Live Review: Live Review: Spiritbox @ The Forum

22 March 2023 | 1:48 pm | Rod Whitfield
Originally Appeared In

Spiritbox’s set tonight is a one-hour and fifteen-minute celebration of new-school heavy music.

(Pic by Jess Drews)

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There’s a thing called ‘hype’. It could be defined as the inordinate amounts of attention, publicity, and notoriety centred around an entity, often in, although not restricted to, the entertainment industry: a band, movie, TV show etc. It is also often reserved for, although not limited to, new or relatively new entities.

Sometimes an entity is absolutely worth the hype. Often it is not. Canadian heavy act Spiritbox belong fairly and squarely in the former category. 

But before we lean into the set performed by said Canucks, we have two superb local supports to examine. And examine them we will: Sydney’s Reliqa are a prime and fabulous example of modern progressive rock, although they certainly put their own twist and stamp on the sub-genre. 

They are female-fronted, quite rare in prog rock circles, and unlike most progressive bands, virtually all of their tunes are short, streamlined and snappy, although they pack a hell of a lot of ideas, notes and concepts into three to five minutes. 

Said female is one Monique Pym, an absolute dynamo performer who possesses a voice that is both sweet and melodic and packed with power. She also plays the keys when and where required. The compositions she sings are both twisty and turny and coherent and cohesive and can feature heavy but complex breakdowns, ambience and atmospherics, instrumental wizardry and neck-snapping dynamics. 

On record, they sound superb. Live, it comes alive even more. Especially when Sean Harmanis from Make Them Suffer appears onstage for a blistering but ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance on the single he and Reliqa did together, Safety

Seeing this band for the first time in a big place is fantastic, but at the same time, it actually makes this scribe long to see them live, loud and in your face, up close and personal, in a smaller, more intimate space. And preferably headlining, as this would give them more than a whiz-bang 30 minutes. 

On the flip side of the coin, this is probably this writer’s sixth or seventh time seeing Perth’s Make Them Suffer, and they never, ever fail to put on an explosive live show. Tonight, they detonate The Forum from the very first note, wowing the packed-out, sold-out crowd with shattering versions of tracks culled from their last few releases and their enormous, stadium-filling sound. 

Tonight, the vocal trade-off this band is famous for works an absolute treat: Harmanis is in typically awesome, throat-ripping form, screaming and howling as though his very life depends on it, while new keyboardist and vocalist Alex Reade’s crystal clear voice veritably soars above the maelstrom of sound. Indeed, it is this band’s willingness, from the word go, to include clean, hooky female vocals as a major part of their sound that is a major part of their global success. 

This band has always juxtaposed melody and beauty with savagery to near-flawless effect, and tonight this is on full display once again. 

Mid-career (at this point in time) and mid-set stunner Ether remains this band’s best cut, and tonight it causes a spontaneous, wall-to-wall bout of coordinated hand waving across the crowd. That said, their set is nothing but quality from go to woah, and as always, somehow manages to be super-slick and devastatingly raw at the same time. 

The wondrous Miss Courtney LaPlante’s appearance on closer Contraband is the sweet cream on a very tasty cake, as well as extraordinarily well received in the room, and leads into the main event just beautifully. Witnessing Harmanis and LaPlante trade off and scream in unison is a sight and sound to behold.

A high-profile international band’s first-ever visit to a country, especially a country so far away from their homeland, is always special, and LaPlante and the band seem genuinely stoked and ‘honoured’ to be here. And this comes across in their performance this night. A relatively new band, who have apparently played ‘relatively few shows’, they play and perform with a swagger that is both super-confident and absolutely sincere, and this is embodied in the magnetic figure that is LaPlante. 

When a little of the aforementioned hype surrounds a relatively new entity on the scene, there is often talk in cynical and ignorant circles about it not being real, about it possibly being a studio creation. 

Well, you can rest assured that LaPlante’s famed vocal abilities are absolutely authentic. In fact, her vocals grow another leg in a live setting, both in terms of the melodic cleans and gut-wrenching uncleans. She positively nails every note, every scream, every soothing clean. 

Spiritbox’s set tonight is a one-hour and fifteen-minute celebration of new-school heavy music, an extravaganza of heaviness, melody, atmospherics and subtle but effective electronica. Every song hits the mark, from opener Circle With Me to closer, the title track from their debut album Eternal Blue. Every song sounds exactly like it does on the record, just bigger, badder, bolder, and better. Every moment is slickly produced and spontaneously delivered. And the massive crowd laps it all up like the cat who got the cream.

Tonight represents a fabulous lineup of modern heavy sounds and performances, highly varied, and yet one that makes so much sense. Congratulations to all three bands; you did yourselves proud tonight.