who’s the real coward here?”, interrupted by Gravolin’s plea for the crowd to “tell me who the fuck I am!” The entire song felt like a brutal exercising of one’s own personal demons from start to finish, and the fury with which it was performed was something truly powerful to watch. Only adding more proof as to why Hellions are becoming one of our nation’s best live exports.
The final 20 minutes of this first act/set passed in a blur of circle pits, crowd singalongs and even rogue appearances from the members of our “favourite” band, In Hearts Wake [cheeky – Ed.] to accompany the vocals on the album’s title track. After this first 45-minute set was all done and dusted, the band relented the stage for a merciful ten or so minutes to allow a horde of sweaty, adrenaline-charged millennials to snatch a few mouthfuls of fresh air and water before returning for round #2.
Act #2 – ‘Opera Oblivia’
Whereas ‘Indian Summer’ is the moodier, heavier, more aggressive child of the family, 2016’s excellent ‘Opera Oblivia’ is the more varied, philosophical, mature and charming sibling that you can’t ever say a bad word about. With the record in full swing, and as one cohesive whole, the Oxford joyfully roared the resilient hook of ‘Thresher‘ with the resounding line of, “fuck you for not being strong enough, for letting me bare the weight of both of us.”
The album that Triple J so happily and suddenly picked up and brought to a far wider audience was well and truly brought to life as 450 enthusiastic onlookers joined in on the musical theatre-esque ‘Lotus Eater’; working themselves into a sheer frenzy to ‘Nightliner Rhapsody’, and journeyed with the band throughout the first-ever live rendition of the dynamic ‘Nuestra Culpa’.
After the aggression of the night’s previous record, this well-rounded trip through ‘Opera Oblivia’ felt like a reflective, victorious lap down memory lane, with the soaring choruses that sprinkle the LP perfectly timed and keeping the crowd hanging off of every riff and hook.
There could only be one end to this evening’s steamy, sweaty set, and that came in the form of ‘Quality of Life’; being omitted from its original earlier place in this album’s track listing. This is arguably the definitive song for the Hellions. The back and forth between Dre Faivre’s fast vocal phrases and the band’s unified voices in the chorus was the perfect way to conclude the night, with stage hands even setting off confetti and party poppers over the leaving masses of happy fans, ending this party and album cycle in true style. In a show that was both effortless and enjoyable, Hellions proved that they are worth our time – all 90 minutes and two albums of it.
The incredible thing about this Hellions performance was the fact that it was an utter joy to watch for the entire duration. There was no sense of grasping for straws to keep the show interesting, no awkward pleasantries, no forced sections of stripped back jams to bring variety; just a non-stop barrage of furious heavy music. The added sonic flavours the band have added to their sound over time, aside from making them one of Australia’s more unique live acts, allows Hellions to craft some of the most dynamic sets you’re likely to see and hear; making 90 minutes in a small, sweaty den feel like a truly blissful blip on the weekend radar.
All photo credit: our new pal, Mitch Strangman. Please find more of his work here!