The Ghost Inside, still swingin’ hard.
[PC: Louie Mosscrop.]
In not being able to get leave from my work for Friday, I comfortably sat down on my first half-hour break that evening, saw the Unify weather updates on social media about the bad conditions and 50KM winds, and thought to myself: “Glad that’s not me!” In having seen Antagonist A.D. at that killer Greyscale showcase, and in seeing Architects five months prior at Festival Hall on their ‘Holy Hell‘ run, and with zero interest in Silverstein (just three out of the mere six bands that would end up playing on Friday), my Unify 2020 experience began on late Saturday afternoon when I finally arrived at Tarwin Meadows.
Honestly, with poor updates that were focused online and for social media, despite the Unify site having incredibly inconsistent mobile phone coverage so not everyone would be notified of when and where bands were playing, and with clearly no solid contingency plan originally set in place, it’s amazing that every band was able to play come Saturday. Switching between the circus tent and the main-stage, Unify 2020 still went ahead at full steam on it’s third of four days; a very real testament to the hard work of the crew, and the patience and support of the bands and fans.
With persisting overcast, windy and rainy weather on Saturday, and without any delay PA stacks set up to mitigate the weather affecting the live sound for those wishing to remain behind front-of-house (the sound desk) or the Temple VIP Bar, many bands had their guitars and vocals swept up and out of the mix by the cool winds flowing over South Gippsland. Yet through the less than prime conditions, there existed the “Unify spirit.” For the show still went ahead, despite all of these setbacks. Organizers still managed to have every band play even with Friday being nearly a complete write-off, and punters still came out in force for the bands that they loved. No one can control the weather, and sometimes shit just happens, so a big congratulations to all involved who kept this big machine moving.
Stray From The Path was as tight as ever when they hit Unify with their bouncy hardcore come 7pm, with frontman Drew York being this hard-left wing demonstration’s ring leader. The New York wrecking crew torn up the stage with both parts of ‘Badge & A Bullet,’ ‘Kickback,’ ‘Ring Leader,’ ‘Outbreak,’ ‘The House Always Wins,’ ‘Second Death‘ (which was being filmed as part of a new video), ‘The Opening Move,’ and Richard Spencer’s favourite hardcore song, ‘Goodnight Alt-Right.’ The lack of any ‘Make Your Own History‘ and ‘Rising Sun‘ material was expected yet rustled my jimmies nonetheless. Then again, no matter what era of their career Stray pull from, they always perform so well. Put it this way: there’s a good reason as to why they felt confident in putting out a live album. If I had Craig Reynolds playing drums in my band, then I’d happily drop live tracks just to show off his sweet chops.
Making comparisons between Stray and Rage Against The Machine is old hat, but the band did themselves no favours in that regard when they covered ‘Killing In The Name‘ near the end of their set. Which to be fair, did get the crowd going that little extra bit harder and wasn’t a bad decision given where they were playing. Yet with the actual Rage back in action this year and playing shows again, do we really need these kinds of covers from hardcore bands now? On top of that, Stray already have an excellent cover of that band’s song, ‘Vietnow‘, one of the seldom Rage covers that’s actually on par with the original, if not better.
Wrapping up with ‘First World Problem Child,’ and having Sam Carter come out for his guest feature spot, dropping in some deeper lows for good measure, Stray showed why Unify will always have them back. That, and the fact that Unify’s line-ups now switch out every two years, like a kid moving between divorced parent’s homes every second weekend, to paraphrase a mate of mine.
Tonight Alive have never really been my cup of tea, coffee, water or whatever else I’d like to put in my metaphorical mug. But I’ll be damned if they aren’t a good live act! Singer Jenna McDougall is a fantastic vocalist live, hitting every note powerfully and conjuring up the passion that so many of their fans love about their records and songs, with the rest of her bandmates all nailing their respective roles to put together a decent set. They’re a well-versed live band and their set put this showmanship on full display.
The biggest draw-card of their set was the “And Friends” aspect. In this regard, ‘Little Lion Man’ saw Maz from WAAX lend a helping vocal hand, Northlane’s own Marcus Bridge filled in Corey Taylor’s parts on ‘My Underworld,’ and closer ‘Temple‘ saw Dre from Hellions come out for a quick minute to help close shit out, though having him rap/mumble the bridge lyrics of “If control isn’t real, then I never had it” made everything fall flat in comparison to the strength of Jenna.
Ingeniously, and while Trophy Eyes weren’t on the line-up this year, just before Polaris‘ set a new song of theirs was premiered over the PA. Entitled ‘Figure Eight,’ it sounds like a cool B-side to 2018’s ‘American Dream,’ with as many big sing-alongs and a sweet-ass saxophone bridge section. Keep an eye out for it when it drops this week!
Late last year, Anna from Beat Magazine featured me in her heavy music column, asking me which bands I think will have a veritable huge 2020. In it, I named local legends like Windwaker, Gravemind, Perth’s nu-outfit 生 Conform 死, as well as Alpha Wolf, who are now branching out overseas and not slowing down in the slightest. But the top band that I named who will most definitely have an insane year in 2020 is Polaris. It doesn’t matter what you or I think about their brand of metalcore music, their Unify set was all the proof one needed to see for what heights they’re going to reach after sophomore record, ‘The Death Of Me,’ drops next month. (Expect our review of that LP to land in the coming weeks.)
New songs like ‘Hypermania‘ and ‘Masochist‘ sounded fine, whilst fan faves ‘Regress‘ (dedicated to the passionate Australian community coming together in wake of these tragic bushfires, and certain incompetent leaders), ‘The Remedy,’ set-ender ‘Lucid,’ and my personal go-to Polaris tune, ‘Consume,’ all went off. With air-canons, smoke machines, and even some streamers being fired off, all in front of a huge crowd and with a strong live performance, Polaris’s 2020 takeover started right here, right now.
With a trippy purple light show, more low-end than what was probably necessary (or allowed), incredible energy, and armed with the best cuts from 2019’s phenomenal ‘Alien‘ LP, Northlane turned Unify Gathering into a prog-metal bush doof. Coming off the back of their sold-out Australian headline run from last year and some huge shows overseas, Northlane are on a new high lately. ‘Alien‘ has completely revitalized them, turning their career right around from what was once them teetering on the brink of disbanding. Northlane all looked like they pulled were from five different other groups, with the sars masks and all, plus bassist and Canadian mad-lad, Brendan Padjasek wearing nothing but shorts, bucket hat, and wrap-around sunnies for full-on bogan status. Yet put these five guys on-stage and you get a powerhouse showing!
Ripping through the odd oldie, like ‘Rot,’ ‘Citizen,’ and ‘Quantum Flux,’ Northlane sounded complete and confident. Alongside a couple of older tracks sat wicked new gems such as ‘Bloodline,’ ‘Eclipse,’ ‘Jinn,’ ‘Details Matter,’ ‘4D,’ and ‘Freefall,’ beaming everyone present that night up into Northlane’s dark, gritty and rave-metal UFO. Much like the band’s latest Aussie run, ‘Dispossession‘ was omitted, and has been for some time now, with the emotive album closer of ‘Sleepless,’ written about Marcus’s mother, taking things on home in striking fashion. And I don’t mind that at all, namely because it upsets a lot of nerds online that they don’t play ‘Dispossession‘ anymore, and I find great joy in laughing at their displeasure in not getting a nostalgic prog-metalcore tune. Keep doing you, Northlane.
Amassing what was easily the biggest crowd of the whole festival, there was just so much excitement and expectation hanging in the air for The Ghost Inside’s headlining set prior to it all kicking off. 2020 marks six years since their last Australian tour, way back in 2014, and five years since that horrific bus crash on a fateful Arizona highway that nearly ended not only their careers but their lives.
As fucked up as it is to say, that horrific bus crash made The Ghost Inside a much bigger band. They were already a hard-working group, touring hard, and keeping up a prolific output yet that tragedy only increased their popularity. If they weren’t a “headlining” band before, they might as well be now. That accident put them out of action for so long, that there’s now a real hunger to see them perform, to witness their triumphant return. Ironically, a lot of their songs are about beating the odds, about being the underdog that rises up past expectations, about being the dark horse people over-look, and that’s all come into life with their miracle comeback.
While there is the promise of new music from the American band set to come in 2020, everyone’s minds where on the here and now. With the lights dimmed, a single melodic guitar lick repeated over and over under the cover of darkness, before the stage lights came on as the hammering intro riff to ‘Avalanche‘ kicked in. All before seeing the L.A. band storming Tarwin Meadows like a powerful, literal musical avalanche filled up with passionate hardcore, honest lyricism, pitting breakdowns, and meaty Drop A and B riffs, making for what was a pretty damned good set.
Only their second show back together, The Ghost Inside pulled from a little bit of everything for this one. Every era of TGI got some kind of mention here: the classic jam of ‘Faith Or Forgiveness‘ from their 2008 debut album, ‘Fury Of The Fallen Ones‘; ‘Unspoken‘ and ‘Between The Lines‘ from 2010’s solid ‘Returners‘; and a strong emphasis on all the key songs from 2012’s ‘Get What You Give‘ and ‘2014’s ‘Dear Youth‘ LPs, whether it be: ‘Move Me,’ ‘Out Of Control,’ ‘Dear Youth (Day 52),’ ‘White Light,’ ‘Dark Horse,’ ‘The Great Unknown,’ and of course, the now anthemic closer of ‘Engine 45.’ It was almost the exact same set as their first L.A. comeback show last year, barring the odd song like ‘Chrono,’ but no one was complaining: there was so much love for this band. And it was so good just to see them back, alive and well, swinging and playing as hard as they ever did prior to 2015.
Frontman Jonathan Vigil spoke a lot between songs, mostly about their return to not only the stage but also the band returning back to their health, both physical and mental. Every few songs, thank you’s and heartfelt sentiments about the band, the people who made this all possible, and the deep appreciation for their friends, family, and the hordes of loving fans, spilled forth from the vocalist’s mouth. The band even gave time for a long list of thank you’s, aimed towards their peers, industry folk, other bands, Aussie friends, supportive media, and more. While I heard the odd wanker voice their annoyance at all of Vigil’s talking – I noticed a few calls of “fuckin get on with it!” and “is he STILL talking?” – there was much to say on the night, a lot to share and get off his (and the band’s) chest. TGI toured Australia many times before that terrible accident happened, and now back on our shores for Unify 2020, all of those thoughts that had been left unsaid for over five years suddenly barreled forward to the forefront.
The Ghost Inside’s set on this night was that of a heroic comeback tale, a success story about overcoming what very much felt and looked like a career-ending blow being dealt. Their journey over the last five years and their performance here showed that everything we have in this life can be stripped away in a split second, leaving us completely broken and uncertain about our futures: a sobering reminder that we only get ONE shot at this life. If there’s one thing that this band’s music, and their story, teaches us, it’s that life is too also short to sit on your ass and wait; so just say “fuck it” and go do it. So go start that band with your mates, travel to that place you’ve wanted to explore, write that book you’ve always wanted to, apply for that job position you want, reach out to your old friends you haven’t seen, and ask that person you’re interested in out for a drink. Whatever it is, just fucking do it. Because you may not get another chance.