Every stadium-stuffing band has to start somewhere, and even the most revered of the alt scene’s icons kicked their careers off with a shitty demo or two. Novocastrian emo-punks Introvert, on the other hand, have skipped that teeth-cutting period entirely – the quartet have only five tracks to their name, but each of them sear with the unrelenting talent and scalding passion that only those decades deep in their songwriting typically unearth. All of that ardous spirit is translated flawlessly to the stage, too, every filthy bend, glassy snare and piercing wail coarsing through the venue like an emotional tsunami leaving its crowd thoroughly perished. We’ll be surprised if Introvert aren’t selling out their own headline tours within a year.
The Brave have an aesthetic reminiscent of the old Parkway Drive posters we used to froth over in every other month’s Blunt. It’s industrious, bursting at the seams with volume and dripping with emphatic black-hoodie angst – enough to get crowds moving, as illustrated by the manic pits they spur, but not enough to leave any lasting impact once their set ends. They dole out standard, run-of-the-mill metalcore with virtually no depth or sonic authenticity: song starts, song ends, song is immediately forgotten. It’s safe, and when paired with Hellions – a band who consistently disrupt and dismantle the rules of ‘genre’ – safe is boring. The Brave are boring. Next.
For those of us that hit Hellions’ Quality Of Life tour last August, shoegaze-via-hardcore unit Endless Heights will be familiar. Limbs fly and throats strain from the second the local fivesome hit the stage, cuts new and old striking with an equal balance of soft, somber melody and blistering guitar-driven fury. Joel Martorana is a frontman more in his comfort zone onstage than most; seldom does he break an intimate connection made early in the mix with his ardent devotees, mic grabs and crowdsurfs aplenty. A highlight comes in “Drain”, Martorana’s hazy deadpan verses melding like melted butter into bread with guitarist Jem Siow‘s soaring leads and drummer Julian Diaz‘s uneasy batters.
By this point, manuevering the Oxford Art Factory requires strategic analysis and strong elbows – Hellions‘ titular mosh fiends are all squirreled around the stage, every short-haired sweatlord eager for their own shot at a mic grab. An atmospheric hum bleeds out from the speakers while smoke slowly fills the stage, tension building anxiously before a vicious blowout of ragged melodies turns that bleed into a gush with the stately “24”. The jam does the same tonight as it did opening last year’s acclaimed Opera Oblivia: it imparts a restless sense of grandeur both immediate and impending – as if we’re pulled tenderly up the rollercoaster’s climb, our weightless drop just a clattering breakdown away. The goosebump-spurring energy unfurls further with Oblivia cuts “Bad Way” and “Nightliner Rhapsody”, the crowd a stinging, sweaty mess by the end of it.
Fueling the fire as much as their music is the unrestrained fervour and spry charisma of Hellions themselves. The band seem genuinely stunned by the response from their hometown crowd, swapping looks of amazement and dorky, totally un-punk smiles while they give absolute hell to their instruments. Drenched in sweat only a few songs in, frontman Dre Faivre embraces the chaos with open arms: he makes the stage his playground, welcomes fan interaction and pours every ounce of his energy into every sour, scratchy verse between hype-building speeches. Shoeys, stage-dives and circle pits are all mandatory inclusions. Co-vocalist and guitarist Matthew Gravolin is an absolute anomaly, too, his ravenous shredding consistently powerful and his rough, acidic bellows stealing the show wherever they may pop up – notably, on the angsty emo-pop scorcher “Thresher” and eruptive punk closer “Quality Of Life”.
Hellions are arguably the most unique band to ever rise from Australia’s hardcore scene, and their intense, sprawling live shows reflect that unequivocally. This is history in the making, and goddamn, is it incredible to experience.
– Ellie Robinson