Surprisingly warm and sunny, Sunday was a great day for a roadtrip to Mooroolbark to see heavy music’s finest in action. The sleepy suburban space never saw this coming. Literally. The overrun neighbouring cafes wanted to know what the heck was going on “over there”…
Sydneysiders Polaris are on their “Dusk To Day Tour” this month, taking their sound to lesser visited parts of Australia, including Mooroolbark Community Centre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
Nestled unobtrusively near Coles supermarket, this venue was surprisingly good. The sound quality was brilliant throughout the entire experience, and I didn’t notice any technical issues sound-wise, if there were any. Even though the show had sold out, the stage was visible from anywhere in the audience. There was also a riser for drums, meaning we got to see the drummers in action for a change instead of them hidden behind everyone.
Colour & Shade were the opening act of the day, and though there seemed to be very few people around, a crowd quickly gathered for their set as they began. We’ve shared about Colour & Shade before on Depth (coming across singles “Composure” and “The Path” previously), but this was the first time I’d had the opportunity to see them live.
The five piece sounded great, and had a strong stage presence for their attentive audience. Versatile is a good word for the band, with vocalist Tim Greenwood easily shifting from growls to cleans, and drummer Graham King seeming very much at home throughout, whether in intricate moments or hard slams. I appreciated the mix of polished and anthemic choruses with some feistiness/chaos in between, as well as the multilayered approach the band takes toward their music, without ever becoming overwhelming to the ears. Colour & Shade’s set left room for contemplation while still being easy to keep focus. They pulled off a great set.
The Gloom In The Corner being on the line-up for the Mooroolbark was a huge drawcard for me to attend this particular show of the tour. Basically if you’re still sleeping on this band, it’s time to wake up. The Melbourne band refer to themselves as ‘conceptually driven’, which is expressed musically by a slick blend of dark storytelling via rapidfire vocals (melodic or screamed), with heavy music that’s moshable, enjoyable, and comes with huge breakdowns. That’s far too basic for what this band are about, but it’s a start.
You already know what’s coming when people in the audience are stretching and warming up before a set begins. The familiar stirrings of “Rodent” and vocalist Mikey Arthur emphatically welcoming us to the rabbit hole sparked the expected instant mosh. Following on with a fiery rendition of “Thirteen Six (paramour)”, if we weren’t feeling awake before, we were now.
The Gloom In The Corner are very fun to watch, in particular watching guitarist Matt Stevens with his fairly intimidating (yet also fascinating) stage presence and stare into the crowd. Though my attention was captivated mostly by Mikey Arthur’s vocal acrobatics (as it also was the last time I saw the band). I’m left stunned at how quickly he shifts through these modes of singing, or lets out a stream of syllables, or roars his guts out. A listen to “Oxymoron” will give a good idea of what I mean.
Ending with “Witch Hunt”, this band of friends having a really good time ripping out massive tunes together proved just how good of a band they are, thankfully reinforced by great sound quality on the day. The set was a mesmerising showcase of older songs, favourites, and new, and I can’t wait to hear more of whatever the new “slave” song is when it’s released.
Pridelands had the pleasure of spending all three of the Victorian tour dates with Polaris, joining them in Geelong, Frankston, and Mooroolbark. At Mooroolbark, Pridelands began with an inwardly beckoning experience from the start of their set, created by dual vocals and steady instrumentals. Despite opting to slow it down at the second song, an indefinable quality of intrigue kept our focus regardless, seeming to pull attention toward Josh Cory’s vocals; reflecting the strength of the band in its entirety, and accented and complemented by the rawer vocals of Mason Bunt.
The distinct long-hair aesthetic of this band seemed perfectly matched to the sonic tendrils coming from the stage, with there being something more to this than just going hard at it. Pridelands’ set included intertwining layers, beautiful haunting moments of gentleness (“Slowly”), along with gritty guitar and bass grooves. There was a lot to enjoy, even if the crowd were relatively sedate in response to the band’s energetic stage presence.
This gig sparked off a greater appreciation in me for Pridelands’ song “Any Colour You Desire”. I appreciated how easy it was to get swept away with it. I also appreciated the driving pace of punishing verses, the plunging bridge, and the lyrical invitations to “disintegrate with me”. It was also during “Machina” where I realised how much of an imprint the songs of Any Colour You Desire have upon me, coupled with the passionate rocking out on stage that proved to be infectious for me and everyone else, based on the head nodding and toe-tapping. Another great set from a band that seems to consistently improve.
Kicking the heaviness up a notch were Justice For The Damned, who brought easy thunder and a commanding stage presence as their steady fire rolled out. Featuring tracks from their 2017 album Dragged Through The Dirt, the band went hard at it during their set, with riffs for days and cymbal heralded circle pits. The band’s stage presence is strong, energetic, and massive, with thunderous guitar flooding the entire space. Drummer Chas Levi is a stand-out, with madman levels of hecticness. The band also skillfully kept things flowing throughout their set with guitar hums joining their songs.
Featuring “Deep Rotting Fear” and “No Flowers On Your Grave”, the set was relentless in intensity, with frontman Bobak Rafiee either confidently surveying the crowd, jumping, or punching out aggressively in response to the songs. I feel short on words to describe the mammoth set, where a lot of energy went outward in attempting to get the crowd amped up along with the band. It paid off, with horns, two stepping, and jumping coming in to growing crowd involvement.
Stand-out features of the Sydney band’s set for me were: “It Will Always Be My Fault”‘s beefy ending (I love that riff), Bobak’s vocal enthusiasm for all ages gigs and those who use them to support their kids’ interest in music, and “Please Don’t Leave Me” to close the set: a bouncing groove colliding with raw fury and desperation, three vocalists, and searing riffs to create a blisteringly impressive overwhelming ride of a song. Hell yeah.
With spotlights searching through the fog, Polaris were barely visible as their set began and “Sonder” rung out. Sounding great and instrumentally strong, we were already hooked in to what Polaris were sharing, even though it wasn’t a slamming high energy opener. I found it captivating and moving, especially the looping riff of this powerful track.
The high energy came immediately after, with “Lucid” being satisfyingly huge (especially the drums), and guitarist Rick Schneider going off, along with everyone else in this suburban hall. From a brief conversation at the merch table earlier, I’d learned from Polaris’ frontman Jamie Hails that he was having a tough time with his voice on the tour because of being unwell. He said that he’d apologised to the crowd at the show the night before, ‘because it was awful’. If I hadn’t known this, it would have been barely noticeable. Jamie was a touch huskier at times but still his usual powerhouse self on stage.
The set rolled on with more songs from The Mortal Coil, with crowd surfers growing in numbers at Jamie’s request. This set, like the others before it, had incredible sound quality and I was loving the technicality of the guitar on display from Rick and Ryan Siew, as well as the warmth of the bass tones from Jake Steinhauser. Everything seemed further amplified in intensity by the strobe lighting and search/spot lights in fog. It was easy to be energetic and bouncing along with the band, or let yourself become lost in the music, just as Ryan seemed to be.
Veering into “Dusk To Day” had us all pull our phone lights and lighters out, as the beautiful song rolled out over us like powerful and moody thunderclouds. Later in the set, Jamie spoke with gratitude for the other bands on the line-up, in a way which was far more personal and genuine than ‘Put your hands together for band XYZ’. He also described the show as a kind of homecoming, celebrating Victorian show roots in Lilydale.
Stand-out moments of the set were the djent fire in “Casualty”, the hugeness of “The Remedy” (no signs of sickness there!), and the encore of “Consume”: Perfection. I have a lot of love for the consistently great clean vocals from Jake, and Ryan’s sweet sweet moment of a solo. I never expected I’d ever see a wall of death in Mooroolbark, but it happened, in a fittingly dusky setting and blown out with blistering beats and strobe lights. It was a perfect end to a huge day of good music. In closing, let me just say that “Play Horses” is so much better than “Do a shoey“.
Photos courtesy of Liam Davidson.