Justice For The Damned are in a league of their own.
If you need any proof that hardcore music in this country is alive and kicking some serious ass, all you need to do is look at a band like Justice For The Damned. The Sydney five-piece dropped their awesome debut album ‘Dragged Through The Dirt’ through Greyscale Records not too long ago to very positive reviews and even managed to end up with strong first week sales putting them at an impressive #37 on the ARIA charts. To be frank, watching their rise over the last couple of years has been nothing short of spectacular; from their opening slots at local shows to embarking on their first ever headline tour recently, to now heading over to Europe to tour with Thy Art Is Murder, Oceano and After The Burial. Which is fucking massive! (Something that their pals in Cursed Earth will also be doing with Make Them Suffer and Novelists very soon). Speaking of that recent national headline tour, I ventured down to Footscray’s Phoenix Youth Centre last week weekend – a site of many of my formative experiences in heavy music – to witness what these NSW heavy-hitters do best, and to also see further proof as to why we have a great heavy music epicentre brewing right here within our borders.
The show’s opener was Melbourne’s own Cast Down, a sample-heavy, HM-2 soaked hardcore band that definitely turned heads and got a great reaction from quite a few of the people that actually turned out early. After these locals came Honest Crooks, with their heavy elements of slam and beatdown incorporated with some huge breakdowns. It’s been a while since I’ve a deathcore band has actually stood out to me – probably not since the likes of I, Valiance (I pray every day for new music to come from them) – but Honest Crooks definitely have an ‘it’ factor to them. Their solid set seemingly flew right by, but the crowd reaction was justifiably huge as new material from their upcoming EP, ‘Suffer’.
Another band who had made the journey down from New South Wales was Staunch, marking what could have been the final time they played in Melbourne. However, there wasn’t really an aura of sentimentality. Instead, those in attendance showed appreciation for this fantastic band and, for the most part, the songs off their killer, riffing EP, ‘Impulse To Destroy’. One of the biggest pits of the day was reserved for the band’s closer, ‘Hurt To Learn’; another dependable showing from a great local band that we may sadly never see live again. Adelaide’s Hindsight, the least heaviest band of the day, were by no means they not suited for this bill. The room was less active compared to the other bands, yet their passionate fans were out in force. Honestly, I’m not that well versed with the material of this band, but I distinctly remember they’re stellar showing at last year’s Invasion Fest and they did it all over again at this show; raging energy and pure emotion dripping from every song like the sweat on the body of frontman Jack Nelligan.
These four bands do show what our country can do in terms of heavy music output, but the true crown bearers are a band like Justice For The Damned. For those uninitiated, a Justice set is nothing but scathing brutality and heavy mosh with little reprieve; one that’s as good live as it was (and is) on record. And JFTD wasted absolutely zero time with this performance, getting the crowd moving from the get-go; something their music allows for so effortlessly. Beginning with the fast-paced title track off their previously mentioned mammoth debut and launching into what I’ve had previously described to me as being the “riff of the year” (see: right when the fast intro ends and when the verse begins), this set was immense.
Now, I’ve long since described myself as being a mosh retiree and refrain from actually doing things at shows outside of simply standing on the fringe of the pit; avoiding flinging limbs, but there are songs of theirs that’ll make me put down my proverbial walking stick and get involved. A beast of a tune like ‘Deep Rotting Fear’ is absolutely one of those tracks! Other tracks from the album such as the cutthroat ‘No Flowers On Your Grave’ went down a real treat, and their debut’s swansong, ‘Bearing The Crown Of Lies’, was an absolute hardcore storm live. The closing song of their territorial dominance was, of course, the blackened and blistering ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’. Unsurprisingly, the ending of this song basically turned the small and cramped Phoenix Youth Centre into a war zone; where flailing bodies and swinging limbs were akin to stray bullets zipping past you. I’d know this first hand, as I’m still nursing a very sore neck from a flying forearm that caught me. My physical pain aside, this terrific set was proof enough that Justice are only going to get even bigger, even better, and even more loved. And they deserve it.
The future of Australian hardcore is here, and it looks and sounds fuckin’ incredible.