Dregg, Jack The Stripper, Belle Haven, Cane Hill And Atreyu!? Oh, boy! Here we go gigging again!
Atreyu’s third album, 2006’s ‘A Death-Grip On Yesterday’, is by far one of their better records but it was released in a weird position for the band, despite selling well at the time. See, ‘The Curse’ dropped in 2004, their first big breakthrough, and in 2007, their third record was quickly followed up by one of their most commercially successful releases – ‘Lead Sails Paper Anchor’. Since then, there have been two more Atreyu records - 2009’s sensational pe-hiatus release, ‘Congregation Of The Damned’ and 2015’s post-hiatus return, ‘Long Live’. But as 2016 marks the ten-year anniversary of 'Death-Grip...' and with the band's only Australian tour for 2016 being a support run for Bullet For My Valentine, a one-off headline show at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne was a great excuse to give a small number of Aussie fans the full album treatment. However, before that record and some of Atreyu's bigger hits would appease the many die-hards in attendance, there was a whole host of local talent to enjoy first. The first of which being Melbourne’s very own Dregg.
(Note: this is a good time to mention that there aren't any photos in this live review - hence the band promo above - as our photographer Jordan Tan had a family emergency come up last minute and couldn't make it. So we wish him and his family the best. Now, as for all of you reading this, you'll just have to use your own imagination with the help of my words to visualize what went down. I'd put in the photos that I took on my iPhone but I don't wanna be "that" guy.)
If you’ve never seen the wonderfully weird hardcore outfit that is Dregg play live before, then let me break down what you can expect; face paint, makeup, tight riffs, punchy grooves, intense facial expressions, maybe a sneaky 90's nu-metal cover, and a no-fucks-given attitude.
Set up on the second and smaller stage inside of the Corner Hotel, Dregg's brand of hardcore is just so engaging to watch live. From the music itself to the odd but interesting visual aesthetic of each member and the intimidating facial expressions of bassist Glenn Romano; you just can't look away. 'Get Owt' and 'Curriculum Critters' from the band's 'No Comment' EP get some early mosh action, and as for that previously mentioned cover, well, the band rips out their faithful but kickass rendition of System Of A Down's 'Sugar'. Trust me, this is something that will never, ever get old. Which is also the case for their most recent single, ‘Sorry Daddy’, as it is still the band’s best song by far and it wraps up their live shows so well.
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Now, if you were to ask my brother and fellow KYS writer, Matty Sievers, about the band, he would tell you that Dregg is good but not that good. Well, that's where you are wrong, little brother - Dregg are just that good and a set like this proves that to be true. Definitely a "cunts fucked" on the Glenn Factor Meter, for sure.
Second off the ranks for the night is Jack The Stripper, and their intense set was played like it was the band's last show, and for one of their members, it was. This show marked the final time that vocalist Luke Frizon would be fronting the Melbourne band, and it's a show that I nor anyone else in attendance will be forgetting anytime soon.
As to put it simply, Jack The Stripper's live shows are fucking insane, from both a sonic and a visual standpoint. Their dissonant, cacophonous brand of extreme metal is not only tight but immensely intensive, and the member's physical movements as they play are all reflective of said music, to say the least. When you put a band like that and music like theirs in a room with dozens upon dozens of people watching on, it's a recipe for the best kind of disaster.
'Grinning Death', 'Track Marks', and ‘Nibiru’ are just crazily good live with the fast, busy drum work and visceral guitar riffs and then, of course, the madman-like screaming of Luke Frizon, who would head-bang and roar into the microphone as if his life depended on it. Well, that's when he wasn't hurling himself into the punters down the front of the stage and imploring any and all to lose their collective minds, which was responded to by a handful of fans doing just that.
By the last two or so songs, Frizon had suffered a (self-inflicted?) cut to the forehead and he made absolutely no effort to wash the away the blood. In fact, he seemed to relish in the injury and use it to the betterment of his band's set and vibe. Face covered in blood, his screams were just as powerful as they ever were; keeping up with the level of intensity his band mates maintained up on the stage. I think this being his last show and now having a rather serious head wound only made the front man act that more vicious and erratic. Hell, at one point he even wiped some of his own blood across the forehead of an audience member a la The Lion King, uttering that iconic phrase of 'Simba' into the mic, easily marking the best "What the fuck?" moment of the whole show. (Also, no need to worry, Frizon is fine. I saw him walking around later on with a massive bandage wrapped around his head, so he's all good... I think?)
As Jack The Stripper's set comes to a close, the band and their singer definitely left 100% of themselves up on that stage, leaving those familiar with the band's music satisfied and those who only came for Atreyu bewildered, impressed or both. It'll be interesting to see where these guys go next with a new singer and a new release, but that's a matter for another time.
Now, I imagine that playing before or after a band like Jack The Stripper is no easy task but Belle Haven was up to the challenge with their striking post-hardcore sound. Of course, opening up with a song like the short but blisteringly heavy 'Hunt For Health' does help matters in that regard. Song wise, the group's recent chart-topping banger, 'The Carving Knife', also made an appearance in their set, as did 'The Looking Glass' and the chaotic anthem of 'Closet', which rounded out their set.
Bassist Tom Mitchell and guitarists Christopher Vernon and Daniel 'Mara' Marinakis dance and throw their instruments around throughout their set with reckless abandon. Likewise, drummer Jake Zammit has slipped so easily into the band's vibe and sound that you wouldn't even know he's only been a member for a few months now. Singer David Vernon is on-point with both his soaring clean vocals and his harsh screaming and is a commanding presence throughout.
I really do believe that these guys are a great case study for all local bands on not only how to play your songs live but also how to perform and captivate an audience. For a Belle Haven show is a tight, well-oiled machine of kinetic energy and even if you don’t get amongst the mic grabs or the moshing, it is a sight to behold nonetheless. A great example of this was during 'Closet' when Marinakis moves from the stage and onto the shoulders and heads of fans down the front - much to the annoyance of security - while the rest of the band pull apart Zammit's drum kit, striking and playing the various drum pieces and their own instruments as much as they can and as hard as they can. It's a beautiful sight, I assure you.
However, if there was one problem with their set its that it was just so criminally short. Seriously, it was 20 minutes, if that! The gig wasn't running completely on time and the blood and various drink spillages caused during Jack The Stripper's set meant that venue staff had to clean up the front part of this smaller, second stage, leaving the band to cut a song or two. But quality over quantity I suppose and Belle Haven really know how to deliver on the quality.
Once Belle Haven finished up I turned around and noticed that a sizeable amount of the crowd was gathered and facing towards the venue's main stage, and I could only hope they were watching the blissful chaos unfolding behind them for the past hour and a half. If not, they are nothing but lost souls. But from this second and smaller stage we now move to the bigger main stage as New Orleans crew, Cane Hill, hit the stage for only their third ever show on Australian soil.
Look, I was not a fan of the band's debut album ‘Smile’, however, I came ready with an open mind. After all, I was not a big fan of Northlane’s ‘Node’ but once I witnessed that record live I “got it”, more or less. And from the groovy set opener of 'True Love', Cane Hill was on-track for a great set. But even with their energy and a tight musical and vocal performance, the quartet almost felt almost static and dull compared to the prior three bands. Plus, with so many in attendance saving their energy levels and their lung capacity for Atreyu, the calls for mosh pits and the line of "I wanna see blood tonight, Melbourne" all went unanswered.
Yes, I know that Cane Hill aren't that old or that big of a band and this is their very first Australian tour, but I think it came down to their interpersonal interaction between the songs more than how popular they are.
See, between each and every song, vocalist Elijah Witt would talk to the crowd to some degree, which would normally be good... if I could actually hear what he was fucking saying! Before and after each song, either an audio sample of some kind would play, or their amps would purposefully feedback, or drummer Devin Clark would play loud drum fills, or in the case of 'Strange Candy' near the end of their set, guitarist James Barnett just wailed away at his guitar for a minute or so as Witt spoke to us all. But little good that did, as he was hard to make out and any and all verbal connection and interaction went out the damn window.
I suppose that this was all intended by the band to create a sense of flow or rhythm or a particular mood to their set, but it just got in the way and killed the vibe somewhat. When compared with Dregg's earlier set and the way that their singer, Christopher Mackertich, addressed the audience and how Atreyu handled on-stage banter between themselves and the crowd (more on that shortly), Cane Hill's vibe and their personal connection was subpar. Also, as a drummer myself, if the singer of my band suddenly lit a cigarette and then proceeded to put it out on my ride cymbal, I'd be pretty pissed off. Unless it was just backline gear, then go about your business.
Anyway, after a 30-minute set, the band concluded matters with 'Time Bomb' from their debut EP, and after a quick request from Witt to see if anyone knew where to score any drugs, they exited stage left and that left just one more band to go.
One thing I love about ‘A Death-Grip On Yesterday’ is how it just hits you right in the face from the word ‘go’ with ‘Creature’. Which is exactly what happened as soon as Atreyu hit the stage, causing the many fans to go ape-shit and sing as loudly as they could. As the band ran through their underrated third record, it became clear that ten years on this release still goes hard! The thunderous nature of 'Our Sick Story (Thus Far)', the beautiful and melodic anthem that is 'The Theft', the emotional catharsis of 'Ex's and Oh's', to 'We Stand Up'; a song that screamer Alex Varkatzas dedicates to his bandmates, and one can really tell that this truly holds up.
Now, a personal favourite Atreyu song of mine is the angst-ridden, anti-relationship banger, ‘My Fork In The Road (Your Knife In My Back)’ and I never thought that I would see it played live. But low and behold, there I was, amidst the crowd witnessing the song’s face-melting riffs and vehement lyrics live for the first time and I could not be happier. 14 year old me was ecstatic and I could tell I wasn't the only one. In fact, that song was all I could think about during the preceding 'Your Private War' and following 'Untitled Finale', which are both great songs live respectively to be fair.
Now, the run time for this album is about 33 minutes and by the end of ‘Untitled Finale’, there was still plenty of time left on the clock for a few more songs. Cue an encore set of some of the bands biggest hits – ‘Right Side Of The Bed’, ‘Blow’, ‘Becoming The Bull‘ and more. Oh, and of course their ever-popular cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ got a mention because of course it fucking did. Even though their cover of Faith No More's 'Epic' is perhaps still the better cover, beggars can't be choosers so I just enjoyed the ride.
Across this encore set, which began with a sample of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka boat song, the band's energy was tenfold, especially bassist Porter Marc McKnight, who covered a lot stage distance stage throughout their set, wrestling with his bass in any and all directions and around his own person.
Aside from their energy, and their tight sound (well, as best as you'll get at the Corner) another thing that really stood out was the band's banter and comedic moments. From a brief jam of the cheesiest porno music you've ever heard to drummer/singer Brandon Saller's comedic quips, to screamer Alex Varkatzas urging the crowd to chant 'Fuck you, Dan!' at the expense of guitarist Dan Jacobs; many laughs were had for both band and audience members alike. Of course, it was all in good fun, and that's the operative word when talking about this band; fun. Throughout their entire time on stage, smiles were had all around by each member and they were absolutely having the time of their lives. When a band actually gives a shit about playing their music and cares to be there in the moment, people are going to really respond to that, and you can tell the crowd loved and lapped up their enthusiasm.
To top all of this off, the band visited both the newest and the oldest with ‘Long Live’ and the fan-fave 'Lip Gloss And Black' being punched out by the band to bring the show to a close. Cherry meet the top.
After leaving the venue and making my way back to my car, I found myself feeling an immense sense of satisfaction; the feeling that one gets after having a really nice coffee, after seeing a really good movie, or after witnessing a great fucking live show. And this show was a truly special night, for more reasons than one. But more specifically, that's perhaps the key to Atreyu's success, they are just such a satisfying band to watch live, even after all this time. With a new album slated for early next year, I'm sure that the Californians will be back in no time flat.
Hey, so maybe you're still kicking yourself that you missed out on this show and Atreyu's killer set. Or maybe you wanna relive the night's events. Well, do not despair, as you can always check out the live Facebook stream of their set below. It's the next best thing, really. You can also suss out the rest of BFMV's tour dates here.