Northlane

support Hellions + The Arcacia Strain + Volumes
author HES date 28/10/15 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

All photos by Philip B. Hansen

I just recently "discovered" the Aussie band "Northlane" after a fellow scribe of this magazine had mentioned that band’s latest release had been interesting. I am happy to confess that my feelings about “core" are quite ambivalent, so tonight’s unusually packed line up was daunting at best. But with a mind as open as possible, I make sure to be at the venue early to catch the first band of the night already at 19:00 in the downstairs venue of Pumpehuset. The stage here holds fewer people, which gifts us with a more intimate show in spite of ticket sales but comes with blocked views by giant columns mid-room and questionable distribution of sound.

Hellions

Bands hitting it big, or at least bigger have a tendency of bringing a bit of homegrown in the shape of a local band for warm up and undeterred by the fact that this would mean bringing them all the way from Sydney seems to be the choice of tonight’s headliner. Hellions is more of a hardcore band than the rest of tonight’s pack, a pack that is more prone to run with the metal influences. Unfortunately for Hellions, tonight’s mix seems to have been a left-hand job. It’s kind of sad that a band travels all the way to Denmark to support their hometown heroes just to not even be granted a sound check. - At least that’s what it sounds like.

Frontman Dre Faivre’s sometimes “rapping", sometimes screaming voice drowns in a muddy soundscape which drags the otherwise intelligently crafted, fast and loud hardcore down to a drowned experience. And even though Faivre does his very best to engage the crowd, as does the rest of his band, the experience never escapes the faith of the set predicted by misplaced buttons on a soundboard. In spite of this, some of the latter songs make use of contrasting, somewhat jazzy or ambient breaks that make the dense soundscape pry slightly apart, but never enough to fully make a dent.

5

Hellions

The Acacia Strain

Introduced to me by a friend as “Deathcore", I brace myself and particularly my ears as The Acacia Strain enters the stage. Vincent Bennett’s guttural, classic screams fill the air as a few people leaning against the wall wake up from the short break and turn their heads toward the stage in curiosity. There is very little I have ever understood by music with a death-prefix - I’ll be that honest here. It’s just not my jam. But The Acacia Strain has every intention of changing that tonight. Surprisingly, they are successful.

Bennett’s energetic performance quickly sways the room to neglect conversation and move closer to the stage. As he vocally doesn’t show any sign of fatigue, Bennett makes all of the small stage his territory, a territory he invites fans to join onto as he shares his microphone with the most enthusiastic of the bunch. It doesn’t necessarily sound very good, but the scenery of it all is quite heartwarming. And strangely enough, through all the anger of the musical style, that is still very much dominated by that before-mentioned prefix, this show is one of the most embracing and loving shows I have been a part of for a while.

In between spitting, yelling about death and hating stuff, making gestures resembling downturned crosses and the like, Bennett goes on a ranting detour about finding a positive outlet for one’s aggressions as he puts it: “because killing your family is bad". And coming from this very angry man, still emanating so much love for his fans at the same time, there has never been a better role model for some of the young moshers here tonight. Having cancelled at least two Danish shows, The Acacia Strain does not only make up for their absence but manage to make us wish for a swift return.

8

The Acacia Strain

Volumes

Volumes and Northlane seem to be on the same creative path, moving closer to the rims of more grandiose post-rock soundscapes, leaving some of the metalcore aspects for ambient and electronic elements. Now, usually this is a move this scribe can appreciate, but Volumes manage to utilize this very poorly tonight.

The backtrack that drives many of these more artisanal effects seems to have gotten itself somewhat lost in the mix. Only a few high-pitched synth sounds make it through Diego Farias’ aggressive guitar lines. On the upside, Farias' almost orgasmic facial expressions throughout the show makes up for this, slightly, at least. But overall the set lacks the energy, especially after the fireworks still leaving embers in the crowd from The Acacia Strain. The tolerance for the more fragile and technically constructed sound of the newer tracks is growing weary after an already long night of music.

Another aspect which makes the Volumes experience less than perfect is the hole left by clean vocalist Michael Barr, who was unable to join the band on this European tour. There is no doubt that a bit more focus on melody would have been something the willing audience could have latched onto. That is not to say that the band’s other vocalist Gus Farias is not doing his share of the work. Unfortunately some of that work includes “rapped" vocals, once again cementing the worrying comeback of Nü-Metal in the “tens". In spite of what you may think of this, not even the change in pace of this really makes a difference in energy levels apart from the pack of moshers that have been occupying the same spot all evening undeterred.

The band closes with a couple of songs of an older origin, and as the more technical and djent’ish parts liven the crowd up somewhat, but even though the band is working hard for their money, too many aspects of this performance drag it down from what it could have been.

Volumes

Northlane

Originally named after an Architects track, the history of Northlane is relatively short, but already a little tumultuous. Having had to replace founding member Adrian Fitipaldes on one of the most prominent positions, vocals, replacement Marcus Bridge initially had his work cut out for him. But somehow the band’s trajectory towards metalcore fame wasn’t deterred by that, contrarily supporting it, as soon as the superb track “Rot" was released.

Same goes for tonight as the contrapuntal, aggressive, yet melodic song hits the, by then, tired crowd. And somehow after this moment, which is luckily not very far into the set, the crowd has renewed energy. The combination of Bridge’s versatile, agile vocals and the heaviness of parts of the soundscape particularly due to solid, solid bass-work by Alec Milovic, gives the band a range in both density and tonality.

Northlane

The rhythmic constructions are tightly mastered and particularly the almost drum-less, contrapuntal sections seem even more impressive live, than they did on recordings. It is however also a very busy way of entertaining a, by now, drunkenly swaying audience. But Bridge acts nicely as a tour guide, leading us through not only his own territory in the shape of the tracks off the release “Node", of which he wrote most of the politically laden, angry lyrics, as well as the older songs of which Bridge claims complete ownership of, if not by origin, then by vocal integrity. As Bridge screams out the words of “Scarab" “YOU WANT THE FUCKING TRUTH? YOU WANT THE FUCKING TRUTH? THE TRUTH IS WE ALL SUFFER!" not a single hair on anyone’s back lays flat.

In contrast to Volumes’ set which suffered from fatigue and failing backtracks, Northlane counteracts these failings with musical craftsmanship beyond what you’d expect from a band so young in their current constellation. The scratches in an otherwise polished chrome surface is that Bridge’s clean vocals do from time to time disappear in the mix, the slow start of the audience and that the set unfortunately feels a little short, playing a little under an hour. It would please this scribe if this band would re-visit Denmark with a few less warm up acts and maybe on a slightly bigger stage than Pumpehuset’s downstairs venue.

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