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Cancer Bats, Kingdom Of Sorrow, This Is Hell Live @ The Reverance Hotel, Melbourne, Australia

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The Rev’s band room hosted another fantastic Sidewave on the eve of Soundwave festival for Melbourne’s heavy music fans.

The sold-out show was held in just the right venue to create an intimate atmosphere – so intimate that when opener This Is Hell’s guitarist, Rick Jimenez, spat off the stage, people got wet. But Jimenez did a lot more than slag; he also played and performed impeccably. Jimenez was already shredding less than two seconds into the band’s set and showcased his ability on the axe throughout their performance.

Carrying out every lead break with ease and plenty of tremolo bar action, Jimenez even seemed to impress his band mate Travis Reilly who paused to request that the guitarist “do the wah pedal” during a solo. But possibly more outstanding than Jimenez was drummer Mike Sciulara, whose constant, skilful assault of the skins really drove the band’s fast-paced attack. Jimenez and Sciulara, the members of the band with the most to concentrate on, also did the majority of the performing, as Jimenez spun and scissor kicked his way around the stage and Sciulara stood up behind his kit to start the crowd clapping. Perhaps only by comparison, frontman Reilly seemed a little apathetic at first, but this was justified by the news that This is Hell had come directly from another gig and that this was their second show of the night. Reilly perked up quickly enough, throwing around his mic (which crashed painfully on the ground at one point) and suggesting to the crowd that there were “about 500 things to jump off” around the venue. Delivering their brand of furious hardcore, embellished with shredding and plenty of metallic influences (especially observable in their song The Enforcer, which, by the way, sports a killer riff), This is Hell kicked off the night well.

Next to take the stage was Crowbreed/Hatebar, who are formally known as sludge metal act Kingdom of Sorrow. Frontman Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) led the charge, proudly introducing riff master Kirk Windstein of Crowbar and Down. But Windstein, the great man with the great beard, was slow off the mark as he struggled to play, unable to see the guitar neck. After demanding that the lights be tweaked multiple times, Windstein was finally comfortable and the band got underway, playing song after song of their ridiculously heavy, meaty sludge riffs. Jasta was the band’s lifeboat in terms of energy and kept their stage performance alive, with a little help from fill in bassist Chris Taylor. Jasta did a great job of cultivating an enthusiastic crowd, despite his band mates’ comparably little enthusiasm, but unfortunately was disadvantaged by slightly too low vocal levels. Drummer Nick Bellmore also seemed to have had trouble with sound, signaling to the back of the room that he couldn’t hear. Nevertheless, Kingdom of Sorrow’s relentlessly heavy material and Windstein’s expert riffs still made for a great performance, which climaxed when Monuments of Ash stirred the crowd into frenzy and Jasta screamed “don’t even pretend this isn’t the heaviest riff you’ve ever heard in your miserable lives.” And it kind of was.

But when Cancer Bats burst onto the stage we were all reminded why we were really there. From the minute they launched into Bricks and Mortar, Cancer Bats grabbed everybody by the throat. United in their energy and unrivaled in their intensity, the band’s entire performance was absolutely electric, providing the audience with the release they’d been looking for. Cancer Bat’s flew through a set of their distinctive brand of hardcore punk, performing tracks off of their latest album Dead Set on Living (such as Breath Armageddon, Old Blood, Road Sick and R.A.T.S) as well as older favourites Deathsmarch and Hail Destroyer, which saw a crazed crowd stage dive, circle pit and threaten to rip lights from the ceiling. Guitarist Scott Middleton was incredibly impressive, pulling off each and every fast, crunchy, often metallic riff and tasty southern style lick perfectly. Frontman Liam Cormier didn’t cease to move for a moment and I was surprised that he wasn’t reduced to a pile of sweat by the end of the night.

Cormier’s showmanship reminded me of eccentric frontman Dennis Lyxzén of Refused as he performed with explosive, unrestrained energy. Cormier constantly catapulted around the stage, delivering his expressive vocals and piercing, powerful scream. Cormier was as ease with the audience, likening Australia’s vibe to Canada and naming our country his second home. Cancer Bats concluded their mental live spectacle with a cover of the Beastie Boy’s Sabotage and left a satisfied, if not god smacked, audience smiling from ear to ear.

Photos by Kim Croxford

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