Live Review: Miss May I & Sylar – 24/11/2017 – Max Watts, Melbourne


I want to start this review out by talking about different types of heavy music fans, in particular, those who listen to metalcore/hardcore/whatever sub-genre of the two you can think of. On the one side, you have the fans that attend bigger shows with international headliners, who usually buy their ticket well in advance, only attend shows at the larger, licensed venues, and who get annoyed when you accidentally bump into them on the floor or in pit and cause them to spill their well-overpriced beer. On the other hand, you have the fans that attend a higher quantity of local shows within their own scenes, actively listen to and see Aussie bands, and are seemingly more excited for bills made up solely of these arguably smaller bands.

So, this show at Max Watts was the combination of these two types of fans and, unfortunately, this left a real elephant in the room:

ATTENDANCE

Max Watts is quite a large room and I’m sure that this tour’s promoters – Destroy All Lines and Chugg – were convinced that a bill made up of U.S. metal heavyweights Miss May I and Sylar being supported nationally by Sydney’s Justice For The Damned and locally by Earth Caller and Arkive would’ve pulled greater punter numbers than what amount actually turned up. Because trust me, you cannot help but notice when this particular Melbourne venue is barely half full, which was the case on this night. Of course, this is really an outlier factor, as it all comes down to the band’s who played. So, how were they?

Well, there’s no denying that local openers Arkive are a very tight live band. These local guys have great stage presence, the mix was decent, and the dual vocalist interplay of clean singer Mitch Burgess and screamer Court Walters sounded very good as a whole. That being said, I feel that their songs drag on a little bit too long, and this really shows with the fact that they played a four song set as opposed to Earth Caller who, from my memory, played six or seven songs in the same amount of time. Musically, Arkive definitely within the proggy-metalcore realm – think bands like Periphery, Northlane and so on – and being a musician myself, I’m willing to give the song lengths a pass because these tunes, from their recent ‘Sonder EP, were delivered via the group’s great instrumental performances and due to their interesting sections.

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Up next was Earth Caller.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy these guys a fair bit. But on the recordings, as I’ve seen the band live three times now, and each time I do I always walk away thinking that they’re just not that good of a live act, that they’re often sloppy live. Earth Caller’s set was definitely not assisted by the messy mix, as there was little to no low-end present, absent guitars and Josh Collard’s vocals were mostly drowned out by the drums. Again, I actually do enjoy this band’s music, it just took me a while to “get it” personally but songs like new(ish) cut ‘Fall’ are catchy enough to really change my mind. Maybe I was just seeing these guys on a really bad off night? Who knows?

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Justice For The Damned are undeniably one of the biggest hardcore bands in the country, but even they struggled with the crowd tonight. Arkive and Earth Caller did also, but these Sydney guys at least had a few people towards the front singing and moving which was good to see. Fresh off an international run in Europe, these guys played another solid, if somewhat predictable set – ‘Please Don’t Leave Me‘, ‘It Will Always Be My Fault‘, ‘Dragged Through The Dirt‘, etc.

The songs off their killer debut record ‘Dragged Through The Dirt’ translate very well into a live setting. Yet in what was a running trend for this night, this usually powerful effect was a little dulled and stunted without the band’s main fanbase being out in force supporting them like they did during their massive national headlining tour not long ago.

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Now, on the Americans.

Sylar, in my opinion, had the best set of the whole night! It was very clear at this point that the crowd was definitely out to see these dudes and Miss May I because the floor filled out a lot more and there was a definite increase in physical movement.

I do have to be honest, though, I’m a little tired of this whole nu-metalcore thing that’d been doing the rounds through the heavy music scenes over the past couple years. I feel that it’s all a bit forced. However, Sylar as a whole are just so good at it that I didn’t mind. The one failing I thought the band would have live would be in their clean vocal department, but guitarist/singer Miguel Cardona definitely surprised me as he sounded fantastic. Which is a nice surprise considering how most of the clean singers in this style are either appalling or average live or just rely heavily on backing tracks or the crowd sing-alongs just to get by. Considering he also sings in a higher register, it’s easier to tell when the vocals are off, but nothing of anything egregious to report. Also, the utter banger that is ‘Assume’ had such a pit riff to kick it off that it certainly did its job as well despite the low crowd numbers.

Judging by the solid reaction to their show, I’d confidently say that Sylar will be back out here in Australia in 2018.

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Let’s not kid ourselves: Miss May I are a really good band. There’s no denying that. And ever since *that* whole Tim Lambesis situation a few years back, I’ve always thought of Miss May I as “the As I Lay Dying that you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying”.

While they came up at a later time than the bands they’re very clearly influenced by, they would have fit in very well on tours with bands like Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and Unearth. Their setlist included a few songs off their latest album ‘Shadows Inside’, with ‘Casulties’ and ‘Lost In The Grey’ being particularly tight highlights. Long-haired frontman Levi Benton spent a lot of the set bouncing around the stage and sounded pretty solid all things considered. This band have been at it a for a fair while and it damn well shows because they’re super tight live and they definitely look the part too. I was also very glad that they found time to play old songs like ‘Masses Of A Dying Breed’ and, of course, the go-to ‘Hey Mister’ got a huge response.

Hopefully, the less than desirable crowd turnout doesn’t put off either Sylar or Miss May I from touring Australia again because both bands, one a younger and currently more trendy sounding band and the other being an established powerhouse in their genre, put on a great show together.

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PC: Owen Jones (Digital Beard photography). 


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