Free Your Mind is the new Australian mini-festival pioneered by metalcore band Northlane. It rolled into Sydney Town last night and if the sold out crowd was any indication, this is probably gonna become a regular thing.
Up first were local metalcore heroes Polaris. Their 2013 Dichotomy EP is awesome and available for free download, but god damn, their live show craps all over any studio output. Oodles of energy and conviction, they played like it was their last night on Earth. Plentiful polyrhythms, substantial synth and a frontman that looks like the archetype of every Warped Tour frontman ever, if they were based in the US they’d already be megastars. One to watch, for sure.
Up next were Perth-natives (and my personal favourite band in existence) Make Them Suffer. Equal parts haunting, beautiful, destructive and terrifying, theirs was a performance that stood out on a night of standouts. Their keyboard girl was conspicuously absent – her role maintained by samples – but wow, you wouldn’t have known they were down a member. They’re just way too good to be playing twenty-minute sets for much longer. Finishing with their opus, ‘Widower’, they acquired many a new fan and reinforced my opinion that they are, in fact, Australia’s best metal act.
Up next were US tech titans Veil of Maya, and they weren’t good. That sucks, because their Eclipse album is awesome. They just couldn’t get the mix right (probably because Make Them Suffer blew up the speakers or something) and not one of the men on stage looked like they were actively trying to put on a show. Shoegazing works sometimes, but it just won’t cut it when you’re following Polaris and Make Them Suffer. Their set was a big disappointment.
Volumes came on to make things right, and they succeeded with aplomb. They absolutely killed it and looked visibly shocked at the reception they received. The deafening cheers at the opening refrains of ‘Wormholes’ caused one of their front dudes to remark “Wow. I guess you guys know this one, then.” Speaking of frontdudes, Volumes are the only band I’ve ever seen that actually made the two-men-with-mics thing actually work. Sorry, We Came As Romans, but your problems start with the relentless backing tracks and end with the man who sings like a castrated canary. Anyway, judging by their reception tonight, Volumes will be back on Australian soil before long.
Before the headliners could grace us with their presence, however, Western Sydney wrecking crew Thy Art Is Murder needed to do their thing. Did I mention they’re from Western Sydney? Because frontman CJ McMahon sure did. Again, they’re from Western Sydney. Western. Sydney. Got it? Cool. Anyway, CJ monologued about how Polaris are destined for big things before informing us all that he was the one who booked Northlane’s first ever show out at Greystanes PCYC with The Bride. He went on to say how proud he was of them and how they were repping Western Sydney hard across the globe.
CJ is one of the best frontmen in the world, and probably the best in Australia (second only to Winston from Parkway Drive), and it’s a testament to his humility that everyone was cheering his name and responded by saying “I’m the last man on this stage you should be cheering. The other boys up here are the real deal. I’m just a dude that can yell good. Don’t cheer for me.”
A good man. Anyway, while there were some major technical issues during their set (including the kick drums and microphone being inaudible for the first two songs), they absolutely killed it, because they’re from Western Sydney and everyone knew them. Because they’re from Western Sydney. Jesus, CJ give it a rest. You make me look unpatriotic.
Finally, the main event. Northlane hit the stage hard with the one-two punch of ‘Genesis’ and ‘Scarab’ before throwing a curve ball and playing ‘Aspire’, the final song off their Singularity album, third. This was followed by a rendition of ‘Masquerade’ (with some guest vocals from the boys in Volumes) before playing ‘Dream Awake’, their latest single off Singularity. I hate that song. It’s a weak, flimsy song based around some subpar sing alongs. ‘The Calling’ is far better. Anyway, that doesn’t matter because that was followed by their crowning glory, the metal-with-funk opus ‘Dispossession’. This song got the second biggest rise out of the crowd (but we’ll get to that in a moment) and the pit was collective brutality in physical form.
They played a few more songs before finishing the set proper with ‘Worldeater’ and coming back on for the obligatory encore of ‘Abrasumente’ and ‘Quantum Flux’ (and there’s your biggest rise from the crowd). The assembled masses left the venue dripping with sweat and smiles the size of basketball courts, so I’m clearly in a minority with what I’m about to say, but I thought their set was rather lacking. The lights and visuals were spectacular and Adrian’s stopped doing those ridiculous Mr. Roboto dance moves he mysteriously acquired while Northlane was on tour with Karnivool last year, but it left me unconvinced. The last time I saw Northane at this venue, they were opening for August Burns Red and you could tell they were something special that night. They weren’t just hungry, they were god damn starving.
That hunger, that conviction, that earnest yearning, was absent. They seemed almost complacent in their headliner status. A certain confidence is inevitable after copious international touring and an album that landed a Top 3 spot on the Australian mainstream charts, but even on last year’s headliner, they still had that vitality, that drive, that made them so special. That was conspicuously absent tonight, and as such they got completely outclassed by almost every other band on the bill, especially Make Them Suffer and the big surprise packet of the night, Polaris. Expect big things from both those bands in the near future.