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EYE OF THE ENEMY, ORPHEUS OMEGA & More: Northcote Social Club 29/06/24

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Words by Erin Eddy

Pix by Jason Vidic

It’s always going to be a special night when two beloved bands like Eye of the Enemy and Orpheus Omega co-headline in their home city.

The two bands, who both formed in the early-mid 2000’s, have experienced their share of successes; they’ve toured extensively, both across Australia and overseas, and they’ve shared stages with some of metal’s most impressive names. But there ain’t no place like home, right?

The Northcote Social Club provided the ideal setting for Eye of the Enemy and Orpheus Omega to team up and showcase their latest releases, while also satisfying their loyal fanbase with old favourites. The venue is spacious yet retains an intimate atmosphere, capturing the unique feel that you can only really get at a local show.

Now, ashamedly, I’m kind of late to the party for these two incredible bands, having only really started listening to them a handful of years ago, and despite my desire to catch them live, the opportunity has continually evaded me until this fateful night.

But not only was this an opportunity for me to see if the headliners lived up to the hype on stage, it also turned out to be the ultimate lineup in that their supporting acts were all up and coming bands that I’ve been giving a lot of streaming love to in recent months. Safe to say, I was very eager for this show.

Starting the night off was Melbourne’s Vault Hill, a four-piece who first kicked off in 2022 and have a sound that blends the bad-assery of thrash metal with the melodic feels of metalcore. Having been impressed by the material Vault Hill have so far produced, I was keen to see how they would compare live.

I’m pleased to say they were a delight to watch. They carried a fierceness throughout their performance that was also laced with a carefree, “we’re so happy to be here” attitude, which I think is just the epitome of your average metalhead, right? Unfortunately they were afflicted with some minor technical issues, which I often actually like to see, as a reviewer, fellow musician and punter. Hang on, what? Did she just say she likes it when things go wrong? Yeah, I did, and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a really good indicator of a band’s competency at keeping the audience engaged, and at how to roll with the punches and keep a show going. It also adds a ‘realness’ that reminds us these are human beings on stage, not machines programmed to spit out their music exactly as it sounds on a recording. I’ve witnessed my fair share of local bands crumble and panic when equipment fails them, and it’s awkward and uncomfortable for everyone to watch. Vault Hill took their tech hiccups (and that’s exactly what they were, tiny little hiccups) in their stride, had a laugh about it, and forged on. It didn’t detract from their overall performance in any way, and honestly, the less observant people in the room probably wouldn’t have known what was going on at all. They held the punters’ attention and had people fist pumping, headbanging and moving around, which is always a difficult task when you’re the opener. A very impressive cover of Slipknot’s Disasterpiece really got people up and about.

I’ll be keen to continue watching Vault Hill develop their live performances over time, as it’s evident they’re already a very cohesive unit that will only get better and better with more gigs under their belt.

Following Vault Hill was Brisbane based progressive metalcore outfit Aeon Nexus. Their first interstate show, they took to the stage with an air of confidence that they maintained throughout their set.

Aeon Nexus is fronted by Sam Wolstenholme, a small woman with a huge voice, who had the punters reaching for their phones to document the experience of watching her impressively switch between operatic cleans to ferocious growls. Their guitarist bounced, hopped, stomped and spun from one end of the stage to the other like an ADHD kid who skipped his Ritalin that morning, while their bassist slayed on a seven string fretless bass like a boss. A band to keep an eye on, it wouldn’t surprise me to see these guys supporting Spiritbox in the future.

Next in line was Melbourne’s alternative metal quintet, Caution:Thieves. Right off the bat their frontman, Nicholas Simonsen made it apparent that we were about to experience a band who takes their music very seriously, but who ultimately know that the stage is about having fun. I’m a big fan of funny quips and lighthearted banter by performers so long as it’s completely genuine and not forced, and the members of Caution:Thieves took to the stage with an air of comfort as Nicholas encouraged the crowd to enjoy themselves and have fun. You know how at certain gatherings it can often take just the one right person to put everyone at ease? Nicholas was that guy, and immediately punters who’d hung at the back, or off to the sides of the room, were eagerly positioning themselves front and centre.

It’s also one thing to watch a band perform, but quite another to witness a band who are visibly enjoying every moment of their time on the stage. It’s a contagion, and by that point, Caution:Thieves were beginning to set the tone for the night, as more and more punters filled the room in preparation for the two headliners and the already good vibes were beginning to heighten.

After Caution:Thieves wrapped up their energetic and passionate set, the curtain was drawn across the stage in preparation for Orpheus Omega.

As I was waiting for them to take to the stage, I became conscious of the encounter I was about to have. You only get one ‘first’ and often we don’t appreciate our ‘firsts’, or think to acknowledge them while we’re in the moment, but I checked myself for a second as I mentally prepared to experience Orpheus Omega live for the first time.

As the five members strode onto the stage, I noted the aesthetics. A simple, but highly effective arrangement of LED lights were placed across the stage and the band all wore outfits that weren’t completely matching, but cohesive enough to act as a ‘uniform’ to create a look. There are certain elements to smaller scale shows that either slather the thing with cheesiness or completely hit the mark, and Orpheus nailed the visual component with a subtly that was appealing without commanding your focus away from the real drawcard: their music and pure energy.

The musicianship of every single Orpheus member was evident from the first note. The precision with which the band played each song was faultless, with their drummer, Matt Themelco, being a particular stand out. An absolute machine behind the kit, you don’t even have to understand music for his insane level of skill to be evident.

Absolutely slaying on keys and keytar, newest member Campbell Hill proved he was the right human for the job, taking over recently after the departure of former keyboardist, Olive Gallagher. I imagine it isn’t easy stepping into a band that clearly has a brotherhood and camaraderie that has been cultivated over the years, something that stood out very clearly as I watched all of the members of Orpheus Omega interact with each other throughout the performance. There were little nods, quick smiles, playful gestures and a whole lot of mostly unplanned, but nonetheless synchronised, windmills and headbanging. Campbell was amongst it all like he had been there from day one.

There wasn’t a second of stagnation during the entire set. Guitarist Luke Ashley and bassist Leon Monaco zipped back and forth across the stage, while guitarist/vocalist Chris Themelco was a commanding presence behind the mic.

This is the kind of band I’d take a non-metalhead to see to change their perception of metal. Sure, the music has an aggressive element, and yes, to the untrained ear, those extreme vocals might be hard to understand. But there was such a huge element of fun and joy in Orpheus Omega’s performance that even the most anti-metal person couldn’t ignore. They weren’t all scowls, doom, hatred, and anger. The band members were having the time of their lives on that stage, it was damned obvious and that energy bled out to the audience, who were fist-pumping, headbanging, circle-moshing, and singing along.

As a band who has an extensive back catalogue, they curated their setlist well, with a good mix of material, but the standout moment was most definitely when they launched into the recently released Emberglow, the titular track from their forthcoming new album.

Emberglow has a chorus that is so ridiculously catchy, the sing-along properties are undeniable, and even though this song is in it’s infancy, having only been released on May 30, it’s clearly already a fan favourite. Orpheus Omega were everything I’d hoped they’d be and more, and are a band I will eagerly watch live over and over again.

Eye Of The Enemy, who were launching their newest single, Redacted, had the task of bringing the night to its conclusion. With a slightly more aggressive, moodier, and darker feel, you could still detect a goofiness underlying their performance. This was particularly well executed by their frontman, Mitch Alexander, who had an air of “I’m acting like a tough guy, but I’m not really, I’m just playin’ ya” about him. I saw this firsthand when I held up my phone to film, and he responded by flipping me off with a deadpan serious face that barely concealed the playful intent behind the gesture. It gave me a good laugh.

This is the kind of band that the aforementioned non-metalhead might not ‘get’, but those of us who live and breathe this scene know exactly what’s going on!

Eye Of The Enemy are a band that have toured extensively, sharing stages with impressive names like Soilwork, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Cradle of Filth, Children of Bodom, and At The Gates, among others. You don’t accumulate a resume like that without a ton of talent and an impressive, engaging stage show.

One unfortunate thing I noted was that the crowd had thinned out slightly by the time Eye Of The Enemy took the stage. However, the punters who remained were damned enthusiastic, their energy feeding the band, and the band’s energy feeding them. It was an intense exchange that was pretty electric to witness. It was also evidence that you don’t need a packed room to create a hyped atmosphere, you simply have to be a great band, able to execute a top tier performance.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable night of metal, with a solid lineup of bands from start to finish. The mixture of genres was varied enough to keep the night engaging without any one band seeming out of place. It was a perfect lineup, perfectly ordered, and the vibes among the punters were full of enthusiasm and excitement all night long. This was one of those metal shows where the sense of community in the room was palpable, leaving me feeling on a high for a good 24 hours afterwards. I would happily spend my time and money to see all of these bands again in the future.

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