The Australian alternative scene has struck gold again, this time with Sydney’s Pretty Thrills who are …
HEAVEN AND HELL FESTIVAL 2019 // with The Amity Affliction, Underoath (US), Trophy Eyes, Crossfaith (Japan) + Supports
Saturday 14th September 2019
Many moons ago, Queenslanders were spoilt for choice when it came to heavy music festivals: Soundwave, Big Day Out, Overcranked. Once upon a time, all of these offered day-long experiences that covered just about every shade of the alternative colour wheel. However, those days have long passed us now, as all the aforementioned festivals have shuffled off the mortal coil and taken the Big Sleep into the afterlife beyond. Thankfully, homegrown heroes The Amity Affliction have taken it upon themselves to give eager fans another chance.
MORE: HALLOWEEN HYSTERIA 2019: Throws A Hard Six With New Additions To Line-Up // THE AMITY AFFLICTION: Have Just Surprised Released Their Heaviest Song In Years REVIEWS: DZ DEATHRAYS: Positive rising: Part 1 // WAGE WAR: Pressure // KNOCKED LOOSE: A Different Shade Of Blue
In its inaugural year, the Heaven And Hell Festival line-up is a veritable who’s-who of national talent in 2019, with a solid round up of international heavyweights thrown into the mix. And with ten bands on the bill for under $100, there’s a certain level of economy involved here too. Arriving early in the day at the Riverstage open-air arena to catch Festival openers, there’s already a few hundred punters through the gates, posted up at the bar and filling every nook and cranny of available shade in order to escape the raking afternoon sun. A wise decision it seems.
We take this opportunity to wet our whistle and then park up on the grassy hill as Nerve Damage break the Festival in. The Gold Coast six-piece are a last-minute addition to the bill, with NT metallers Southeast Desert Metal pulling out. Bummer. Despite this letdown, Nerve Damage do an admirable job of filling their slot with aggressive, no-frills hardcore and vital commentary on Indigenous affairs and issues. Tracks like Poison the River feature a raucous, four-pronged guitar attack, while Lifestyle Choices, from the group’s Close The Gap split with fellow locals Manhunt, gets some punters down front all riled up. Closing out with the enraged War All of the Time (given the mental health subject matter, it’s unlikely to be a direct Bukowski reference; still rad nonetheless), the group definitely make the most of their short set, keeping things thick, fast and sludgey.
With a double stage system set-up, there’s little to no change over time, as Sydney siders Endless Heights swing into gear and drown the arena in the lush alt-grunge of You Coward, flanked by a hypnotic, rotoscoped visualiser backdrop. Frontman Joel Martorana’s vocals suffer slightly from an occasionally drifting mix, but it barely undercuts the twinkling guitar leads and booming drums of Come a Little Closer and upbeat rhythms of recent single Cold Hard Kiss. Doing his best to warm up the crowd, Martorana pleas for punters to “get up and dance,” asking “who’s alive out there?” And for the most part, it’s only those up close who indulge him in this request, with the people up the back more than content to stay in place and watch the day unfold.
Kicking things up a notch, self-described disco party punks Pagan storm the stage and immediately induct all attendees into their “cult”—wilfully or otherwise. Hitting punters with the one-two combo of Fluorescent Snakes and Death Before Disco off last year’s debut album Black Wash, the mix of Norwegian black metal aesthetic, catchy Kvelertak-style hardcore punk and front-woman Nikki Brumen’s captivating performance makes for a welcome change of pace. Year of the Dog is propelled by Dan Bonnici’s bassy thrum, while Imitate Me takes off with drummer Matt Marasco’s rolling hi-hat and Brumen’s fever-pitch shriek. Before they perform the soaring Silver, Brumen tells the crowd a heart-warming anecdote about how she discovered she could sing by screaming along to Anchors (both the song and the meme) from Amity’s Youngbloods album, going on to add that she’s incredibly stoked and humbled to be where she is at this present moment. Beautiful.
[Festival Landscape Litany, Part 1: mesh tops; an endless sea of band merch; tradie dudes wearing shit from Bloke’s Advice and The Mad Hueys; a glorious purple sequin dress; one bloke in a Milton Mango two-piece suit (mad respect); activewear; an elderly cowboy; corn husk detritus; dudes in Power Rangers morph suits (pink and green present; old mate in red didn’t look canon); plenty of kids; lingerie as tops; one poor girl cosplaying as Sad Beetlejuice; another chick just wearing an actual Beetlejuice shirt; jerry curls; lots of Egyptian ankhs (weird flex, but ok); paisley shirts; an arrest outside the smokers area.]
Before UNFD signees Thornhill start-up, they have an WWE-inspired montage on the stage screen, complete with member profiles and fake stats. Dressed like they just pulled up from a set at Splendour In The Grass, the quintet open up with newly released single Nurture from their upcoming debut album The Dark Pool. There’s certainly nu metal vibes going on in the riff department, along with some clean vocals from frontman Jacob Charlton that sound—to this reviewer’s ears anyway—eerily reminiscent of Brissy throwback Melodyssey. Meanwhile, older tracks like Reptile, Lavender and Parasite from their Butterfly EP keep things heavy, with a return to their Northlane-aping djent flavoured sound.
On stage left, Melbourne bruisers Void Of Vision waste no time in their set, launching furiously into new cut like Hole In Me from new album Hyperdaze, mixing 90s trance break-beats and glitches with down-tuned heavy riffs. Kill All My Friends goes off like a hand grenade, as people bolt down the grassy hill to try and elbow their way into the pit. Decay finds vocalist Jack Bergin commanding the crowd to “keep shit moving,” while single If Only rests on a surprisingly powerful melodic hook from guitarist James McKendrick. Closing out with the unruly Ghost In The Machine from their Disturbia EP, Bergin dives straight over the heads of security and into the crowd, surfing back and forth on outstretched hands, as fans form a pile-on at the barrier.
At the half-way point in today’s line-up, we’re greeted with Perth’s Make Them Suffer, who offer up the tightest set of the day (a tall order of business to pull off before 5pm, and with this calibre of billing nonetheless). But there’s just no other way to put it, as the quintet hit the mark in every department: frontman Sean Harmanis indominable vocal versatility during the absolutely crushing and total word-salad mouthful Vortex (Interdimensional Spiral Hindering Inexplicable Euphoria), the delicate interplay between keys and backing vocals from Booka Nile on the ethereal Uncharted; guitarist Nick McLernon’s slamming riffs during the brutal Hollowed Heart and fan favourite Widower; drummer Jordan Mather’s outstanding stamina for the majority of Blood Moon; and bassist Jaya Jeffery’s impressive power stance for closer Ether.
[Festival Landscape Litany, Part 2 (Cont.): the wafting scent of disparate jazz cigarettes; some chick in a fluffy, Whitney Houston crack jacket (look it up); a low-energy beef unfolding in front of us, eventually squashed into a resounding non-event; an abundance of chaos pouches; some poor kid in a Five Finger Death Punch tee (essentially child abuse); fairy wings; a group of lads in KFC bucket hats; Hawaiian party shirts; another kid taking a selfie with an actual camera; legionnaire hats.]
As one of two internationals on the bill, there’s certainly a lot going with the Crossfaith set today. There’s flag waving; Terufumi Tamano is up on a DJ/turntable set-up, alternating between playing, standing on his decks and walking around like a hip-hop hype man; there’s also a crazy light show and a smoke machine. Sonically, it’s like an anime intro theme brought to life in front of our very eyes. Eclectic metal music spliced together with dance, trance and hard style Skitz Mix-level party anthems. Credit where credit is due though, the Japanese outfit play like they’re in a packed stadium, running frantically across the stage, having lots of fun, with frontman Kenta Koie gleefully dropping F-bombs like they’re going out of business. While you could argue that it’s not exactly everyone’s flavour of heavy, it’s certainly entertaining and tracks like Deus Ex Machina, Catastrophe and Freedom go down a treat. At one point, Koie tries to get the crowd to engage with him, claiming “I’m not going to eat you, come on,” before hitting them with savage deathcore growls only moments later, as the band continue to power on with some of that big dick rave energy. Wild.
Even with the loss of founding guitarist Kevin Cross, Newcastle punk rock outfit Trophy Eyes still know how to put on a show. Bathed in the red glow from the screen and lighting rigs above, the quartet move smoothly into an extended version of Friday Forever before jumping headfirst into the rousing Something Bigger Than This. Frontman John Floreani is positively beaming at the Brissy crowd this evening, as the group give standalone single Hurt a go. Before doubling down on their material from latest record The American Dream, Floreani tells the crowd to get up on the shoulders of the people next to them, making sure to hurry up before the inclusion of the chant-driven More Like You and hometown anthem Lavender Bay. Dialling things back for some golden oldies, Heaven Sent find guitarist Andrew Hallet doing his best to hit those tasty grunge riffs, while the powerful Chlorine benefits from bassist Jeremy Winchester’s backing register. Closing out with the slow-burn I Can Feel It Calling and nose-beer anthem You Can Count On Me, Trophy Eyes have the Festival crowd transfixed, prepared for larger sets from tonight’s upcoming headliners.
Returning to Australia after their excellent anniversary tour in 2017, Floridian act Underoath have a new album of material to introduce to Queenslanders. On My Teeth and Loneliness get first round positions, as the six-piece hit their stride with discordant riffs, messy atmospherics and superb vocal interplay from drummer Aaron Gillespie and frontman Spencer Chamberlain. Turning up the mid-2000s nostalgia, hints of what awaits arrive with the eerie jazz swing of instrumental The Blue Note, before the screamo blitz of It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door (remember long song titles?) sets the crowd into overdrive. Chamberlain calls for mosh mayhem during Breathing In A New Mentality, calling the track “the heaviest song this band ever wrote,” a debatable premise, considering Moving For The Sake of Motion exists and (regrettably) isn’t featured.
We’re stoked to hear some Define The Great Line-era material get a look-in (it’s easily their best record; also, fight me), with the crushing intro of In Regards To Myself and the vocal craziness of Writing On The Walls being particular highlights of their set. With only three tracks left, Chamberlain breaks this as “bad news” to the crowd, before buttering them up with “our boys” in Amity finally coming up next. And it’s this off-hand mention that makes us recall the first time we ever saw Underoath perform at the 2006 Taste of Chaos tour, as a wide-eyed eighteen-year old, where a young local band by the name of The Amity Affliction played the same show on a small stage off to the side. Thirteen years later and humble beginnings appear to have reaped big rewards. The Tampa outfit close out their set with a stellar performance of fan favourite A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White and the catchy Sink With You, as everyone in attendance seems to be well and truly ready for the top-billed main event.
As someone who used to jam their very first EP on a Discman back in high school, we’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve watched a full set from The Amity Affliction. Which is why something like the scale of a festival stage set-up helps to reset our expectations for what an Amity hometown show looks like in 2019. With blue neons flanking the stage, sparks and a visualiser backdrop that could best be described as “Blade Runner aesthetic,” the four-piece strike with anthem after anthem and don’t let up for nearly an hour. Drag the Lake and Ivy (Doomsday) showcase the band’s appeal: something a little heavy, something a little poppy; all of it memorable and tightly orchestrated. There’s a family sitting next to us during these opening songs, and it’s slightly mind-blowing to watch parents and children both sing along to every single word.
When the Amity boys drop into I Bring The Weather With Me, a group of girls behind us go ape shit and start dancing around with reckless abandon, falling into couples still sitting on the grass, as Dan Brown wails on the guitar, serenading the crowd during his solo as he’s bathed in the radiant glow of yellow stage lights. Frontman Joel Birch tells the Brisbane audience how stoked the band is to be back and playing to hometown fans, and when newest single All My Friends Are Dead drops—complete with blast beats and massive beatdown—it’s clear that the track is a personal one. This Could Be Heartbreak finds the group at their most radio-friendly, with one of bassist Ahren Stringer’s best ever hooks, while deep cut Shine On gets a look in as well, as Birch demands a bigger pit for mosh-friendly antics.
In possibly the most wholesome move of the entire festival, not only do Amity wind things back to 2010’s Youngbloods and dust off the excellent (and highly meme-worthy) Anchors, but they let Pagan front-woman Nikki Brumen back on stage to rock the shit out of the bridge, likely fulfilling one of her all-time musician/fan fantasies. The crowd loves it, Brumen looks crazy stoked and as she hugs Birch on the way out, the band fire on all cylinders to bring the old track to life once more. Pairing up D.I.E. with Chasing Ghosts-era Open Letter is a smart move, paving the way for drummer Joe Longobardi to flex his skills with an over-the-top drum solo, featuring a pneumatic riser and a cheeky nod to the intro to Metallica’s Enter Sandman. We also get a taste of Birch’s melodic vocals on new cut Feels Like I’m Dying, while old favourites like Death’s Hand and Chasing Ghosts keep things heavy in the breakdown department. Closing out with the fan favourite Don’t Lean On Me and Pittsburgh, Amity make sure that dedicated fans who’ve braved the day’s event are treated to a proper send-off.
As we wander up the hill to depart, everyone looks tired, sweaty and well-worn, yet smiling nonetheless, and that’s always a good sign. If Amity have their way, Heaven And Hell Fest will likely become an annual occurrence, and if so, we think we know a few thousand eager punters who’ll gladly be here for round two.
Catch The Amity Affliction with special guests Underoath, Crossfaith & Pagan Monday 16th September, Melbourne Arena.