It’s always a saddening moment when a band that you have so much love and respect for suddenly sets the expiry date for their time as a musical collective. Which is a final action that Sydney’s Vices recently took, with the announcement that the NSW melodic hardcore crew will be throwing in the towel come their final show at Rad Bar, Wollongong next month on Sunday, February 18th. (Though, I do think that many fans saw this announcement coming for a little while now).
Delivering the break-up news over social media last week, the band stated that:
“This band has given us an excuse to make music and travel the world with our best friends for the last 8 years.
We are so grateful if you ever put up with our shit just so we could come play in your town.
We’ve been Vices and we out!
Sus our last show next month with some ripper m8’s at the only venue that made us feel at home.“
Of course, I don’t wish that this was the case – I love Vices‘ music and the idea of them not playing together as a group after February 18th is not one I like in the slightest, despite how incredibly selfish of me that is. As they’ve got their own lives, families and responsibilities to take care and Vices as an entity can only go on for so long, regardless of how anyone outside the band feels or thinks on the matter.
That being said, it sucks to know that one of my favourite live acts in Australia – one that’s made up of five nice and truly genuine dudes – will very soon cease to be. From personally seeing Vices put on some fantastic and engaging shows at Wrangler Studios in 2013 and 2014 (when they supported Hundredth and Counterparts respectively), to them playing Arrow On Swanson during Prepared Like A Bride’s final tour in 2015 and supporting Funeral For A Friend at the Corner Hotel that same year; their live sets were always a fun, energetic and highly memorable time. I always looked forward to heading out with some good mates and seeing them play when they came through Melbourne on tour. So much so that I’m now currently getting a few mates together to road trip it up to Wollongong from Melbourne for this final Vices show in a month’s time. I mean, I just cannot miss this final send-off. I just can’t.
And as for their actual records? They were just as fucking good.
2013’s ‘Between My Mind And The World‘ was a really strong debut LP for Vices and like many, my very first introduction to this band. It borrowed the very best parts from melodic hardcore’s finest acts from that time, like your Hundredth’s, your Touché Amoré’s and your Counterparts‘, whilst also keeping the band afloat with what their locals peers such as Hindsight, Love Alone, The Evercold, and Sierra were delivering in their respective releases. This first LP was a solid mixture of metalcore breakdowns, equally heavy and melodic riffs, blistering hardcore punk sections full of Marcus Tamp’s rapid-fire drumming and John McAleer’s aggressive and passionate screams, and a fair few ear-catching gang vocal sections. There was also this prevalent sense of lyrical positivity dealing in one being honest, self-awareness, maintaining your mental health and upkeeping your own emotional stability.
‘Between My Mind And The World‘ also spawned the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fan-fave ‘Vices Go!‘, short but brisk and emotionally heavy melodic punk tunes like ‘Perspectives‘, ‘Destinations‘ and ‘Part 2‘, the heavier punch of ‘Home‘, as well as more dynamic pieces like ‘Part 1‘ and the depressingly pained album closer, Lines‘. Besides, if you’ve ever wanted to a local hardcore show descend into complete and utter chaos, just look at how the two intro drumstick hits of album standout ‘An Apology‘ would soon send the very best of friends clambering over each other and onto the stage to scream “This is my apology, for the times I’ve let you all down” along with McAleer as loud as they possibly can. Which, to be fair, is also something you could say for most of the band’s songs when performed live, mainly because the songs themselves are just that goddamn good and because they resonated with so many people from all walks of life.
While Vices would later ditch those heavier growled vocals and most (not all, but most) of their breakdowns, the lyrical philosophy of Vices also altered significantly on their next two releases. However, their core ideas of aiming for and creating positive change, hope and love were always prevalent. Hell, there was even some slight religious elements to their music early on, yet it never once came off as preachy or as being heavy-handed. Rather, it was something that – at the point of the band writing their first record – the group cared about and believed in. Which was true of everything Vices did in their time together. If they believed in something, they did it, saw it out to the end, and stood by it firmly – from how they ran to the band to what was said in the music itself or on-stage. And it’s that genuine conviction that attracted so many to their speedy, aggressive but melodic and heartfelt music. Which was then shown off fully with their fantastic second record, ‘We’ll Make It Through This‘; my personal favourite release of theirs and what is arguably the band’s best album overall.
See, whereas BMMATW was a really internally-focused record for Vices, their lyrics and music became far more political and wider in scope on ‘We’ll Make It Through This‘, centred heavily on external matters like materialism and wealth disparity in our world. Most of the time, it’s a musically vicious and intensive melodic hardcore record. Other times, it’s a bleak display of deep personal pain; a heavy sonic journey about a man trying to work through how he’s come to view the world at large, his own ethics, where he’s at in his own life, how his actions affect others, how he fits into the larger picture of life and acknowledging all of his past, present and future mistakes and failures. Yet this sophomore also carries with it the hopeful idea that from such pain, loss, and negativity, real seeds of growth, love, compassion and change (personal or otherwise) can sprout through from such desolate earth. You see this engrained in every single note, line and moment of the bitingly personal and gut-punching title track, the fast and beautifully touching ‘Resilient’, the heart-breaking ‘Failure’, as well as during bouncier cuts like ‘Permanence’. Even more so than that, you’ll find a far darker political tone of modern life’s ills overwhelm the band’s thoughts and music with these brief but poignant songs like standout opener ‘Sustain‘, ‘Fields‘, and ‘Slavery‘, as well as a powerful sense of sonder on the album’s penultimate track, ‘Wanderlust’.
It’s just such an immense listen all up and one that’s also slightly uncomfortable to get through, even now three years on from its initial release. But that’s what makes this record so special.
More recently, three years on from ‘We’ll Make It Through This’, Vices released what is easily their darkest and heaviest record to date: 2017’s mighty good ‘Now That I Have Seen I Am Responsible’ – a record that I enjoyed dearly too.
With a tighter and more polished production, this record hit insanely fucking hard on all accounts imaginable! It’s a record that takes everything Vices did well on their previous two albums and gives it a slick new coat of paint. It also sees McAleer going through many different moving motions; from dealing with his divorce (‘Alone’), to discussing veganism and animal welfare (‘Species’), the vile actions of abusers and paedophiles against the young and vulnerable and what he’d then do to such digusting individuals (‘Treachery…’ and ‘…Suffocation’), combatting those moments of pure hopelessness and deep depression (‘Broken’), senseless dogma and religious hypocrisy (‘Hell‘), breaking through the isolation and often self-imposed grey scale tone of one’s life (‘Grey’) – this hardcore record is one hell of a dark, brutal and often ugly emotional trip. But it’s a damned solid one at that; one that only now in retrospect also seems to have an air of finality surrounding it. And as a final record, there are far – far – worse releases a band could have to go out on too.
This release also spawned what is still one of my favourite interviews from 2017 (shit, just one of my favourite interviews in general), which was my in-depth and honest interview with McAleer in March last year about ‘Now That I Have Seen I Am Responsible’. Due to how straight up he was – and I’d expect nothing less from the guy and the rest of the band, really – we discussed the stories, topics and personal events that shaped their third and subsequently final record’s creation and overall vision. (You can read the full interview over here and hey, please do, I was/am very proud of it).
Taking place at Wollongong’s homey Rad Bar with their good friends in Homesick, Amends, Fearxless, and Smile Lines, Vices are more than likely going to out with a real bang (if this last show is anything like their other live shows), hopefully featuring the best songs from each of their three awesome albums. And this finale will be a bang that’ll echo for sometime after the final note of their set ends because this band has truly had a powerful impact on not just my own life, but also that of the landscape of the local Australian hardcore scene; right from the word [ahhhhhh Vices] ‘go’.
We will miss you deeply, Vices. I will miss you.
Thank you so much for all of the great music and great memories over these past eight years. See you guys next month.
Catch Vices one last time on Sunday, February 18th at Wollongong’s Rad Bar – full details here.