In Hearts Wake‘s stop at the Melbourne Forum, as part of their Arc tour, marks the biggest headline set the band has played to date. To celebrate the occasion, the Aussie bruisers brought some of the best homegrown and international acts contemporary heavy music has to offer along with them.
It was a shame that more punters weren’t able to get in earlier to catch Polaris’ opening set. The Sydney up-and-comers brought a level of energy and a degree of craft to the stage befitting of a much bigger band and, as the crowd trickled in over the course of their set, they surely impressed more than a few new fans. Even with just a few short EPs under their belt, the five-piece are capable of putting together a bullet-proof set, and they certainly brought their A-game this evening. They opened with a brand new track, before dropping into more comfortable “classics” like “Regress” and “Unfamiliar”, with magnetic frontman Jamie Hails (a master of the long-lost art of the mic-stand) ensuring that the energy never dropped below peak output.
The undeniable highlight of the set, however, proved to be the phenomenal new single “Consume”, which saw otherwise largely reserved lead guitarist Ryan Siew go into full blown guitar hero mode—straddling the fold back wedge and going through a series of intensifying expressions of in-credulousness with each new riff and lead. He knows just how good a song they’ve written and Polaris left the audience absolutely no room to consider otherwise. These guys are looking like they’re going to be the next big thing in Australian heavy music and they surely deserve to be.
Speaking of big things to come: it’s an absolute travesty that While She Sleeps aren’t headlining their own shows at this point. They’ve been steadily grinding away at the underground for some time now, but their new record, You Are We will, without a doubt, go down in history as a generation-defining album, and While She Sleeps themselves are a generation-defining band along with it. They absolutely erupted onto the stage with that record’s explosive title-track before dropping into a rendition of the old-school anthem, “Seven Hills” that had all the hallmarks and energy of a closing number—and this was only two songs in! The Sheffield crew have entire albums worth of moments in their songs, and their set felt so much bigger than it possibly could have been within the confines of the already ample walls of The Forum. They proceeded to drop into a devastatingly vicious rendition of “Brainwashed” – which saw the crowd whipped up into a massive circle pit – before backing it up with an even more crushing rendition of “Feel” like it was no big deal.
“We want to be like a festival in here,” declared main man, Lawrence “Loz” Taylor about midway through the set, and it certainly felt like a festival set—both due to a slew of naturally-occurring “walls of death” and the unfortunately stunted setlist. That While She Sleeps managed to deliver that kind of set without even playing what I would argue are their four best tracks: “Steal The Sun,” “Civil Isolation,” “Dead Behind The Eyes” or “Be(lie)ve” is an absolute testament to just how good this band truly are. Although the lack of “Hurricane” (or any other encore) to follow up the climactic “Silence Speaks” left both the ravenous crowd and fired-up guitarist Mat Welsh noticeably disappointed. Following the set, the line for the band’s merchandise extended almost entirely across the top of the Forum’s mezzanine (much to the noticeable chagrin of Crossfaith’s deserted seller opposite). It’s hard to think of While She Sleeps playing second—let alone third—fiddle to anyone ever again, following that performance.
Continuing the festival atmosphere were Japanese rave-metallers, Crossfaith, and although they are yet to impress on record properly, the six-piece always pack one hell of a live show and tonight was no exception. Staples like “Monolith” and “Jagerbomb” might be starting to grow a bit stale (along with their usual antics), but the band managed to keep things fresh with newer, and distinctly Slipknot-ian, hard-hitters “Countdown To Hell” and “Xeno,” while the masterful “Leviathan” is always a welcome addition. They arguably got the biggest reception of the night and were the talk of the crowd on the way out. If Crossfaith ever manages to translate this level of energy and consistency to record they could potentially take over the world.
In Hearts Wake (who join Aversions Crown in the league of apostrophe-challenged Australians) took the whole “festival” vibe and put it into full effect with a number of calculated stunts—to varying effect. Jake Taylor’s aggravated build-up to “Passage” was rather spoiled by the ominous curtain that served as his backdrop failing to drop, which left him floundering alone at the front of the stage for about ten or fifteen seconds before the rest of the band and their desert island set-up was unceremoniously revealed. Likewise, the shower of inflatable sea creatures that accompanied “Frequency” seemed to be at odds with the fable of “the world’s loneliest whale” that preceded it. More inspired was the game of “capture the flag” which saw Taylor being crowd-surfed in an inflatable dingy to deliver a cake to the band’s sound guy, which he exchanged for a flag that was subsequently used as a prop during the following rendition of “Warcry.” Unfortunately, the stunt’s build-up—which saw Taylor posturing atop the stage, cake-in-hand, to the tune of The Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat”—was, again, undercut when he put the cake aside and proceeded through half of “Survival (The Chariot)” before the actual event took place. It was a fun shenanigan that certainly one-upped their fellow Byron Bay cohorts in Parkway Drive, whose playbook they’d been otherwise faithfully plundering. However, it might have worked better as a direct intro to “Warcry” than as a belated interruption to its preceding number.
Besides the frequent stunts and persistent pyrotechnics, their set was fairly straightforward. A lot of posturing buoyed the performance, and bassist Kyle Erich seemed like he was having trouble pulling off some of the clean-singing sections. The Byron crew have worked hard to get where they are today, and they’ve amassed a legion of faithful followers along the way. It’s also great to see bigger bands and promoters putting together such diverse and exciting lineups as this one. However, it’s also hard not to feel like In Hearts Wake were punching well above their weight on this particular night.
*Bonus shout out to whoever dropped Bury Your Dead’s “House Of Straw” during the soundcheck. That was particularly inspired.