Sweet down-stepping guitar tones of While She Sleeps‘ “You Are We” was how our night began at Festival Hall. The Sheffield band were first on stage as support for Architects‘ Holy Hell tour of Australia. The Melbourne show was the last of the tour, and everyone present was keen to see the bands go out on a high.
Griffin Dickinson of SHVPES had the task of filling in for Loz Taylor, who had pulled out for personal reasons. He did an exceptional job, with nothing at all feeling like it was missing from the While She Sleeps experience and energy! Griffin was energetic and commanding, with no allowances made for warming up, given that he called for a wall of death from the first song.
“When this kicks in, I want every motherfucker on their feet!” Griffin shouted before “Anti-Social”. The single from the band’s So What? album sounded great vocally and instrumentally, and the now-obedient crowd collided enthusiastically in another wall of death.
With a nod of appreciation toward Griffin for filling in, the set rolled onward. “Four Walls” in its slowness saw crowd members up on shoulders for the song’s gravelly introduction, before the song amped up and Griffin came at us like a fireball of energy. Spotlight beams lilted over the heads of hundreds who were bouncing, singing, and moshing along, matching the energy on the stage in front of them.
As the set came toward its end, the familiar tones of “Silence Speaks” reverberated through Festival Hall, before the song hit its stride of massiveness with crowd surfers galore. The drums sounded divine, but so did every other feature. “Hurricane” was a great way set closer, and Griffin took the opportunity to hit the barrier and connect with the crowd.
Setlist: You Are We, Anti-Social, Haunt Me, Four Walls, The Guilty Party, Silence Speaks, Hurricane.
Literally the first words out of the lips of Polaris‘ frontman Jamie Hails were “Melbourne, circle pit right fucking now! Spin this room!”. This announced the Sydney band’s arrival to the stage and set a strong tone before they were straight into business with “Lucid”. Screams of “I FOUND MY LOVE AND LET IT KILL ME!” came from the crowd, and I unhelpfully summed up the experience in my phone notes by typing “so good”. All I could see in front of me was a sea of bouncing heads, with Jake Steinhauser’s ridiculously stunning voice soaring above everything.
Thankfully refusing to do a shoey when shoes were lobbed onto the stage, Polaris took seriously their job of making sure everyone was warmed up for Architects. Whether bouncing across the stage or on his knees and singing earnestly into the mic, Jamie Hails went full pelt and he caught my attention most frequently through the set. It wasn’t a solo effort though, and I was wowed by Daniel Furnari’s efforts on drums and the fiery djent pockets on songs such as “Casualty” from Polaris’ 2017 album The Mortal Coil. Through “Crooked Path”, Ryan Siew’s effort on guitar shone, as did Jamie’s feels-punch of a cry; “Do you even want me there?!”.
Unreleased song “Hypermania” was a nice surprise! The track came across as huge and chaotic, building with rhythmic stuttering toward something that felt like teetering on the edge. It’ll be great to hear this one once released! The feelgood and energetic single “The Remedy” followed; sounding massive and had fans waving their arms to the lofty choruses, while Jamie’s extended scream left a raw imprint on the song’s end.
Breathless and panting, Jamie took a moment to let us know that we were about to see something special from Architects. HYPE. He shared on behalf of Polaris that it was a dream come true to get to play with one of their favourite bands. Playing at Festival Hall was the biggest Melbourne show yet for the band, and according to Jamie we were the best crowd of the tour!
The Polaris set ended with “Consume” which was perfectly BIG and bouncy to celebrate the band’s prowess. There was one last wall of death, with strobing lights and drum punches hitting home the finality for the end of the set.
Setlist: Lucid, Relapse, Regress, Casualty, Hypermania, The Remedy, Crooked Path, Consume.
Before Architects took to the stage, Richie Hardcore spoke with the crowd about violence toward women, affirming the present epidemic, and reinforcing that it’s unacceptable for women to be fearful about going to shows alone. Though unexpected, it’s great that Architects shared their platform for this purpose, with a desire to inspire change.
It was then orchestral beauty and soft lights that began the Architects set ‘officially’. The stage was set up with two platforms; a rear platform where Dan Searle’s drum kit and Alex Dean’s keyboard and bass were set up, and a front catwalk style platform for vocalist Sam Carter to use. Guitarists Adam Christianson and Josh Middleton were on either side of the stage. The tour is in honour of the band’s 2018 album Holy Hell, so the album’s first track “Death Is Not Defeat” was a great place to start the set.
Sounding incredible, it was the video behind the band that caught my attention in “Modern Misery”, where a golden wolf was shown running in a forest while “We used to run with the wolves” was roared out vocally. This imagery changed, where one wolf turned into two, then the count became three with a human figure added. Even while taking in the impressive guitar tones, there was something heart-wrenching about the visuals for me, and combined with the stunning song inspired tears.
Things then shifted to be more hectic than heart-wrenching with “Nihilist”. Coloured static imagery and sharp light beams moved over an active mosh and drumming that was off the charts filled my ears. Breathtaking in its moment of quiet after the bombardment and reinforced by the use of imagery, it was a full-bodied impact when “All our Gods have abandoned us” landed.
Architects reminded us all that this last show of the tour was also their last show of the year. Desperately trying to take it all in, I was spellbound by the effortlessness of frontman Sam Carter moving across the stage during these mammoth songs. The whole thing felt like a train that had started and was now unstoppable and we were all strapped in for the ride.
Sam took a moment and stood at the stage front silently, while the crowd began chanting “Ar-chi-tects! Ar-chi-tects!”. He introduced the band and gave thanks to us for being present, to While She Sleeps, and to “our new best fucking friends” Polaris, and also to Richie Hardcore.
Mammoth tune “Holy Hell” came across vocally raw and rough at first, but was a joy nonetheless, and it was a pleasure to see Sam rock out. The entire song felt smooth and precise despite its rocketing pace. Flowing straight into “Royal Beggars”, I similarly loved seeing Sam’s dancing and stomping on the catwalk, and the crowd got into this along with him. Soaking up perfect guitar tones and loving the bass, the screen animation with birds hit my heart. Tough to put into words, really, all of this was sheer perfection to me.
The entire set was something magical; where wild, pummelling and persistent, breakdown heavy, and moshtastic moments were just as at home as orchestral and beautiful moments of peace. The whole room felt a part of this too, bouncing and yelling, or resolutely shining their phone lights/lighters to create a supportive sea of sparkles.
“We truly love doing this so fucking much”, Sam shared, expressing gratitude specifically to Melbourne and how they feel at home here due to being treated so well. After then asking us if we were having a good time, Sam revealed that he has nightmares where he asks the question and the band gets yelled off the stage because of how much the crowd hates them. (It’s honestly comforting to know that even members of one of the greatest metalcore acts in the world suffer from creative insecurity!)
Rolling on into “A Match Made In Heaven”, huge drums and riffs came along with catwalk strutting. The suspense was craftily built up in fury, before a rhythmic feast crashed down. “Hereafter” gave goosebumps with so many voices joining in, and “When will I finally get the message?” hit hard with its rawness and desperation. The video on the screen behind of trees and people floating/rising (as with the music video) was an incredible addition.
When “A Wasted Hymn” followed, it compounded to all of this and added to my emotional ruinment (read: I bawled). Stars sparkled on the backing screen and stunning vocals graced our ears. There was something about the imperfection of raw cries that felt guttural and real in amongst this magic that hit home. The urgency of living a “life worth dying for” while we can was felt and understood. The impact to this band of the loss of Tom Searle was all-surrounding. The stage went dark then.
Returning with “Memento Mori” things felt dark and heart-aching. A quote from Alan Watts’ Willing To Die speech came beforehand, referring to resisting versus surrendering to death. What seemed like a heart was shown on the video screen behind. Plunged into darkness again, the crowd chanted for the band’s return.
Tones and pulses hummed and filled Festival Hall, before “Gone with the Wind” dove deep into mosh territory. Countless voices joined in being louder than Sam at times, while the the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us artwork showed with snow drifting down. At the song’s end, T/S was shown on the screen in a heart and we chanted for Tom and those in the seats gave him a standing ovation. Feet stomped loudly around the stadium and it rippled around like an earthquake.
Taking a moment of sharing, Sam shared that the reason they do what they do is Tom. Here at the biggest show they’ve ever played outside of Europe, they remembered how the tour with Bring Me The Horizon was cancelled, and how they held the signings at 24Hundred anyway. With people attending and sharing how much they feel for the band, even though Architects weren’t playing any shows, or offering anything at all, Sam said “You’ve no idea how much strength that gave us”. He reiterated what Polaris had said, about Melbourne being the “best fucking crowd of the whole tour” and expressed his gratitude on behalf of the band to get to stand on the stage and do what they do; that they don’t get sick of this.
Sam acknowledged the importance of fellow band members Dan Searle and Josh Middleton and them being instrumental in the band continuing. He also acknowledged the members of the band who sacrifice being away from their children, or just being away from home for extended periods.
After this “fucking audiobook”, in Sam’s words, they played the last song that they’ll play live this year; “Doomsday”. Huge and celebratory, this was a perfect way to end the show, with so many voices and hearts joining in (as well as Richie Hardcore having a sing!). The love for this band and their determination to persist through loss and grief and share their experiences was palpable. In a word? Amazing.
Setlist: Death Is Not Defeat, Modern Misery, Nihilist, Gravity, Naysayer, Holy Hell, Royal Beggars, Gravedigger, Mortal After All, Downfall, A Match Made In Heaven, Hereafter, A Wasted Hymn, Memento Mori, Gone With The Wind, Doomsday.[Photos courtesy of Liam Davidson. If you dig Liam’s work, feel free to leave him a tip here.]