I’m growing older too…
October 26, 2018

‘Here with the kids too?’

An woman had started talking to me at the bar whilst I waited for my drink to be mixed. I asked her what she meant.

‘I brought my daughter and her friend,’ she told me. ‘You know, this band aren’t so bad! Sort of like that other band, with the boys in it? Are you here with your children?’

I told her I wasn’t, and thanked the bartender, and the Heavens, for my drink being ready. I refuse to believe I’m too old to attend a Hellions show of my own volition, despite it being suggested at each one I’ve been to.

Hellions,
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, October 24, 2018…

A touring selection of DJs playing Goo Anthems was an odd substitute for support act, and made the night seem to open slowly, despite the venue filling early. It was a shame, but may have helped keep the ticket prices fairly low, and gave a chance to check out the merchandise stand where, thankfully, the album being launched was available on CD (as opposed to Hellion’s previous album launch where I found it only on tape.)

Hellions at the Northcote Social Club, October 24, 2018

Luckily, the lack of support bands didn’t mean an audience that needed time to warm up. As soon as the band emerged on stage, the crowd erupted, even as the band started with a string of new material that only those who had pre-ordered the album would be likely to be familiar with. It was suitable to open with new songs – typical chorus-verse-chorus structure made their own with rips of duelling guitar and building harmonies – and satisfying to see the early enthusiastic reaction, which only built further as the radio-favourite X (Muah) from nine months earlier was brought alive. Later, another new song, Get Up! would hit with a surprise burst of funk-rock bass slaps reminiscent of nothing so much as a Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

Whilst the launch of songs from Rue saw Hellions exhibit a carefully rehearsed craft, the older songs played tonight took on a new life. Songs from Opera Oblivia, in particular, were played with a casual ease, allowing them to be heard in a new light, free of the heavy production of their previous touring incarnations. Oddly, though, weird gimmicks were employed, namely a confetti cannon to accompany the closing Thresher, which would have been as crowd-pleasing had it been played in the same raw style as other songs of the era, without any theatrics.

Nevertheless, the show had an energy and variety one doesn’t normally find at heavy rock nights, and, though launching the new record, it was nice to be taken back to early records, and to be a part of a heavy music audience who know how to dance without being brutal to the point of causing distress.

Hellions – Rue

Hellions Rue Album CoverDaniel Johns remarked at Silverchair’s career being spent in darkness until the release of Diorama, when he said the band relished the chance to finally paint in colours. Similarly, Rue feels like Hellions experiencing some relief and enjoying the simple pleasures life has to offer after the outrage that ran beneath the surface of Opera Oblivia.

Immediately lighter and more melodic than anything we have heard from Hellions in the past, Rue opens impressively with Panic! At The Disco vibes during Odyssey, setting a playful tone that will follow through the album. Even the initial mediocre leading single X (Muah) somehow finds new life when played within the context of the album, and the more impressive follow-up single Smile fits equally as well.

Lyrical leitmotifs, including referencing influences, have been continued from previous albums (to the point of reworking the last album’s Lotus Eater‘s chorus exactly for The Lotus) suggesting a stream-of-consciousness writing style, or perhaps that a concept album-esque story is running through all of Hellions’ work. References to aging in the album’s highlight Furrow and 26 seem to confirm an Adele-style naming convention to the band’s numbered song titles.

Rue is an album that sees Hellions continue the trademarks we’ve known from them since the days of Die Young like thumping builds to dramatic crescendos and frantic raps breaking into duelling guitar choruses, along with the thoughtful production added during Opera Oblivia. The result is a much different, but distinctly Hellions record that is just as worthy of the praise that was offered to their previous work. And just like previous works, it doesn’t wear out upon repeated listens.

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Canal Road…
January 12, 2018

Platform One was previously known for having long queues out the front shivering in the early hours and dressed in revealing clothing. I haven’t seen it like that in several years though.

AM//PM’s Pre-Unify Emo Night,
Platform One, Melbourne, January 11, 2018…

Billed as an old-fashioned punk club night featuring multiple rooms, Platform One seemed like an interesting venue for a rock show. I imagined impassioned scenes within the bunker-like brick walls as a band incited good-natured chaos on the floor below a stage raised only a couple of feet.

Black and white balloons printed with 'Glad to be sad.'Entering shortly before midnight, the first passage was notably almost deserted, with a DJ playing club staples like My Chemical Romance and The Used in earnest to a handful of girls dancing and raising their glasses in appreciation. It is immediately apparent that, whilst it is a picturesque and central venue, Platform One is less than suited to a rock night: the music of Earth Caller is bleeding through the stone wall and overwhelming the DJ set to the point that one needs to strain their ears in order to catch the words of Misery Business. But it does mean that ordering a drink from the bar – decorated tonight with black and white balloons reading ‘Glad to be sad’ – is a simple process.

Joining Earth Caller mid-way through their set, pools of slam dancing have opened sporadically but politely across the full floor of the band room. As a community mosh-pit should be, it is easy to move to the stage to see the frontman howling passionate verses before breaking into shout-along choruses, and swaying in time with the audience for stylishly played jams. The band are at their best when singing in harmony, particularly with the addition of a female vocalist (apparently a special guest, though I didn’t recognise her – perhaps someone from the Unify festival bill.)

Between You And Me at Platform One, MelbourneAfter only a short break, Between You And Me play melodic, sing-along rock. With all five members getting behind microphones, the band make a sound that has the audience moving, even though it seems few are familiar with the songs. The front man in particular bounds around the stage energetically, suitable for the lead in to a band like Hellions.

Dre FaivreMy previous Hellions live experience was elaborate, exhibiting the impressive Opera Oblivia backed by samples to add layers to the sound, taking their audience through all the dramatic peaks and troughs the band has to offer. Tonight was a much freer show, a straight rock show from the moment the band took the stage. Lead singer Dre Faivre gestured madly to the audience, who were pounding rhythmically in response. The energy doesn’t die down as the band power through a set mainly from Opera Oblivia and introducing new a brand new song or two. The view from beneath the stage mid-set is one of a tunnel packed with appreciative movement, and by the time the band close, the night could be considered a success.

For a rock show, Platform One was a hit – sort of creepy but comfortable, easy to move but not too big as to feel empty.  My initial prediction had come true in terms of the live space.  However, as a club night, it seemed less successful. As well as the aforementioned sound in other rooms, the crowd seemed to disperse once the bands had finished. Of course, many may have had a long drive ahead in the morning to Unify Festival, so maybe the launch party achieved its goal.

A propensity for verbosity…
May 22, 2017

With Opera Oblivia, Hellions released one of the finest albums of 2016. Full of orchestral as well as vocal flourishes, the album tackles complex musical territory. Similarly, if one pays attention to the lyrics, some heavy themes can be discerned: the challenges of maintaining artistic integrity against the expectations of commercialism, overcoming self-doubt, scandals within the Catholic church.

A brilliant album, incorrectly nominated for an Aria award for ‘Best Heavy Album,’ when it would have been more worthy of the overall ‘Best Album’ category, but how would it translate to the live stage?

Hellions, with Endless Heights and The Brave,
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, May 20, 2017…

I’d very much hoped to pick up a CD or perhaps a record from the merch stand after the show, but browsing before the support band, decided against buying anything auditory on the grounds that Hellions had taken the unconventional, if novel, step of selling their album in my least favourite music format – cassette. Luckily, my disappointment in not purchasing music was allayed by The Brave taking the stage.

An admirable audience moved from bar to stage to listen to the pleasantly mid-2000s punk club vibe that The Brave had brought. Combining that kind of jerky everyone-hit-now sound made famous by Slipknot with skillfully placed melodies, The Brave have enough talent to set themselves apart from the raft of similar bands. Their set demonstrated a broad aural range that put their album on my ‘to do’ list.

Whilst the venue wasn’t full yet, a lot of the audience appeared to have arrived early specifically to see Endless Heights. It was perhaps surprising, since they took a more straight-forward approach to rock music. The band performed with a playfulness and enthusiasm often lacking when seeing this type of music played live, where hardened stares usually prevail. With layers of driving guitar, these were songs for swaying, and though not well-matched to the sound of the headliner, still earned a much deserved warm reception from the crowd, though no louder than when Sam from Ocean Grove was invited to help for a song.

‘Are you going to be okay?’ asked a guy who moved next to me after the Corner curtains were closed for the headliners to set up. ‘It’s going to get pretty intense down here!’

Once the curtains were opened, any doubt about Opera Oblivia being unsuitable for the stage melted away through the gradual build – in both sound and stage lighting, which brightened with the music – to the final sing-along chorus of album, and set, opener 24.

Through the applause for the opener, the guy from earlier leaned in to shout in my ear. ‘Are you sure you want to stay here?’ he asked me. I asked what he meant. ‘It might get rough from here on in. I thought, at your age, you might not be able to take it.’

That was a first for me, but, I suppose, something I will have to deal with more frequently. Luckily, I’m experienced at this hellionsCornersort of thing, so moved closer to the stage, as a predictably heavier song followed. Nightliner Rhapsody exhibited Hellions’ incredible range, driving the audience from thrashing wildly, to swaying in unison, to a melodic mosh, all within the one song. It was a theme set to continue through the set, with the band clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience, and particularly lead singer Dre Faivre, who never stopped bounding smiling around the stage.

Daring moments followed, with the instrumental and sample-laden outro of the heavy He Without Sin being a surprisingly effective inclusion, a feat that even the likes of Fightstar might struggle with in a live environment. The main set ended with Thresher, with the band thankfully returning for an encore which nicely bookended the album tour theme with Quality of Life and 25.

HellionsCorner2

It isn’t often that a metal show sees the audience shouting words like ‘axiom’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ at the stage, but Hellions made their complex and beautifully produced works brilliant in a live setting. The best album of last year could become one of the highlight shows of this year.