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Gig Review: In Hearts Wake + Supports, Sydney

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In Hearts Wake + Beartooth + We Came As Romans + Storm The Sky
UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney
30 May 2015
Review by Matt Doria
Photo by Melissa Rochfort

Honestly, whoever orchestrates the lineups for UNFD tours needs a raise. Without fail, every time one of their bands announces a headline run, the lineup is fantastic. Usually three or four solid opening acts, all relative to the headliner’s respective genre, and almost always inclusive of top tier international acts. The venues picked aren’t always the best options, but as far as touring organisation goes, UNFD are one of the best.

Kicking off In Hearts Wake’s ‘Skydancer’ tour tonight were UNFD newcomers (but local scene mainstays) Storm The Sky. Still buzzing from the high of their recently released debut LP Permanence, the Melbourne metalcore sextet dispatched a setlist that showcased the album perfectly – if you hadn’t yet given it a listen, you damn sure wanted to now.

Without a doubt, Storm The Sky are at their greatest point when they’re on a stage destroying their instruments; their live performances are profoundly intense and suffused with unending passion, and tonight was no different. The Roundhouse’s stage was quite obviously cluttered with six musicians hopping around, but to say that they all contributed a world of devotion would be a total understatement.

After a very, very lengthy intermission, the next group to take the stage was Beartooth, a five-piece hardcore punk unit out of Columbus, Ohio with enough fire in their veins to heat a small village through a fierce winter. Fast, loud, and overflowing with calamitous spontaneity, Beartooth had the front half of the crowd going apeshit crazy within mere seconds, a display impressive enough on its own. In no way do these absolute maniacs half-ass their performances; frontman Caleb Shomo’s voice was next to nonexistent, but he still managed to drop vehement gutturals inbetween throwing down his demands that not a single hand be lowered throughout the set. Superfluous? Totally, but what’s some unnecessarily over-the-top banter in the way of a killer set?

Though all five musicians were exceptional in their display, the real MVP was Brandon Mullins on drums with every crushing, callous note smashed effortlessly on point. As a whole, Beartooth’s set was an effervescent mish mash of melodic verses and catchy choruses encapsulated in a gritty, defiantly moreish punk vibe. Brewing the loudest cheers this reviewer has ever heard a venue of this size conjure up, the band ended their twenty-five minute attack with ‘Body Bag’, a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.

It didn’t seem possible that the sheer energy of Beartooth could be upstaged, but Michigan metalcore heroes We Came As Romans pulled it off the second they began their set. Steadying their pace a few songs in, it was their lighter, more pop-oriented songs that stole the spotlight here. Speaking of pop, yes, We Came As Romans are still incorporating covers of random Top 40 tracks into their sets. The last time they played Sydney at the 2013 Warped Tour, it was The Wanted’s annoyingly catchy Glad You Came’; this time, the equally catchy (and equally annoying) Trouble by Taylor Swift… I don’t know either, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t surprisingly enjoyable.

While Storm The Sky are justified in their six-member lineup, the same can’t be said for We Came As Romans. Unclean vocalist Dave Stephens was more than capable of handling cleans, at times performing even better than dedicated clean vocalist Kyle Pavone, rendering Pavone little more than an overexposed irrelevance. Regardless, his presence was not unwelcomed, and he contributed a solid amount of the ceaseless vivacity that poured throughout the Roundhouse as We Came As Romans propelled through an unquestionably engaging set. Through and throughout, We Came As Romans’ opening set served as an invigorating re-introduction to the band in the buildup to their inevitable headline tour.

The wait was excruciating, but when In Hearts Wake finally stormed the stage, the Roundhouse exploded with life as frontman Jake Taylor took the first leap onto his dedicated platform to scream those inescapable opening lines to ‘Skydancer’. Amplified in both size and energy when compared to previous headliners, the Byron Bay envirocore quartet (yes, I’m still using ‘envirocore’) inaugurated their biggest show to date in the craziest, most sweat producing ways one could imagine. They gave us no time to warm up, and certainly no time to get comfortable. This was an all-out barrage of ferocity, and it was an all-out barrage of ferocity until the very end. Though it was only the second song in their setlist, ‘Badlands’ was an immediate highlight – just as catastrophic, just as indefatigable and just as fucking awesome as you could imagine, except way, way moreso.

With flawless stage production, incredible sound engineering and an overall presentation that put even the biggest of arena offerings to shame, In Hearts Wake proved tonight why in the span of two years, they’ve gone from playing free shows in Sutherland to selling out nine-date national tours. Their fervidity is simply amazing, and throughout a setlist that showed amicable attention to all three of their studio albums, those of us that weren’t losing our minds in the mosh were captivated to the point where blinking seemed a chore. For the most part, the crowd was as you’d imagine – when pit dwellers weren’t beating the shit out of eachother, they were doing the Macarena, staging conga lines, playing patty cake… Standard fare for these sorts of shows.

It’s worth noting that tonight’s show was filmed for the purposes of an unspecified release. Between the unavoidable, yet definitively worthy speeches, the heart-rending tribute to Jake’s late grandmother in ‘Wildflower’, and the consistent dispatch of smokey explosions throughout their setlist, whatever the footage is used for is going to be loaded with memorable moments. Across it all, one moment that stands out the most is ‘The Circle (pit) Of Life’, in which somebody – shirtless and wearing the head of a Rafiki costume – orchestrated a venue-wide circle pit set to the opening of ‘Circle of Life’ before tossing a Simba plush toy into the crowd and initiating an explosive transition into ‘Insomnia’.

In summary, the Skydancer tour was nothing short of mind-blowing. In Hearts Wake put on their best performance to date, We Came As Romans made everybody excited for their new album, Beartooth got way too into it, and Storm The Sky gave one of the best first-opening-act sets this reviewer had seen in a long time. A very solid night indeed!

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