Gallows, Shai Hulud, Confession, Milestones, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne - 26/02/13

Blink 182? Garbage! The howling spirit of dirty rock n' roll punched its way up through the Corner Hotel summoned by Gallows and Shai Hulud.

What’s with the god damn weather in this town?

Good question. Humidity feels like wading through barrels full of heat accelerant. Is it like dwelling inside an aerosol can, or something? Why does humidity feel like the sun is drawing nearer? Why did I think wearing pants was a good choice? It was so hot inside the Corner Hotel, a fine haze could be seen through lights. Red curtains cordoned off approximately half of the modestly sized pub backroom for this Gallows show. Keep in mind they were up against nostalgia ticklers Blink 182, Kyuss Lives and Garbage. Not that Soundwave is a popularity contest. Although if it truly wasn’t, every band would have equal time allotted to them and they’d play in alphabetical order.

So who the hell are Milestones then?

A “progressive-emo-post-hardcore punk” act from Brisbane. These guys applied so many adjectives to themselves it blurred the words into irrelevance. I mean, at this point, describing them would be as useful as sword fighting with a fart. In reality, they were yet another band playing 90s skate punk shoehorned into a chequered size 7 Vans. Was anyone impressed? Who the fuck knew? Was the handful of hardcore fan onlookers' stony indifference equivalent to metal horns? Another one of these bands pacing about the stage is like seeing another Ryan Gosling's Tumblr account. Someone, please take a flamethrower to the piles of special snowflakes already. The most intriguing aspect of the set was wondering what cocktail of ingredients in stage fog lend it that acrid, sugar-free candy smell? (Answer: Propylene glycol.) Was it safe for human consumption? (A: Unfortunately, yes.) Bleeding-heart power chord mincing was one of a handful of ideas thrown in a tumble-dryer, scrunched together only to be ripped apart and thrown in again. Ugh.

Confession had to be a bit better, right?

Define "better." What they lacked in originality they made up for in spirit. They tritely cried “Fuck everything that you stand for!” among other epithets, all of which ran smack bang into cavernously wide breakdowns eliciting identical stoic responses from all concerned. Next up: “This is a song about talking shit on the internet and being a fucking dickhead!” announced our stocky scowling frontman, Michael Crafter. I figured his day job was in administration for an accounting firm seeing his hair cropped short and neat as it was. I too would boil over with rage if I had to type out “collateralized debt obligation” seventeen times every hour. My advice is don’t write a paean to troll baiting. Who writes a song about talking shit on the internet and sells it for “ten bucks” along with six to seven other songs wallowing in a mudpile of Converge rip-off circle jerking? Seriously. I don’t rise in the morning with this unquenchable desire to write songs dedicated to inanity. No one I know has even a hair’s breadth of neuron energy dedicated to willing the thought into consciousness.

Backwards capped and out-of-key guitarist weighing a buck o’ five tasked with harmony vocals looked almost comical stood at the far end of the stage. They could’ve traded the robotic, one-trick drummer from Oingo Boingo and no one would’ve noticed. As they launched into jumping about Aerobics Oz Style, I decided it was time for a very large drink courtesy of the expense account.

We didn’t give you an expense account.

You have forsaken me, Dear Editor.

What else is new? What about Shai Hulud?

A few more punters filtered through for these Poughkeepsie, New Yawwwk hardcore agitproppers, taking up advance positions near the barrier. I noted curious intersections of slacker grunge attire, 80s thrash battlejackets and rockabilly quiffs and kerchiefs – am I missing something here?

This is Metal as Fuck, not Fashion Dispatch. Get on with it.

My profound apologies. Hurling their opening salvo to “Start the fucking war” each member moved to their own mosh frequency – headbanging, throwing their guitars about, whatever. For some reason, Matt Fox looked uncomfortably like comedian Arj Barker. Except he wasn’t telling any jokes, just belting out pummeling riffs walking that silver blade between full blown metal and capriciously volatile hardcore.

Vocalist Justin Kraus, wearing his Animal Liberation t-shirt and neatly combed hair looked as if he wasn’t unloading his laryngeal ablutions on to hardcore kids, he’d probably be studying liberal arts at NYU. The first official circle pit opened up for the night as Justin threateningly handed over the mic to some extreme aggressors in the front row, winding it back to dedicate his next ratty hardcore anthem to “those who fight for social justice around the world.” (No, not you, Tumblr.)

Justin gained instant respect paying a tribute to the dearly departed Arthouse Hotel, thrusting his finger at us like a rabble-rousing street preacher. They fell backwards into the melodic roots of hardcore at times – drawing on the scrappy nature of Fugazi, seasoning it with multi-layered anthems and punching it into die cast metalcore, now available at Hot Topic for $9.99.

Erm, surely you mean $30 at JB Hi-Fi.

Stickers plastered on Matt’s world weary ESP axe – Propagandhi, Descendents – proudly declared where their allegiances lay. Currying favour with the seven metalheads in attendance was a commitment to deep, twin guitar grooves in their newer material worryingly highlighting a dearth of complexity in their earlier tracks. It felt as if their fresher cuts were committed with more sincerity than their older wounds. “If you hate our music then you hate the cores of everyone in this band,” Matt proclaimed, hunched to one side.

Shai Hulud's crowd dive bombing sortie scrambled into action, passion unbridling through the venue. Justin rattled off something about covering Slayer’s Angel of Death, their pristinely chugging guitars and bright tone surely couldn't bear the runes of Slayer branded on it.* I’m still scratching my head over that one. I could pick out a riff or two from Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” amid the impotent din.

Breaking off to address us, Matt again took the mic, declaring that he might get in trouble for saying that there’s “A lot of douchebags on this tour who think they’re rock stars” (No names named, unfortunately) yet was eternally appreciative of Soundwave Touring and their capo di tutti capi AJ Maddah. Heating up their metal crucible once more they chopped up some Maidenesque Hallowed Be Thy Name arpeggios into their boiling metalcore stew, the first guitar passage resembling a lead break all night stitched up their set with an energetic finish. 

At a loose end, I wearily wandered back into the pub.

Just why is Richmond full of backpackers anyhow?

Probably because the sallow backpacker watering holes in the CBD are incubators for exotic hybrid STIs the Department of Health would rather ignore and/or firebomb. Sitting at the end of the bar, I watched a worker-cap wearing barman in French deep-sea diver uniform talk into his two-way radio like he’s stuck pouring Carlton Draught in downtown Kandahar. A chipper blonde Swede unfortunately confessed to seeing Coldplay – then Iron Maiden and Metallica in the next breath. Go figure. I struck up a conversation –

Who said you were permitted to speak to normal people?

Ahem. As I was saying, I struck up a conversation with some plucky London lads, sauntering on down to see Gallows on a whim. They told me that they hadn’t see them in “quite a while” which is British for about three months or so. Adam, I think it was, showed me how to text message oneself while drunk. So you know, it was a cross-cultural educational exchange…thing.

So much for upholding the misanthropic metalhead stereotype. Carry on, then.

Gallows second tour of duty at Soundwave sparked a violent swirling mass of hardcore youth upon awakening to their imposing presence. Slab of a man Wade MacNeil bombed into the pit as bass threatened to wreak open the Earth from below. Legs Barnard chewed off riffs driving them close to our ribcages, raw power overloading the Hotel during Misery, the closest we’d ever get to the grimy, noisy, hard-headed hardcore as it was in its mid-80s larval stage. Last June flung itself apart at the seams, Legs’ guitar solo running on fumes and sweat. As tempers simmered down, a punter shouts out “Your wife is a hot bitch!” MacNeil lets out a tar-wheezy chuckle. “Wow,” he exclaimed sarcastically, “that’s the best heckling I’ve ever heard. You guys can hurl compliments at me all night!”

Aw, bless his fist-sized Canadian heart.

Outsider Art slashingly scorched with pathetic, rage-fuelled poetry blazing with a primal, libidinal energy. They slapped gristly slabs of riffs forged in the smelters of the Motor City 5, each member shooting off gang vocals with a psychopathic leer, gutter-bound riffs collapsing around us. Like masterful surgeons of grime, they cauterized the pop from punk and the post- from hardcore to recapture the thrill of what was thought to be a bygone era. Legs performed a whinnying breakdown held aloft by the crowd, wearily throwing him back on stage to complete the remainder of the song.

Wade took a moment to catch his breath. “Band members are just dropping like flies,” he remarked of the drummer’s curse befalling the festival. Drummer Lee Barratt was in prime condition, belting out the requisite beats to keep their juggernaut belching out the smoke as they kicked and impaled everything stood in their way. Assiduously primed for two-riff jangle hardcore boogie, their chaotic stage craft thrilled as much as their furious half-minute crust punk confessional True Colors, a song “they wrote in like, three minutes” to induct Wade into the fold.

What seemed like fifteen minutes of mayhem was indeed an hour’s worth, just ticking over as Wade instructed us “to treat me like I’m in Rose Tattoo” (not sure what he meant by that) the circle pit grew to monstrous, ultraviolent proportions. Their outro was built on psychotic blues dumped in back alleys as Wade grabbed moshers by the scruff of necks up on stage to scream along. Guitars wailed beside them. Throats were stripped and bass ground up the sonic foundations. The uncontainable lightning that is Gallows exited stage right. The folks in the other Sidewaves that night I can guarantee never came close to feeling the gift of anger that Gallows kicked into our ears and eyes.

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Edit:* Twitter-er Neal informs me that Shai Hulud covered Linoleum by NOFX. I was clearly ear-lucinating.