Dealer: ‘Soul Burn’ Live Demonstration @ Workers Club, Melbourne

On the back of the release of their debut EP Soul Burn in early April, Dealer had announced two shows; Sydney and Melbourne. Referring to this first run of shows as ‘live demonstrations’ would be appreciated by Sleep Token fans, vibing like their numbered ‘rituals’. Regardless of the inspiration, I’m a fan of thought going into band decisions in this way, and appreciated it as kind of a marker that these shows would be something special.

Dealer’s live debut in Melbourne understandably came with a lot of hype, and the turnout was huge even early on. The cosy and casual exposed brick of the Workers Club band room was chock full with chatting and happy punters well before show opener ATLVS even took the stage.

With a slow and steady introduction in the foggy band room, ATLVS swiftly hit us with severity, courtesy of tandem vocals from Jesse (vocals) and Matt (bass & vocals). The two make for a strong pair and my appreciation for this would carry throughout the entire set. I’m a fan of emotion carried in vocals and Jesse is fantastic at this, while ATLVS shared songs old and new (and unreleased!) from their discography.

ATLVS’ set was an exercise in changing dynamics/moods; punchy verses, tense instrumentation, before lighter mesmerising choruses, meaty and mammoth breakdowns. From song to song also, there were hardcore vibing tracks of wildness, and others that were more suited to singing along with. Though recently released single “Love” gets some spins on my Spotify listening, I find that I get into ATLVS’s music far more easily in a live setting as opposed to recorded, where it’s full and immersive, dirtier and heftier, with doomier breakdowns.

Their stage presence was strong and comfortable and they had some healthy banter with the crowd between songs. Glass-shattering dives into heaviness were backed by all members of ATLVS, and I loved the fat bass riffs and sweet guitar slides. Seeing Jesse get momentarily swept away into the band’s songs was a treat too. ATLVS are definitely a band worth seeing live!

The breaks between bands seemed really long at this gig, but it was an opportunity to hang out and chat with friends in the scene, making it feel like a big family get together more than just ‘a gig’. I adore the heavy music scene in Melbourne, and I think that outsiders would be surprised at just how many hugs go down between all of these tattooed and pierced people who are dressed in black and love angry and sad music.

Ballarat based band Anticline took the stage like a tornado and swept us all into it. Not sure about anyone else, but this set went by in a flash and seemed like a significant step up for the band since I’d seen them last. The five piece meant business, calling for moshing in the first song, and coming across with a strong sense of unity. Intriguing bass riffs made it easy to go with Anticline into their songs. In fact my focus was on the bass activity A LOT in this set due to it being so HOT (or was it… stone cold?!). You could get into the songs even if you didn’t know them. I also dug the trio of vocals, even though I would have liked to hear more of the backing vocals from where I stood.

Anticline seemed to fluidly roll from one song to the next. They came at us with impressive timings/rhythms that took them from bouncing and grooving into blast beat fury. There was a lot going on, including vocal features. Every member of the band was dripping with sweat and passionately present, with fogged up glasses and blood all over the guitar as evidence. Pace shifts from slithering to high speed kept Anticline’s vibe high and interesting.

I’d made the mistake of arriving back into the bandroom at the start time of BLKLST. Crammed up the back, the space was so full of people that I could barely see the stage! Regardless, the atmospherically dark songs of BLKLST were easily filling the space. “Hypocrite” sounded massive, courtesy of beastly wall of sound guitars and sick melodic interludes.  BLKLST were coming off really strong, already feeling like a better performance than when I’d seen them at The Brave show recently.

I moved up closer to the stage so I could then more clearly bear witness to possibly the wildest BLKLST set I’ve ever seen. It was so great to see a crowd so into them; grabbing for the mic and singing along to every word. Pink fog and sexy bass grooves were an invitation to get into the songs with BLKLST, while vocalist Joshua Westwick fed us lyrical lines crumb by crumb. It seemed like their vibe as a band was finally matched by the crowd. Adding to their already strong set, they played recent single “They All Look The Same”. Grindingly heavy and with vocal focus, the fresh track had a lot of heads banging along to it. It was also a chance to see Dealer’s vocalist Aidan Ellaz on stage, courtesy of his feature on the track. With hyped intensity, this was impressively delivered, despite the stifling humidity of the band room.

With three minutes to go before Dealer’s Melbourne debut, I looked around me to see the sold out show’s punters standing sweaty and hyped. The moment had arrived! With Martin Wood from The Gloom In The Corner filling in for Alex Milovic, Dealer took the stage to an instrumental intro, with a voice literally saying “Welcome to the live demonstration”.  It seemed natural to then flow into “Grotesque” and its simple “DEALER” introduction, which is exactly what happened.

My notes are so sketchy, finding myself taking in the massiveness of the experience before me. It seemed to become a full room performance courtesy of the crowd joining in loudly and emphatically with lines like “You don’t need no money cause suicide is free”. Despite the short period of time since Soul Burn‘s release, words were on the lips of most of us present.

With this set quickly vibing as incredible and momentous, “Pretty Stupid” was cue for the crowd to go even more wild, and falling into the metaphorical bottomless pit of the insane breakdowns. Sweaty and noisy, we were all into it.

A grinding EDM-esque moment led the set into “Melancholy Oxidase”, which had Colin Jeffs (videographer and former vocalist for Aversions Crown) surprise everyone by impressively stepping in for the Travis Tabron feature. Aidan was held up by the crowd in the “I met with death in the bathroom stall” part of the song, with the moment coming across as vulnerable and connective in the fog and humidity of the band room.

I feel like “You In Frame” was one of the most memorable moment of the whole Dealer set. The softer and cleaner song technically shouldn’t work in this genre/scene… as in, I could see it as being a song that would be left off setlists for ‘not being heavy enough’. But you only had to see people up on shoulders, people reaching out and making heart shapes with their hands, people singing along, people feeling it along with the band, to realise how important the song is, and just how well it works.

The song also felt like even more of an open emotional door, and it also offered more sedate space to realise that though Dealer were nailing the set and their songs, it had been a long road to get back to this point. The attentive faces and souls in the room were not only just bearing witness to the return, we were also proof of its success.

Aburden‘s vocalist and guitarist Kyle Burrows featured on cleans as “You In Frame” was coming to a close, and the multi-layered intensity of the song as well as what we were witnessing was incredibly moving. I don’t think I was alone in this, as Aidan was collectively hugged and held by arms at the front of the stage, while the band behind played an instrumental outro.  It came across like ‘Yep, Aidan’s back’ officially, and Aidan verbally echoed this by saying:

“You’ve no idea how much this shit means to me. This is incredible.”

From this high point, everything else was a delicious bonus. “Ultima Death” yanked us back into mosh city, a dark track which is surprisingly danceable. Its creatively drumtastic ending was a highlight!

“Crooked” was introduced as “This is how it feels to be stabbed in the fucking back”, and we got happily mowed down by chugging bass and runs of syllables thrown at us. Just when we were ready to join in on the “But in this dog eat dog world..” line, Aidan hit pause and split the room for a wall of death. It was as hectic as you’d expect and a supersized ending to such a great set.

Dealer have landed.

[All photos by Liam Davidson]
Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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