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Live Review: While She Sleeps

8 July 2022 | 12:02 pm | Rod Whitfield

'"Another enjoyable and memorable evening of heavy music in Melbourne.

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It’s a very, very early start tonight. 6:50pm is not a very rock‘n’roll timeslot, but it matters not, as Melbourne crowds once again live up to their reputation as punters who show up in their droves for the opener. While most people beyond the walls of the venue are still eating dinner, locals Mirrors take the stage in front of an 85% full 170 Russell.

And fulfill the requirements of an opening act with aplomb, they do. Their sound is the quintessential modern metalcore sound, clean/unclean vocal tradeoffs supported by a rock-solid rhythm section and skilled musicianship (drummer Rob Brens is particularly dextrous and powerful), big melodic choruses amid heavy verses and breakdowns, a few thrashier sections thrown in for good measure offset by some atmospheric and textural moments, all delivered with a power and passion that is infectious. Some interesting rear-screen projections only add to the vibe of the show, and the burgeoning crowd responds to their brief but impactful set with a gusto and enthusiasm that belies the early hour.

Brits Loathe produced one of this writer’s absolute favourite albums of 2020, and one of the best records of recent times, with I Let It In And It Took Everything, so anticipation for their first-ever Aussie shows is fever-pitch. Do they live up to the expectations? You bet they do, and then some.

This band sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb on this metalcorey bill, although they scatter elements of that style across their sound as well, so they add very welcome variety to the night without venturing too far out into left-field. Their sound incorporates many other stylistic ingredients, from hardcore to pop to '90s alt-rock and much in between, giving it a very avant-garde aesthetic. And, like all three bands on the bill tonight, they deliver it with an iron-clad commitment to the cause, and the band members’ energy flows out into the packed crowd like a tsunami of rock.

Loathe structure their set this night with what this scribe deems the ‘reverse bell-curve' setup, opening with pure chaos, bringing things back to sanity for a moment mid-late set with a couple of their more accessible tunes, before returning to the carnage and cataclysm for the big finish, and it works an absolute treat.

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Also hailing from England, While She Sleeps bring a highly aggressive and vigorous approach to the delivery of their metalcore sound in a live setting. At the same time, they infuse it with a sense of fun, and it all makes for a highly enjoyable 55-minute headline set and two blistering encores, bringing a big cheesy smile to the faces of the crowd. Their songs are highly energetic, fist-pumping anthems and the band members appear to be having an absolute ball onstage. Especially bassist Aaran McKenzie, who at times throws himself around like a man possessed, and lean, mean frontman Lawrence Taylor, whose forays into the crowd are something to behold. He practises what could be deemed to be ‘crowd-standing’ as opposed to crowd-surfing, where he stands almost to his full height on the shoulders and hands of willing crowd members as he belts out his vocal lines and riles the crowd up.

Apparently, this band sold out this very room, playing with Aussies House Vs Hurricane, a full decade ago, and here they are completely selling it out again (and on a cold school night). It’s fantastic to see, and witnessing the pure, unbridled exuberance of their live set, and the waves of energy the crowd is responding with in return, it’s easy to see why.

A fabulous local opener and two illustrious and dynamic British outfits make this another enjoyable and memorable evening of heavy music in Melbourne.