SKILLET w/, Red Gazelle & RedHook Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney Thursday 15th November, 2018 …
POLARIS w/ The Devil Wears Prada (US), Gideon (US) & Thornhill
Friday November 2nd, 2018
The Valley Drive-In, Brisbane
Despite knowing deep-down that this particular venue isn’t for watching films and hanging those shrill, tinny speakers from your car door, we’re still feeling a little nostalgic as we walk into The Valley Drive-In for tonight’s sold-out Polaris tour stop. There’s a line of people out the front, which then precariously snakes in and around the various merch tables inside. It’s very much like those All Ages shows of old, where the venue is packed to what’s-a-fire code?-level of overflowing and the whole building feels like it has an entirely different function in the daytime (in this case, seemingly a carpark and/or driveway).
With fresh tinnies in hand, openers Thornhill are launching into their set as we breach the doors and enter the venue proper. As the young Melbourne five-piece plays through tracks from this year’s Butterfly EP, we get the sense that we’re watching and listening to could be best summed up as a bunch of Northlane B-sides. Sure, there’s plenty of heavy riffs from guitarists Ethan McCann and Matt Van Duppen, and vocalist Jacob Charlton grips the mic stand tightly with every pained scream, but the whole performance still feels a little thin and two-dimensional. Tracks like My Design and Parasite work in a strong Dead Letter Circus/Karnivool vibe, yet Charlton seems to be having considerable difficulty hitting his softer notes for the clean sections.
Momentarily captivated, we watch as Van Duppen pulls some orchestrated Power Ranger-esque stage moves, punching and kicking—with those obligatory pauses for dramatic effect—on each booming reverse-snare hit. Admittedly, it looks a bit goofy, but also like a helluva lot of fun, so we’re envious. Meanwhile, it’s easily a thousand degrees outside and McCann is somehow on stage in a black hoodie and we wonder if he hasn’t got the memo that he’s not in Victoria anymore. As the band close out with mosh-ready cut Lavender and lead single Reptile, we witness a bunch of blokes enthusiastically pushing each other in the pit and then immediately embracing with hugs afterwards. Now that’s real love.
Next up are Alabama natives Gideon, ready to capitalise on their reputation for heavy-hitting mosh mayhem. And if you needed visual cues, guitarist Tyler Riley is rocking some sick Perseverance-era Hatebreed merch and drummer Jake Smelley (he he) is in a cut-off Stone Cold ‘Toughest SOB’ Steve Austin tee. ‘Nuff said. Kicking off with the one-two punch of No Love and Champions, the Chrisso quartet do not disappoint and do their damnedest to bring the hardcore beatdowns for Jesus. Older cuts like Survive, Prodigal Son and Bad Blood get a mention, but the band largely pull from last year’s record Cold, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
Vocalist Daniel McWhorter stalks the stage with fire in his eyes, pulling the crowd closer through the sheer force of his hand gestures and demanding more energy. We’re also impressed at Riley’s efforts in keeping the set thick and full, a tough order of business considering that he’s the group’s singular guitarist. Overall, their set is bouncy and headbang-worthy; by the end, the Brisbane crowd has the appearance of a sea of sweaty and smiling bobbleheads. While the endless ‘chug-chug-chug’/‘ksh-ksh-ksh’ patterns are getting a bit repetitive, closer Cursed is still the best track off their new record and the local pit warriors make a rush to get in every last flailing limb they can.
Before The Devil Wears Prada wrap up, Mike Hranica emphatically declares that 1) the band is from the U.S.A, and 2) “Fuck Donald Trump.”
It’s been a few years since Dayton, Ohio outfit The Devil Wears Prada have graced a Brisbane stage, and there’s more than a few fans here tonight to see them return. The bludgeoning intro of Mammoth from 2011’s Dead Throne sets the tone for their set, with follow-up Planet A showcasing the dynamics of the group’s later material, particularly the fantastic Space EP. The lights are noticeably dimmed on stage (with a thankful break from the relentless epileptic blinders of the Gideon set) and there’s a heavy use of smoke for atmospherics. Vocalist Mike Hranica has the visage of a man possessed: tattie-boy shirtless, long hair flowing, arms outstretched in poses equal parts anguish and protestation. Worldwide from their most recent record Transit Blues is a welcome inclusion, with its hooky, city-name-checking outlook at a nomadic life on the road.
With the band coming off a tenth-anniversary tour in the States for 2009’s With Roots Above and Branches Below, blitzing through metalcore bangers like Dez Moines and Assistant to the Regional Manager is a total no-brainer, and the crowd lap that shit up. While rhythm guitarist/clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster does his best to add the sugary sweetness to Hranica’s sour screams and coarse gutturals, it’s a shame that he only seems to enunciate every third word or so. Proving that the band are at their best with a strong lyrical and narrative concept, Outnumbered from the fan-favourite Zombie EP is a standout this evening, as the band stomp the swaying stage with enough force to shake the questionable stage rigging and turn it into some kind of manic jumping castle. Before they wrap up, Hranica emphatically declares that 1) the band is from the U.S.A, and 2) “Fuck Donald Trump.” It’s a message that no one here tonight will argue with, and as the group tear through closer Danger: Wildman, it’s clear that yes, The Devil Wears Prada do in fact, know a ghost.
Waiting for our headliners to begin, our compatriot Manda questions—somewhat out of the blue—why Axl Rose is now the front-man for AC/DC. A perplexing question to be sure, and we comment that maybe it has something to do with him looking like the foot of someone who exclusively uses a mobility scooter. Indeed, time has not been kind to that Sweet Child. Meanwhile, Toto’s Africa plays over the outdoor P.A. and gets a huge sing-along from the Brissy crowd, followed expertly by the choice of Men At Work’s Down Under.
A little over eighteen months ago, when Polaris were still unsigned and a support band on other band’s tours, we said of their obvious talent then: “There’s really no denying that these guys will be fucking huge before too long. Believe the hype, because the dudes in Polaris are absolutely killing it right now.”
As Polaris take to The Valley Drive-In stage, with a huge and expensive-looking lighting set-up, we remark internally about how we’re running out of ways to describe how good their live show actually is. This year alone, we’ve seen them five separate times, and the shows just keep getting bigger, louder, more lavish and packed with new faces. This fact is also not lost on vocalist Jamie Hails, as he remarks to the crowd, after the group bulldozes them into submission with a pummelling trifecta of The Remedy, L’Appel Du Vide and Casualty. You would be hard pressed to find a tighter and heavier band operating in metalcore today, and the group’s busy international touring schedule hasn’t dulled their impact in the slightest.
Cuts like The Slow Decay and Dusk To Day from their break-out debut album The Mortal Coil elicits a huge response from the heaving crowd, with a veritable sea of tossed shoes and crowd-surfers being left in their wake. Drummer Daniel Furnari has such a good time on the riser that he breaks his snare and the band gives him a gentle razzing while they wait during the changeover. During a rousing performance of the largely instrumental In Somnus Veritas, some cheeky bastard in the crowd jumps up on the sloped roof above the concrete retaining wall, and scales right round to side of the stage before bum-rushing the band and taunting the arguably hamstrung security in the photo pit. Bassist/clean vocalist Jake Steinhauser continues to prove that he’s got the best pipes in metalcore right now, while we catch guitarist Ryan Siew throwing up a gauntlet pose and putting horns on his forehead. Incredible stuff. Hails gives a shout-out to the support the band received with the release of their 2016 EP, The Guilt & The Grief, and as thanks, they rip into standout track Voiceless, which pleases the eager punters upfront. Moving towards the set’s end, Hails reflects on how surreal it is for them to have The Devil Wear Prada along for this tour as main support, especially given that the Ohio band has been such a huge influence on both Hails and the rest of the Polaris boys since they were kids getting into heavy music. Their over an hour-long set then finishes with album cuts Consume and Lucid, which is still one of the most infectious metalcore cuts we’ve heard in years.
But wait, there’s more. Returning for an encore, Polaris gift the Brissy crowd with a rendition of Crooked Path, a track off The Mortal Coil which the band have yet to play live and it’s a definite highlight. A little over eighteen months ago, when Polaris were still unsigned and a support band on other band’s tours, we said of their obvious talent then: “There’s really no denying that these guys will be fucking huge before too long. Believe the hype, because the dudes in Polaris are absolutely killing it right now.” And it certainly feels nice to be vindicated, because Polaris are killing it and they are fucking huge; they’re performing on a totally different level and everyone else is playing catch-up. No need to believe the hype then, because right now, it’s just fact.