Live Review: High Tension, I Exist, Outright, Diecut

13 July 2015 | 2:40 pm | Matthew Tomich

"It’s a celebration of a community, and a testament to High Tension’s place as leaders and role models in the landscape of heavy music in Melbourne."

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It’s refreshing to see such a mixed audience for the launch of High Tension’s new album, Bully. The crowd here is half women, including the bands themselves – a welcome change from the veritable boys’ club that makes up most audiences at heavy and hardcore shows.

Clothed all in black and cloaked in red light, Diecut open with melancholic, doom-tinged shoegaze. It’s a sound at odds with the rest of the evening’s line-up, owing to their stepping in as last-minute replacements for sludge metal outfit YLVA, but it’s a welcome alternative to the heaviness that follows. Moody yet uplifting, the quintet weave shimmering guitars with droning ambience and deadpan vocals into a lush and vibrant tapestry that’s as hypnotising as it is compelling.

From the first note, Outright unleash a relentless barrage of punishing hardcore. The quartet’s fiery and explosive guitars are steeped in equal parts groove and heaviness, but the obvious focal point is firebrand ferocity of vocalist Jelena Goluza. Between her impassioned screaming and the band’s industrial-strength riffage, Outright turn everyone in that room – hardcore fans or otherwise – into believers.

I Exist boast three guitarists, but it’s difficult to differentiate one sound from another amongst the sludgy dissonance that emerges from the speakers. One thing’s for sure: if David Icke is right and the world is actually run by shape-shifting reptilian aliens disguised as humanoids, the voice of the global elite will sound as guttural and animalistic as I Exist vocalist Jake Willoughby.

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The first thing you should know about High Tension is that they’re loud – so loud you’ll regret not bringing your earplugs because you’ll be suffering tinnitus for a week. Ash Pegram’s blistering guitar overpowers everything else in the mix, drowning the room in screeching distortion. The front part of the audience finally break out in a mosh pit during Collingwood, the rapid-fire two-minute ode to pissing in cups, skimming fares on the 86 tram and high-fiving everyone in Smith Street.

Before long, vocalist Karina Utomo grows tired of the confines of the stage, making the first of several forays into the crowd. She shares singing (and screaming) duties with eager fans up front, later inviting Outright’s Goluza back to the stage for a duet, before bringing more than half a dozen friends on stage for a raucous performance of the new album’s title track, Bully.

It becomes clear towards the end of the night that this is not just an album launch or a rock show: it’s a celebration of a community, and a testament to High Tension’s place as leaders and role models in the landscape of heavy music in Melbourne. This is one of the heaviest shows you’ll see from an Australian band all year. Catch them on a small stage while you still can.