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 artist 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.

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I’ve really been on a bender, and it shows…
October 23, 2016

My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade was one of the albums I named as a Five Star Album, and as it celebrates its tenth anniversary, many are reflecting upon it as a highlight of the decade.  I would go one further and name it as a highlight of all time.  The accompanying tour was also reported to be a theatrical masterpiece, with the band posing as their own fictitious support act/frenemy ‘The Black Parade,’ before playing an extended greatest hits encore.  It was sadly a tour that never came to Australia (despite being advertised, a streetpress interview in the lead up saw Gerard Way asked about bringing ‘the whole Black Parade shebang to town with the disappointing reply, ‘We’re bringing a whole new shebang…’) but a tribute act decided to do it themself.

Teenagers,
Bang at Royal Melbourne Hotel, Melbourne, October 22, 2016…

bangadAs the band set up on stage, the audience discussed where they were when the album was released. ‘I was in grade 4!’ hollered a woman, as I realised, I had been at almost the same place for the album’s release as I was tonight.  Thursday night patrons were debating their preference between Next at Brown Alley or Goo at the Metro when the album was released, and songs from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge were still popular at each.  A launch party with a ‘secret city location’ had been announced, and ended up being at Next – found by either word-of-mouth, educated guess, or the distinctive black blimp hovering above the club.

guitarOn stage tonight, members of Gossamer Pride, Hideaway, and other bands switched from setting up their equipment to standing with their backs to the audience.  They pulled on matching Black Parade uniform jackets to become Teenagers and started, in keeping with the album, the old-rock opening duo of The End and Dead!  The tribute band sounded good, and looked it too, in their uniforms and make up.  Rather than continuing with The Black Parade the group wove various hits from other records – mainly Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge – amongst the songs from the album of the day.  It was unexpected, and initially questionable – I’d hoped for the Black Parade tour we never had – but the extra songs mixed up the set from the predictable.

After the frontman explained that ‘It really hurts to sing this one,’ Cancer proved a set highlight, thought they were noticably skipping songs from the album.  The frantic sing-along of Mama was also popular.  Surprisingly, the tribute act’s namesake song, Teenagers worked very well as a live tune, despite being the weird low-point of the original album.

From Next Facebook page

I’m not used to seeing tribute bands, but Teenagers, led by Bang regular Matt McKinnon, put on a true tribute and really respected their source material.  It would have been nice to have had a little of the group’s own flavour in, but perhaps that isn’t the point.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking based on the pedigree of the members, but this was nevertheless a fun night and a worthy anniversary party to one of the finest albums around.