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Unify: A Heavy Music Gathering – Review

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Unify: A Heavy Music Gathering
Tarwin Lower, Victoria
10 and 11 January 2015
Words by Will Oakeshott
Photos by Matt Allan

Day One – 10 January

Before we embark on the adventure that was the first ever Unify: A Heavy Music Gathering, this writer would like to begin with a challenging thought. There is no denying that Australia is fortunate enough to host numerous festivals especially but when is it too much? The dissolution of the Big Day Out, formerly a premiere event gives evidence to this notion; but with a sold out capacity for Unify met in literally days, the promise was more than apparent.

Melbourne’s gangster-mosh-rapcore Earth Caller had the honour of opening this premiere event and for that role they were very competent. Combining the heaviness of Confession with the rap inclination of Deez Nuts is an interesting combination; however this quartet has not quite executed this fascinating fusion to a prominent level.

Sydney’s Stories were the dark horse in retrospect. Their progressive djent-core formula is leading a new wave of heavy music in Australia and their soon to be released debut album will be an unforgettable journey if the songs performed were anything to go by.

The moshcore masters from New Zealand Antagonist A.D. showcased their maturity as a dominant act provoking the hardcore kids to give the security guards a bit of a challenge; the momentum was truly building at this point.

Deez Nuts accelerated the party vibe and ‘hustled’ the crowd as they do ‘everyday’ (pun intended) with vocalist JJ Peters in the finest form of his career as a front-man. This party attitude was soon converted to devastation by Queensland’s deathcore stars Thy Art Is Murder; whose global ascension became truly obvious during their destructive performance. “We are definitely the biggest band in the world, we have followers who are stalking us to a frightening level, Metallica should be looking out.” Vocalist CJ McMahon described with hilarious sarcasm but an element of disturbing truth (in reference to the online stalking). “We love our stature overseas; Europe and America just GET us. But we miss our favourite beer VB when we are away.” Drummer Lee Stanton and guitarist Andy Marsh admit just before hitting the stage and then TAIM will retreat and really embark on the mission of crafting album number three.

It had well and truly hit nightfall at this point, but this absence of light allowed for a cinematic effect to which the giants of the festival were able to shine. Enter Byron Bay’s other treasured sons of metalcore In Hearts Wake. 2014 was certainly the band’s most prestigious yet and it radiates with their live and passionate shows; on this night this was memorable to say the least. Vocalist Jake Taylor reflects: “We have worked hard to get where we are now, it has been a long four years I can assure you, I feel tired daily from it. But it is all worth it, we are reaping the rewards from not only the fans voting for Earthwalker as the number one album in the Triple J Short.Fast.Loud poll, but also publications of higher statuses recognising us and our hard work. The USA is our next step, it’s going to be a challenge, but it will not break us, just level our heads.”

Marcus Bridge was possibly the most important identity at the entire Unify Gathering. The anticipation for his Australian festival debut with beloved progressive metalcore outfit Northlane was enhancing the energy present exponentially; and deliver, he did. There are always going to be naysayers and that Adrian Fitipaldes could never be replaced, but the live portrayal of new single ‘Rot’ was astounding. As guitarist Josh Smith enlightens HEAVY: “We had 2,000 people roughly audition to sing for us which were narrowed down to roughly 20 and three were Australians from memory. It was preferential because being Australian retains the identity of this band and I’m just happy it is over now. Now it’s time to tour more and keep working on album number three which we are recording in March with Will Putney.”

It had been a long day but the electricity in the air for emotional melodic metalcore stalwarts The Amity Affliction was somehow still rising in prominence. The lower temperatures were blissfully ignored and the sing-along to single ‘Don’t Lean On Me’ was beyond deafening. The saddening loss of original member and guitarist Troy Brady was duly noted but did not have the band missing a beat. A glorious ending to an unforgettable first day of Unify.

Day Two – 11 January

With an ocean of punters varying from unbearably sore heads to marathon party warriors to the straight edge hardcore combatants, it was an early start for most. The pain was eased and incentive reignited by melodic hardcore pop punk Sydney-siders Endless Heights who in this scribe’s opinion are criminally undervalued. Featuring cuts from their astonishing New Bloom album, fortunately the numerous in attendance did take notice, a great effort considering the 11am final day time slot.

Funcore New South Welshman Hellions brought the celebratory vibe back with an absolute blast of energy for their half hour set. Single ‘Hellions’ was the instigator, which cured all ailments; this was further accentuated by a guest appearance from JJ Peters.

The Crafter show known as Confession brought the mosh enthusiasts to the front, but a softer side of this aggressive veteran of the scene was exposed with tracks like ‘23’ about his daughter and the anthem ‘Fuck Cancer’, which related to his father’s recent passing to the awful disease. Crafter’s transformation into a socially aware individual and caring father is certainly impassioned and infectious.

Arguably the most anticipated band for the day, if not the festival was the live return of Perth’s favourite emotional hardcore sons in Break Even. Performing their stunning album The Bright Side in full, this was a long awaited event, which may have worked better on the first day of the festival, but was treasured nevertheless. The first show since the quartet’s demise in 2012, the live set was a little rusty understandably, but this did not diminish the significance of this needed come back. As vocalist Mark Bawden recalls: “It was a really sad day in 2012 when we finished this band at Hardcore Fest, we did try to move on and do our own thing. I joined Melbourne’s Hopeless, but realised that I was just trying to put Break Even into Hopeless, that wasn’t going to work. I was selling merch for other bands in the interim and everyone kept asking me what was happening with Break Even, it made us realise we had something special. We did just stop this band, we didn’t wind down and now we want to give justice to this record we never got to release and give back to the fans.”

So ends the first Unify: A Heavy Music Gathering, but to return to the initial question of whether Australia is over-saturated with festivals? If Unify is anything to go by, it’s celebration of Heavy predominantly Australian music and one-of-a-kind notoriety gives justice to one answer, we are a great and prosperous nation with unforgettable music. So let’s keep supporting it!

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