Live Review: Northlane, ERRA, Sworn In, Thornhill

23 October 2017 | 5:04 pm | Rod Whitfield

"Northlane's unrelenting willingness to experiment and be progressive with their songwriting is what sets this band apart."

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Openers Thornhill ply the melodic-metalcore trade. The Melbourne five-piece suffer a little from a muddy mix and somewhat formulaic approach to songwriting. The vocals need a little work in terms of their dynamics and range, and the band as a whole need to look a little more closely at developing their own unique voice. However, the band's commitment cannot be questioned.

Chicago natives Sworn In take the stage next and immediately enthral the crowd with a sound and presentation that is difficult to define. Combining deathcore grind with a little nu-metal bounce and dark dissonance, they play with timing in a progressive fashion while slamming down the groove like a sledgehammer, and this makes for more interesting listening while you head-bang and mosh-out. Plus, the single-guitar line-up allows all the instruments to breathe a little more. The sound is open and enormous. Sworn In receive a rather rousing reception and seem stoked to be here on their first-ever Aussie tour.

The same can be said for Alabama's ERRA. Their more exuberant, uplifting take on the proggy, metalcore genre provides a sweet contrast from the discordant dredge that came before. The dynamic clean/dirty vocal trade-off between frontman JT Cavey and guitarist Jesse Cash is a real highlight. Cash's cleans ring particularly true and Cavey commands the stage like a master. There is but one small complaint about ERRA's set: it is too short at less than 30 minutes. They give a tantalising taste of what they are capable of and then whisk it away, leaving the ecstatic crowd hungry for more.

The legend of Aussie, progressive-metalcore crew Northlane is growing and growing, and this night only adds further lustre to their burgeoning aura. The first thing that leaps out at you is the stunning visual nature of their show. Whoever designed the visuals for this tour needs to be given a hearty, congratulatory slap on the back and a pay rise, because they have come up with a spectacle that throws all manner of different looks, lighting patterns and rear-screens at the crowd, all perfectly synced to the accompanying song.

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However, all the scintillating visuals on the planet aren't worth shit if the music doesn't match up and, of course, Northlane's certainly does and then some. Their songs are prodigiously powerful and reach insane levels of intensity, but are also left of centre and never predictable. As a live act they are tight. They have a commanding grasp of dynamics, their sound sometimes a swirling maelstrom, sometimes pulling back to unsettling atmospherics and always fluid, always moving. Mid-set stunner and their best cut, Quantum Flux, is a highlight, which is breathtaking in its grandiosity.

Northlane's unrelenting willingness to experiment and be progressive with their songwriting is what sets this band apart in a scene that has somewhat of a cookie-cutter reputation, and in a live setting the songs grow another two legs.