Following up a brilliant 2016 showing, the 2017 edition of Melbourne’s annual Invasion Fest was a long yet stellar day, filled with some good people and some great bands. Suss out the full review below:
Kicking off what was going to be a very long day down in the bowels of Arrow On Swanson, Melbourne melodic-hardcore sad-boys Aburden opened Invasion Fest 2017 on the second smaller stage. With the band running through a few tracks from this year’s ‘My Old Friend‘ EP (which was some crazy Hotel Books, Casey and BAAO worship if I’ve ever heard any) I have to say that Aburden, in general, just sound really good live – especially guitarist and clean singer Kyle Burrows, whose vocals are very impressive live. With a relaxed yet emotive mood laid down from the very start of their short but sweet set and with the soft lighting illuminating the band, their warm and melodic sound was inviting to all. While frontman Mason Forster’s spoken word parts did sometimes get lost in the mix (which, to be fair, is an issue most bands who use said vocal style suffer from) when he pushes his voice right out for his screams, it works well. Plus, Forster knows how to work a crowd as those right down the front of the stage we’re loving it and getting right into it for tracks like ‘Without Me‘. Ending with ‘They Say‘, and with Belle Haven’s Christopher Vernon joining his peers on-stage to reprise his guest vocal role from the EP’s original track, Aburden issued out a solid start to a day that would only get heavier and more brutal in sound as it went on.
But before that, up next on the venue’s main stage and in continuing in the same musical vein as Aburden was Adelaide’s Sleep Talk. And boy, this South Australian melodic-hardcore quintet showed why they’re ones to watch moving forward. Getting a solid early turnout they played two brand new, yet to be released songs – both of which sounded fucking sick, making me very excited for their next release – they also ripped through their go-to cut, ‘Sorry‘, which saw the band’s set and the crowd’s energy really come alive. Frontman Jacob Clement’s screaming, which would often borderline on these pained, emotional shrieks were not only piercing (in a good way, mind you) but it really “sold” the emotion behind such bittersweet songs like ‘Sorry‘ as well as their set closer and latest single, ‘New Tradition‘, superbly. Basically, Sleep Talk was the Hindsight of this year’s instalment and that was no bad thing!
Starting off with ‘Rust‘, Newcastle pop-punks/alt-rockers Eat Your Heart Out filled out the smaller room, which was great to see. Yet, sadly, that didn’t really reciprocate in a high energy response from the crowd nor a high level of fan engagement, even though I noticed plenty of people singing along to barn-burning tunes like ‘Patience‘. (Hell, heaps of people seemed to know the words to tracks like ‘Drag Me Down‘ and ‘Something in the Way‘ yet it never went any further than head-bobbing and singing along). That being said, the band played strongly as per usual. Vocalist Caitlin Henry nails her vocals live and her thick Aussie accented singing voice is great live, as was the rest of the band’s performances. With their new EP ‘Mind Games‘ now out via Fearless Records, all these guys and gal need are to get on some bigger shows and/or do some heavier touring to spread their good pop-punk word around our fine nation.
Ending with the lead single from their new EP, ‘Conscience‘, and in getting Vernon back up to fill in for Patrick Miranda’s guest spot (Movements), the band capped off a nifty little set – I just wish it was received with far more fanfare from my fellow attendees.
While going from catchy pop-punk to slamming beatdown and punishing deathcore was jarring, fellow Newcastle band Honest Crooks had the first massive turn out of the day. And what the actual fuck? This band is unbelievably heavy live! With the five-piece smashing through their recently released ‘Suffer‘ EP, the first big pits of the day erupted in fine, limb-swinging action that rarely, if ever let up.
Down in front, their mix was clean, tight and domineering and while the further back you were from the stage, the more cluttered and dense their live sound got, this still worked for the band’s tight and brutal mix of tw-stepping hardcore, heavy beatdown, and scathing deathcore. Honest Crooks lead man, Jerry Chad, dominated the main stage and is a much better frontman altogether for these guys than their old vocalist ever was, even getting some solid back and forths going with guest spots from Aversions Crown’s Mark Poida and Justice For The Damned’s Bobak Rafee (the latter coming up for the apocalyptic ‘False Gods‘).
All up, this was easily a good to solid bree-bree-slam-slam out of ten from THC lads.
Melbourne hardcore punk crew, Broken, went fast and furious from the onset over on the event’s smaller stage. What with the home crowd coming out in full force to support the four-piece, the smaller room being packed out wall to wall with the pit lords going hard throughout their set and the band never relenting up on the stage. Although, while a live Broken show is indeed a killer display of passion and physicality, their set really served to highlight how their particular breed of hardcore is incredibly generic; something I also noticed with a couple other bands on the day that I’ll get to later on.
After taking a break in the merch room (because goddamnit, I needed that long-sleeve Endless Heights shirt) and to have some quick chats with some rad people, it was back out to the main stage for Deadlights. Having seen the Brisbane post-hardcore outfit play under Belle Haven back in May as well as Thy Art Is Murder back in August, this Invasion set was by far – by far – the best showing I’ve seen from the four-piece in 2017. The band’s set included the best tracks from this year’s ‘Mesma‘ album – ‘Attitude & longitude‘, ‘The Mad Scientist‘, ‘Preconceptions‘, and ‘Invisible Hands‘ – and the band sounded so clean, so punchy and so massive right there in the moment too (all helped along by Tynan Reibelt’s crystal clear vocals). And I think this was all aided by the noticeably larger stage setup for this year’s Invasion Fest as well. Not only that, but the on-stage energy from all four members – bassist Sean Prior and drummer Josh O’Callaghan especially – was just captivating to watch and seeing a fair few punters tear open pits was really great to see for a band that’s been hitting the national touring circuit damned hard this year. And I think that constant touring is all really starting to pay off for Deadlights!
Beginning their set by taking a quick second to acknowledge theirs and our own presence on sovereign land of the Indigenous Australians who never forfeited their right to it, Outright HC put on one of my favourite sets of the whole day. Following in the musical footsteps of Broken barely an hour earlier before them, the band tore through a bunch of ‘Avalanche‘ (2014) material, with mentions going out to the fan-faves of ‘A City Silent‘ and ‘Troubled‘. While the dreaded crowd semi-circle-in-front-of-the-stage did persist throughout their set, that didn’t stop close friends and some die-hard fans from moshing. Nor did it dwindle the member’s energy, what with bassist/backing vocalist Brett Eitzen and vocalist Jelena Goluza moving constantly and drummer Rory Kelaart playing like a relentless machine behind the kit.
After a song or two into their set, though, I did have a couple key thoughts. The first was “Man, this band is so fucking good, I love ‘Avalanche’” and second was “man, this band really needs a new album and a new one bloody soon!“. Almost on cue, Goluza announced that in January Outright HC would be hitting the studio to record a brand new record. Christmas just fucking came early for ol’ Alex. Better yet, the band didn’t come to Invasion Fest empty-handed of their unreleased labours. Case in point, after witnessing a new track by the name of ‘No Fear‘ and another newbie discussing what some women would wish they could do to those piece’s of shit out there who perpetrate street harassment, all I can say is: bring on this new Outright LP! It sounds like its going to be just as pissed-off and as killer as their last record was.
After the massive year that Alpha Wolf have had in 2017, they were always going to be a major drawcard of this year’s Invasion, and from the second that ‘Ward Of The State‘ hit, the crowd energy throughout the main room went off the charts, with all the pit-calls being chanted back at the band and the physical movement reaching fever pitch. Along with ‘Nail Biter‘, all of the usual suspects from this year’s ‘Mono‘ LP showed up – ‘Golden Fate: Gut Ache‘ (with Sean from Deadlights joining his label mates for the song’s final chorus), ‘Golden Fate: Water Break‘, ‘#104‘, and man, the crowd fucking loved it. It’s hard to deny how much better this band’s live shows have become over time with music that really backs it up as well as how much traction they’re getting lately. Hell, even the friend I came to the show with busted out his own sars mask for Alpha Wolf’s set and got right amongst it.
2018 will be an even bigger year for these dudes, no fuckin’ doubt.
Another major shift in genre followed next with Brisbane boys Stepson hitting up the second stage. From ‘This Is How It Feels‘, ‘Blue‘, ‘TV‘, and ‘Never Mind Me‘, Stepson picked up the same homey vibe that Aburden and Eat Your Heart Out left on their stage from earlier in the day. Now, these dudes actually played last year’s Invasion but this time around, I distinctly noticed way more on-lookers and far more people participating in their set, with crowd surfers, stage invaders and mic grabs all happening. While some of Brock Conry’s screams did falter a little bit towards the end of their set and while Justice For The Damned’s imposing soundcheck did bleed over during Stepson’s more intimate moments, these guys are cultivating one dedicated fanbase down here in Victoria.
Speaking of JFTD (pictured in this review’s header photo), the much-loved Aussie hardcore band easily had *the* set of Invasion MMXVII. Opening with the brutal ‘Demon‘ (I was beyond stoked that the pit call of “I’ve been slipping through the cracks” got the response it so rightfully deserves) and then crushing through songs like ‘Please Don’t Leave Me‘, ‘Dragged Through The Dirt‘, ‘No Flowers On Your Grave‘ and ‘Deep Rotting Fear‘, the band essentially made lighting strike twice from their insane 2016 set. Look, while I could drone on and on about their set (this shit’s long enough as it is), I’ll just state that there’s a very good reason as to JFTD have been taking off this year and this half-hour performance was living, breathing proof of that success.
From dark and violent HM-2 loving hardcore to some 90’s metal and thrash crossover, Adelaide’s Reactions pulled a pretty decent crowd over on the smaller stage, riffing through most of their recent LP, ‘March Of Dissolution‘. Though after leaving the room to quickly catch up with a few people and being able to properly talk with and hear them, I noticed that there was a surprising number of people chilling out at the merch area, on the couches in the foyer, sitting on the stairs or even exiting the venue for a breath of fresh air and some good ol’ Vitamin D. I couldn’t blame them, really. Shit, there was even one dude just reading through a book on one of the couches, completely uncaring of the riffs and breakdowns going on in the room mere meters from him. (Didn’t catch what he was reading but for real, it looked like an engrossing fuckin’ read).
Keeping up the heavy pace of the day and the sound of the day was the always bouncy Void Of Vision, with vocalist Jack Bergin being a crazed frontman from the first note. Opener ‘Ghost in the Machine‘ sounded absolutely huge live, as did the other newer songs from the band’s recently dropped ‘Disturbia‘ EP, such as ‘Grey Area‘. Yet while Void’s set was air-tight and while they’re always an energetic and well-synchronised live band with plenty of great mosh parts waiting to be lapped up by audiences – like with ‘Nightmare‘ – much like Broken, this set did highlight just how repetitive and interchangeable so many of Void’s songs actually are. Especially when they shifted from material off their newest EP (just over a month old) to songs that are now a bordering on being three or four years old and you realise just how little variation there is in their music. Still, Void’s set was a decent and entertaining performance from a band who may very well be generic, yet they don’t seem to be bothered by that fact either way.
Perth’s Cursed Earth, returning from the West to reinstate last year’s brutal set on the second stage, delivered one hell of a set; a whirlwind of heavy riffs, relentless blast beats and Jazmine Luders menacing screams and crazed stage performance. All with some utterly insane low-end rattling the very walls of the venue as well. Slaying through ‘Sanctioned Violence‘, ‘War Path‘/’Broken‘, ‘Rage (The Cost)’, ‘Grief‘, and ‘Enslaved by the Insignificant‘, my love for this band grows larger and larger every time I see them live.Despite the fact that the band is/was on tour with Shackles and was actually playing The Tote later that very night here in Melbourne, that didn’t damper their energy levels or hold them back at all. If anything, it seemed to make them play even harder for the Invasion crowd!
By this stage in the day, everywhere I looked, most people seemed to be worn out – whether from multiple moshes or just from standing around for nearly seven hours. A few friends I spoke with mentioned how they were bailing soon or would be doing their best to stick it out until The Acacia Strain wrapped the night up, which was still a good hour away at this point. But forever helping to revitalize people’s interest and engagement levels were Texan hardcore warriors, Kublai Khan. Over 30 or so minutes, the ever-popular band gave a no-bullshit and quite literal mosh fest set, even garnering possibly the biggest crowd sing-along of the day with that wicked callout in ‘The Hammer‘; the venomous line of “You will never ever know, bitch” being deafening across the insides of Arrow. While the band’s music can be rather repetitive and monotonous on-record, when it comes to playing live, Kublai Khan make up for that repetition with some insanely high-energy being created by their music and the crowd ate that shit up and then some, with ever Cursed Earth guitarist Kieran Molloy getting right into the pit early on. This set also made up for the fact that I actually missed the band’s performance last year to instead go see Anti-Flag play over at Max Watts down the road – which was totally worth it by the way.
Taking us all one step closer to the finish line was Endless Heights, who by my count started thing a little earlier than scheduled but that was fine as most people looked tired as fuck and were seeking the end of the day sooner rather than later. Setting an involving pace and a passionate performance with ‘You Coward‘, the band launched through ‘Drain‘, ‘Pray I Fade‘, and new single ‘Come A Little Closer‘. While the sizeable crowd that had gathered understandably less active compared to past bands here come Endless Heights‘ 7:20pmish start – excluding some mic grabs and crowd surfing for (slightly) older tracks of ‘Haunt Me‘ and ‘Teach You How To Leave‘ – Endless Heights themselves didn’t let up; with vocalist Joel Martorana and guitarist Jem Siow punching the air and giving it their goddamn all. However, given the band’s so often melodically lush and often-chorus/reverb-tinged guitar work, some of the mix just didn’t come together properly at times, making it all a fall a little flat, sadly. But the band persisted through this rough mix and honestly, I don’t think that that many people screaming the words back at the band cared all that much unlike the insanely picky cunt that I am.
I mean, I’m still cut that they’ve ditched all of the ‘New Bloom‘ material from their live shows now.
Finally, the last chance to dance (read: mosh) came with the day’s main international headliner, The Acacia Strain.
For a majority of the crowd, their 30-minute plus set was just heavy banger after low-tuned banger, with ‘Whoa, Shut It Down‘, ‘4×4‘, ‘Beast‘ (the applause that went out when that track’s ominous opening sample started was nuts), ‘Bitter Pill‘, among others ragers rearing their respective fat heads to keep the mosh at a non-stop level. Under the stage’s red and blue lights, the band themselves looked demonic, especially frontman Vince Bennett looking the ever imposing figure. Yet the same couldn’t quite be said for their actual live sound, which was often this messy barrage of heavy riffs and definitionless vocals, with drummer Kevin Boutot’s kit being the main element that cut through their intensive noise. (To be fair, Barnett did state that he had a cold so I can let that vocal part slide). Yet that didn’t stop punters and band members alike from moshing to their heart’s content for one of the few bands in this core genre that can arguably get away with releasing the same record multiple times in a row. With the exception of Honest Crooks performance earlier in the day, this shit was one of the heaviest live shows I’ve experienced in some time. And The Acacia Strain left those who had lasted right until the very end one hell of an ear-ringing, sore-muscle impression.
Finally, in all honesty, I’ve actually been pretty fucking depressed lately and have been feeling so trapped under the weather. Yet to have such an awesome all-day live show happen in Melbourne – one that helps to fill the gap in the local scene for all-ages shows too – that hosted some great bands and allowed me to catch up some great mates (both old and new friends alike), was just the kind of inspiring, spirit-lifting thing one needs every now and then to get by.
So with that being, a big thank you to the friends and people who said hello to me, it meant more than you know. And of course, big cheers to Hull and the rest of the Invasion team – you’re the right kind of people to put on such a kickass event! I greatly appreciate it and I know that I’m far from the only one who thinks so.
All photo credit here goes out to our two very good friends, Owen Jones (Digital Beard) and Maddie Bell, who slogged out this massive day. And be sure to check out the full gallery post from the day right here and read our interview with Ash Hull about this year’s event over here.