Also known as ‘heavy music Christmas’, UNIFY Gathering brings people together from all over Australia (and some from even further away!) all in the name of damn good music. This year, Depth Magazine had a team of three of us to take in the festival. Our reviewing was shared between myself (Kel Burch) and Andrew Cauchi, with Liam Davidson on photography.
This was our experience, in order of bands. We’re Depth, and we go deep, and we’ve talked about every band – so we’ve put links throughout this article so you can jump to what you want to see! You can use the arrow on the bottom right hand corner of the page to jump back to the top of the article.
AM//PM Pre-UNIFY Party
Opening the 2020 event in collaboration with AM//PM, Melbourne’s Terra did all that could be expected of them and so much more in kicking off proceedings. The ever-improving pop-punk outfit were energetic, bursting through their set with no hesitation, while even taking the time to showcase unreleased music to be expected sometime in the next year. After being joined on stage by Tapestry vocalist Tom Devine-Harrison for their 2019 single “Confidence”, the quintet left the crowd wanting more and if their set at UNIFY is any indication, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Terra in 2020. (Andrew)
Relative newcomers Bad/Love don’t do things in halves when they play live, and their appearance at the UNIFY pre-party event was no different! Beginning with “Slowly” from their SIOIS EP, the anthemic song was emphasised by pyrotechnic sparks, coming across as inviting and welcoming to the attentive crowd. It was a full-bodied effort from the entirety of the band, who also had help from some friends! Dream State‘s vocalist CJ Gilpin stepped in for Marcus Bridge’s feature on “The World in Colour”. She nailed the soaring section and adding some zest and connectivity to the set, and Hellions‘ former guitarist Matthew Gravolin appeared on stage later in the set for his feature for “Nowhere Else Like Home”!
During the set, I enjoyed the feeling of ‘conversation’ between guitarist Lachlan Monty’s roars and vocalist Landon Kirk’s crooning, and hearing a danceable/moshable new song from the four piece. It was great to see Landon connect with fans at the barrier, and the set vibed as relaxed and happy. (Kel)
The Gloom In The Corner
The Gloom In The Corner‘s set was unfortunately marred by technical issues, which they and the sound desk tried to sort out while the eager crowd chanted “GLOOM! GLOOM! GLOOM!”. Vocalist Mikey Arthur sounded like he was inside a tunnel when checking his microphone, so they definitely couldn’t have gone ahead as it originally was. Kudos to the band for trying to keep things light and keeping the crowd entertained/engaged during the lengthy break, especially drummer Nic Haberle.
The set kicked in finally with high energy and impressive lighting. Something was still not quite right by way of sound at first, but it was remedied as the set went on. All was forgiven with wowingly deep breakdowns and roars coming from the stage. “Misanthropic” was an obvious crowd favourite and sparked a tsunamic mosh that pushed the crowd as far back as the sound desk. “Survivor’s Guilt” was sung loudly and clearly by the crowd along with the band, and came with crushing blasts from the drums and even more filth of the breakdown kind.
Despite the rough start, the set was fully lapped up by the active crowd, from the short and dirty “Witch Hunt” and the bouncing and erratic “Villain”. “Bleed You Out” sent it home, with that “ping” emphasising a final mammoth breakdown. I was truly impressed at the crowd response to this set, which turned out to be guitarist Martin Wood’s last show with them. (Kel)[See The Gloom In The Corner in action HERE]
In case The Gloom In The Corner just didn’t satisfy punter’s thirsts for heavy music, it’d be hard to imagine that they remained longing after the chaos that Hellsworth’s Heaviest brought. Whether those watching knew what they were in for was irrelevant, because by any measurement Honest Crooks belted all their asses. The set was a rush that almost felt over before it began, but for those in attendance it was sure to be one that they wouldn’t be forgetting anytime soon. Honest Crooks proved why they’re only climbing in popularity in a rise that doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. (Andrew)
Strong from the start with “My Empire”, Windwaker‘s set was incredible. As I watched the crowdsurfing crowd and heard voices singing along with them, I was reminded of the first time I saw this band. It was a Thursday night at Workers Club and it was laughable that the band were asking the relatively tiny crowd for a wall of death on their first song. And then here we were, nearly two years later, and the vision and expectation Windwaker had of their crowd had come to fruition in reality. The set was a favourite of mine over the festival.
Dropping to the barrier for the hectic “Arrested”, Will King was an unstoppable force of connection and calling for interaction with focused eye contact. Vocalist and guitarist Liam Guinane literally leaned on the audience; playing his guitar while reclined on his back during “Reject”. The crowd returned this energy in kind; rushing for mic grabs, spontaneously clapping along, and of course with a steady stream of bodies going over the barrier. I saw a set of lycra-clad legs belonging to one of the “Free Mosh Hugs” guys up in the air above the pit, and a very active effort from security.
While a crowdsurfer clung to his inflatable shark, Windwaker ripped into a cover of Silverchair‘s “Freak”. Sounding great, coupled with pyro, and with inflatable balls bouncing over the sea of heads, it was just a really good time. I felt like UNIFY 2020’s party mode had been officially turned ON with this experience.
A galaxy of phone lights set the mood for “Grey World”, and a Captain Morgan red pirate hat wearing Will sung at the barrier. “Colourless” put the spotlight onto Liam Guinane, at what is likely to be his last show. There was a lot of love and cheers for this beautiful song and it all feel wordlessly special. I was riddled with goosebumps during this song, and Liam looked visibly moved also.
Though “New Infinite” had felt like a big finish and felt fittingly amazing, “The Sitch” was where the set ended. It was a mood of celebrating, with Windwaker’s stunning kaleidoscopic guitar sound, and every band member on stage fully into it! (Kel)
UNIFY Day 1
Tapestry | Diamond Construct | Tired Lion | Antagonist A.D | Silverstein | Dear Seattle | Architects
A common question people ask of others at UNIFY is “Who are you most looking forward to seeing?”. One of the things I was really looking forward to was seeing how the crowd would interact to the smaller bands that I love. Unfortunately due to high winds and rain, the main stage was (mostly) out of action on the first day of UNIFY. Band times were pushed back, shuffled, and changed minute-to-minute, while organisers behind the scenes tried to make it all work around the ever-changing and unpredictable weather conditions. I do not envy them at all! Somehow every band was able to play at UNIFY, which is a tribute to their efforts.
This did however mean that some of those ‘big stage’ moments weren’t going to happen, and one of those was Tapestry. So when the formerly Darwin/now Melbourne band came out on stage with intensity, kicking off with “Ghost”, their determination to make this something special regardless was palpable. Sung with conviction and with each band member fully invested, the set felt great.
Sweet melodic guitar and shifting intensity of “Bond” made for something softer but was still captivating nonetheless. The song was punctuated by crowdsurfers and vocalist Tom Devine-Harrison’s signature dance moves.
“Dark Shade” was dedicated to Tapestry’s Darwin friends who’ve made the trip to UNIFY with the guys many times before. Something about how the song was sung and the sweet guitar noodling made for a fresh and light vibe; a welcome difference from the weather chaos we’d been experiencing outside of the circus tent. Ocean Sleeper‘s Karl Spiessl jumped on stage for the “Teach me how to love” part of the song while Tom leapt into the crowd. Our voices in the audience carrying the last chorus of the song was a memorable moment!
For “Retrospect”, Tom’s emotional bleeding with these earnest lyrics was bounced back toward the stage from the crowd, with emphatic finger pointing and screaming of the vocals. Tense and angstful instrumentation travelled onward. Ending with “Love/Deception”, a circle pit was encouraged “to fuck Scomo”. Though their UNIFY performance turned out differently than originally planned, the guys of Tapestry left the stage with big smiles on their faces, with a buzzing crowd behind them. (Kel)
I found a new appreciation for Diamond Construct when I’d reviewed their debut album, and they were another band that I was keen to see in action in front of the UNIFY crowd. They kicked off with the roaring and hectic “Animus”, establishing an immediate commanding stage presence. Vocalist Kynan Groundwater was quick to drop down to the barrier, and the song grooved and bounced with grit and fury. It was quite a moment, watching rain drops cascade down off the side of the circus tent while a mosh ensued.
Diamond Construct sounded amazing, from the breakneck pace and sweet moments of “Paradox”, to the fat guitar pinches, the rap-esque vocal fury, and bounceable rhythms. Jayden Ridley of Stepson sailed by on an inflatable shark at one point, and Kynan stood momentarily still on stage, watching the active crowd before him, his smiling face beaming with pride.
“Techno” was unreal live and a damn good time. Kynan called for crowdsurfers and high-fived them as they ran by the front of the stage. “Night Terrors” set up an opportunity for a wall of death, and provided further evidence of how great this band are. “Holy fucking shit! You guys are fucking crazy!” said Kynan, seeming otherwise speechless at the appreciative crowd.
“Submerged” closed the set, and copped a lot of crowd love for the single as well as the band as a whole. Needless to say, the Diamond Construct set was another favourite of mine! (Kel)
As the rain continued to stream down, punters quickly filled UNIFY’s circus tent. Despite the glumness that hung over the festival as a consequence of the weather, there was something undeniably warm and comfortable about Tired Lion’s set on Friday night. While the punters in the tent may have seemed dispirited, there was no lack of energy from the stage as the infectious tunes poured through the crowd like soup on a cold winter’s day. For those that sought reprieve from the howling wind and freezing rain, Tired Lion’s set was an undoubtable reprieve that every onlooker seemed incredibly grateful for. (Andrew)
Taking into consideration that Antagonist A.D already released a single in “Gates of Hell”, their performance at UNIFY capped off what has been a frenzied start to 2020. With a hungry crowd in tow, the metalcore giants were unrelenting in bringing the pain while their set saw the most frenzied crowd of the weekend thus far. Powerful and pounding, the band’s ferocious brand of hardcore was the perfect outlet for the frustrations shared by festival attendees as a result of the unfortunate weather conditions. (Andrew)
The huge “No Justice” was a mindblowing finish for this incredible set! (Kel)
After shifting over from the main stage to the festival’s circus tent stage as a consequence of the worsening weather, Silverstein’s UNIFY set was perhaps one of the most intimate and special moments of the festival. For fans, to see such an iconic band in such a cosy location was surely to become a cherished memory as the Canadian rockers broke into a career spanning set. While unfortunate that the circumstances forced the band from the main stage onto a much smaller one, it was incredible to see the five-piece make a fist of their first time in Australia since signing with UNFD. While promising to return to Australian shores soon, the group played to the festival’s biggest crowd yet while delivering an unforgettable set for those who watched. (Andrew)
When Dear Seattle sings “Da da da”, any weather related grumps seem easily forgotten. The circus tent was a good time, singing and dancing along with “Daytime TV”, including the new lyric translation. Thankful to not be “too cooked” with the shift of schedule, Dear Seattle graced our ears with songs from their catalogue, old and new, and even included a cover of Missy Higgins‘ “The Special Two”, which the band had originally played for Triple J’s Like A Version.
The set was a combination of nostalgia, tenderness, and humour all wrapped in one that came at the perfect time for me. Despite shivering in the darkness with my wet socks inside my wet shoes, Dear Seattle warmed my spirits. As I headed toward the arena, mega single “The Meadows” copped a ton of voices joining in, and “Fuck being sad. I’m so over it!” may have well been purposefully written in dedication to washed out, tired, and teeth-chatteringly cold festival goers. (Kel)
The main stage was back in safe and working order in time for Architects to end the day. Before the band began, Richie Hardcore came on stage and spoke about the concept of challenging people about climate change through calm conversation (as opposed to anger). In short, he said “Let’s make the world a better place”.
Under a stunning full moon with scattered clouds and mild gusts of wind, the beautiful orchestral introduction of “Death Is Not Defeat” was quite surreal. Spotlights beamed out and a video screen on the stage gave a three dimensional effect while the Architects experience began in earnest.
The Architects train rolled into “Modern Misery”, playing stunning imagery that I saw at their Holy Hell tour at the end of 2019, which moved me to tears yet again. Pure anguished emotion and the literal running wolves on screen is an experience to behold. The delivery of “I won’t go to the grave with a song still in me” always gives me goosebumps.
Striding atop the catwalk that spanned the stage, vocalist Sam Carter landed a stomp in “Nihilist” at “So stand your ground!” which virtually rippled up the arena from the stage in force. In the crowd, people up on shoulders danced, and fists punched in the air to emphasise the lyrics they felt most.
Expressing gratitude to be in Australia, Sam spoke about what’s happening in our country, and “Fuck Scomo” chants kicked off (as they would continue to throughout the weekend. I don’t mind at all if this replaces the “Shoey!” chant!). Sam spoke about how there’s still love and kindness, and people pulling together, even if our leadership is questionable. Cheers went up when he shared that the set is dedicated to the firefighters, and the animal and human lives lost.
“Holy Hell” is a stunner of a song, courtesy of its orchestral backing, freight train pace, and rawness of vocals. The context in hearing it after talking about fires meant that I took the line “There’s gold buried in the blue” on board as our capabilities to endure or overcome regardless of the adverse conditions. A “single spark can start a forest fire” indeed, and a single act of kindness can ripple out similarly wildly too.
“Royal Beggars” was moving and stunning, and wholeheartedly embraced by the crowd. Gradually my icy feet, wet clothing in the cold air, and a day that felt like three contained within one made it tough to focus on what was unfolding in front of me. I stayed until “A Wasted Hymn”, soaking up the bittersweet and beautiful sense of finality that the song speaks about. The lyric “Can you live a life worth dying for?” riddled me with goosebumps, finding it poignant and tear-jerking in that moment.
Heading back to my tent, it was a treat to hear Sam say “Scomo is a fucking idiot” in the distance before closing their set with the inimitable “Doomsday”. (Kel)
UNIFY Day 2
Reside | Weighbridge | Sleep Talk | The Brave | Something Something Explosion | Kublai Khan | Columbus | Knocked Loose | Between You And Me | Void Of Vision | Eat Your Heart Out | Stray From The Path | Make Them Suffer | The Beautiful Monument | Tonight Alive | Polaris | Northlane | The Ghost Inside
Back in action with day two of UNIFY after a decent night’s sleep, Reside had the job of kicking things off. Vocalist Liam Guinane had immediate rockstar presence when Reside took to the stage and the band felt strong and unified as a whole. There was some vocal rawness from Liam, perhaps to do with his stellar performance the night before. Regardless, “The Light That I Found” still rocked.
Being so bouncy on stage (especially guitarist Will Eggleton), Reside enticed interaction from the decent sized audience for an opening band, including hand clapping (which was actually in time!). Inviting us all forward, the Melbourne band played a new song, which hit nicely in its soaring choruses. Guitarist Ariel Johnson was clearly having fun with it, based on the smile on his face.
Prior to UNIFY, fans had voted for the band to play “In This Moment”, so that’s what happened! Sweet sweet bass chugs and vocal wonderments in isolation, the song was a treat. Thankful to Triple J and UNIFY for the opportunity, last song “Replace Me” was sung from the front of the stage. Take a peek at the Reside Facebook page to see the video that was played as the set ended! (Kel)
Seeing Weighbridge at UNIFY is something I’d been waiting for. Their Limbic Resonance EP won our EP of the Year 2019 vote, as well as being my own personal pick. These guys have something good going on! Beckoning the crowd in toward the stage, “Narcolepsy” is where they began, and they sounded as spot-on as ever. Vocalist/guitarist Sean Ross nailed every note and the song sounded incredible.
Following with “Lessons Learnt”, I appreciated their stage presence and use of the massive stage. The turbulent song copped dizzying spins and chaotic movement. They used a subtle interlude as I’d seen before to help them adjust tuning for “Something Bleak” which works well to keep things flowing. They rolled with a blip of a guitar issue at the introduction and bassist Josh Godwin hit the stage front in full badass mode during the song. It’s hard to know what to say here, because it’s such a great fucking song, from a great fucking band, and I adore the pace shifts and cutting guitar lines.
“Gums & Teeth” went into a more sedate and heavy mood than previous; searing and grating like the discomfort of what’s being sung. Easy to get swept up into, I noticed the crowd getting as into it as I was, spontaneously clapping at the bridge. I also appreciated how well guitarist Ethan Taylor’s singing works with Sean’s. It’s yet another fantastic song in their repertoire, with a slow and dense ending that’s incredibly satisfying.
“Gaunt” amped things up for the set, with Void Of Vision‘s vocalist Jack Bergin coming on stage for his feature and commanding a circle pit. Drummer Jake Leahy was a standout on this track, putting in a stellar effort. With “Use” to end the set, it felt like a downhill run with a stunner of a bass and vocal section, with a last gasp punch of an ending. Weighbridge officially nailed it, and it’s never too late to get on the Weighbridge train if you aren’t already! (Kel)
After a year that saw Adelaide’s Sleep Talk return to the spotlight with the release of their debut album Everything in Colour, a slot at UNIFY only seemed fitting for the five-piece. The melodic hardcore outfit were at their powerful best, with the interplay between vocalists sitting nicely above the band’s instrumental melodies which shook awake any punters who watched on with sleepy eyes or hangovers from the night before. For those who had braved their own comedown, Sleep Talk were generous enough to bless them with a taste of a brand new song which, for the record, absolutely slapped! In giving it their all, you could see how grateful Sleep Talk were for the opportunity, a feeling that was reciprocated by punters who were simply happy to have live music to watch. Nevertheless, if Sleep Talk were there to wake people up, it’s safe to say they went above and beyond to do so. (Andrew)
Brisbane band The Brave were up next. The last time I saw these guys in action, they were musically very strong but there was something lacking by way of connection with the audience. I hoped to be impressed in the UNIFY setting, but it was unfortunately a similar experience as I’d had last.
I wanted to feel what was being thematically shared with the songs and I didn’t. Little moments like “Is my mind playing tricks on me?” from “Desolation” and breakdowns added some palpable punch, but it was a relatively neutral vibe and they had a mostly stationary crowd. Even for the popularity of “Ethereal” as a single, there wasn’t much movement to speak of. I did appreciate the bass-focused sections and the roaring vocals.
Surprisingly, a cover of Blur‘s “Song 2” felt more exciting and engaging than the songs before it and the crowd reflected this – and so they should, it sounded great! Vocalist Nathan Toussaint must have felt it too, because he verbalised his appreciation for the energy from the crowd. Unfortunately it didn’t stick, because “Technicolor”‘s energy dropped off quickly. I’m hopeful to see the band give far more of themselves next time! (Kel)
Something Something Explosion
The Something Something Explosion set was the surprise of UNIFY for me. I went in blind to the band, not knowing anything at all about them, to be honest, only having listened briefly to some songs on Spotify.
The three piece hit the stage matter-of-factly, laying down punk vibes with a hint of nostalgia. A “take us as we are” confidence married with their sound nicely, and I appreciated vocalist Grace Drummond’s expressive storytelling manner of getting the songs’ messages across.
A surprisingly beautiful ballad won me over most though, which featured just vocals and guitar. Showing far more versatility beyond punk, it was grunt and heart carried by a powerful voice. Wowing and goosebumping with stunningly long-held notes, the song (I’m sorry, I’m not sure of the title, and can’t find it on Spotify either!) inspired spontaneous applause and cheers mid-song. In comparison to the set previous, THIS was entirely palpable and felt by everyone in the circus tent! (Kel)
With a last-minute set time swap that saw the band swap to the festival’s main stage, it was Kublai Khan from Texas that truly seemed to wake everybody up following the previous night’s conditions. In what turned out to be one of my own personal favourite sets of the weekend, the band were relentless in the pursuit of getting the crowd off their feet and into the pit. As they brought the Texas Groove and the sun shined temporarily on the arena, the festival seemed truly charged and alive for the first time all weekend. The crowd was chaos as the band tore through their set, with crowdsurfers clamouring over those trying to throw down. With the band’s fierceness on full display for all to see, Kublai Khan proved why they are considered one of the best names in heavy music at the moment. (Andrew)
After potentially the heaviest set of the weekend, punters quickly moved from the arena to the circus tent to see Columbus and their exciting brand of rock. It was my first experience seeing the band live since the arrival of their new bassist in renowned rockstar and cartwheel enthusiast Lauren, and hot damn did they rock! Sounding more polished and rounded than ever before, the band’s set at UNIFY truly felt like a rebirth for the three-piece as the crowdsurfers (including yours truly), piled on top of each other. Bursting through a set of all their hits, the band truly seemed to be at home on the intimate stage, and hopefully their set felt as special for all those watching as it did for me. To me, Columbus had seemed like a band that unfortunately felt down and out, but watching their UNIFY set, they’re back baby! (Andrew)
It was never a surprise to see the name Knocked Loose on the UNIFY bill following the incredible reception their second album in A Different Shade of Blue received in 2019. A band that probably could’ve headlined the festival given the chance, the arena was quickly flooded with people in anticipation for the bands set. Despite the weight of expectation, the band exceeded it all and in a music scene that puts such an emphasis on hometown, the Oldham County warriors had no trouble in making Australia look like home. From the moment the band made their way onto stage they were met with a pit as wide as any, and as frontman Bryan Garris spat venom through his vocals the crowd only got wilder.
Opening with “Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory”, the vocal play between Garris and Hale was on full display with the latter’s frankly frightening vocals adding a whole different dynamic to the bands set. Every note hit exactly as it meant to, every vocal syallable rang through every onlooker and with such a commanding presence on stage it’s hard to think anybody could walk away from that set unfamiliar with the name Knocked Loose. Even the rain that began to spit over the crowd couldn’t dissuade onlookers from a set that was perfectly executed. Who knows, maybe the next time we see Knocked Loose on Unify they might just be right on top of the bill? (Andrew)
Between You & Me
After watching Knocked Loose do their thing, I almost felt like I had stumbled across UNIFY’s secret bubble-gum pop stage when Between You & Me took to the stage. To follow up that set would’ve been hard for anyone, yet the Melbourne pop-punk outfit seemed completely unphased as they flew through a set that took almost exclusively from their 2018 album Everything is Temporary. With inflatable beach balls, boats, and flamingos in tow, the five-piece put on what I consider to be UNIFY’s most fun set, and was perhaps the most fun I’d ever had during a set too. They kept their crowd off their feet, while crowdsurfer after crowdsurfer soared over the barrier in a set that doubled as a crash course in the incredible standard of Australian pop-punk. Everything may be temporary, but my memories of Between You & Me’s 2020 UNIFY set won’t be going anywhere soon. (Andrew)
Void Of Vision
Void Of Vision were crushing and heavy from the start, with frontman Jack Bergin’s energy barely contained during set opener “Year of the Rat”. Guitarist James McKendrick has one of the greatest singing voices in Australian metalcore and this was on show at UNIFY too.
It was the first time I’d seen the Melbourne four piece since they’d released their Hyperdaze album, so seeing songs like “Hole In Me” and “Babylon” in a live setting was great! Sounding bouncing and energetic, the crowd responded physically in kind, and the grinding effects, drumming, and lowwww breakdowns seemed purposefully designed for this setting and all but guaranteed a hectic mosh. Void Of Vision do ENERGY so well, and it remained high through the set from beginning to end.
Hooking into Disturbia for a moment, “Grey Area” seemed like a siren call for crowdsurfers, as a steady stream of them tumbled over the barrier. A good time for everyone around me, the glass-shattering breakdown felt amazing, and like the conductor of an orchestra, Jack used dance moves, jumps, kicks, and finger points to shape the music around him. It was just another thing to add to the precise brand of metalcore these guys are so skilled at, and seemingly keep improving upon.
A favourite of mine, “If Only”, was incredible live, with a whole lot of voices joining in around me. Through this song, it was apparent the hold that Jack had over the crowd as frontman, while also appearing visibly moved when we all shouted “Just let me drown” at the end of the song.
“Decay” had Jack assume the rare role of singing, while James played around on stage with drummer George Murphy. The song with its great riff and bouncy vibe had me want to revisit Hyperdaze more frequently. Similarly, I appreciated “Kill All My Friends” more in the live setting; a song that saw Jack clamber up the scaffolding, having us all hold our breath in the meantime.
The amazing set was a favourite for me of UNIFY, with the mega “Ghost in the Machine” being a fitting last song for crowdsurfing, moshing, and everything in between. When it comes to great live experiences in this scene, Void Of Vision seem to have it mastered. (Kel)
Eat Your Heart Out
After swapping set-times and stages with Kublai Khan, it was exciting to finally get to see Newcastle sweethearts Eat Your Heart Out. Playing to a modest crowd, the five-piece seemed more energetic than ever before, taking full advantage of their UNIFY opportunity to prove what they’re all about. Those who had ventured into the festival’s smaller stage were treated to a polished half hour of hits with songs from their 2019 album Florescence played in front of a festival crowd for the first time.
Joined on stage by the incredible Liam Guinane of Reside for their rendition of “Conscience”, it was at this point that crowdsurfers once again found their feet (or lack of), and started to climb towards the barrier as the band’s set blasted on. More than most of the other bands who were moved onto the smaller stage due to the weather conditions, Eat Your Heart Out were one who I would’ve loved to see take to the main stage but hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re given that chance again. (Andrew)
Make Them Suffer
The ‘morsecodecore’ of “Vortex (Interdimensional Spiral Hindering Inexplicable Euphoria)” kicked off Make Them Suffer‘s set. Something about the fog from the CO2 cannons combined with the ethereal melodies via Booka Nile’s keyboard and voice gave this set an immediate otherworldly feel to me.
This feeling didn’t really shift, and I found myself feeling mesmerised and in a state of trance. Watching a very active pit (which included the inflatable shark!) had it seem like the crowd were worshipping at the altar of a divine deity. In reality the crowd were actively appreciating the Perth five piece, including their most recently released single “Hollowed Heart”.
Barked staccato vocals from Sean Harmanis were a standout, as was the enthralling interplay between his voice and Booka’s. Contrary to their band name, Sean shared “We don’t want to make them suffer” when sharing the news that they would be donating all proceeds of merch sales toward fire-relevant charity. (Kel)
The Beautiful Monument
I might have still been a bit spaced out from the Make Them Suffer set when I headed over to the circus tent to catch The Beautiful Monument, so bear with me! The set began with “Invisible”; a strong start which had an enthusiastic response from the crowd, all taking in the great stage presence the band has.
Then dedicating “Burn” to Scomo, vocalist Lizi Blanco heartfully crooned and guitarist Alex Henderson roared, while those in the circus tent sang and moved along. There was a lot of dancing and singing opportunities through The Beautiful Monument set, and “Stay” saw people up on shoulders reaching out toward the stage. It was clearly a good time for everyone present.
Lizi sounded great, with her signature vocal inflections and flicks (for lack of a better word!). Thunderous kicks from Adam Pinzone on the drums emphasised the determination in the words shared, and I noticed with “Ida” that more and more sense of groove was apparent. Strong and confident, The Beautiful Monument put on a great set! (Kel)
Stray From The Path
Taking full ownership of their brand as an outspoken and politically charged band, it was no surprise to see New York’s Stray From The Path bring one of the most fiery sets of UNIFY 2020. The band were unrelenting in their delivery of their message, with the band’s frontman Drew York taking the time occasionally between songs to reinforce what the band is about.
Bringing their 2019 album Internal Atomics to Australia for the first time, the band were happy to showcase some of their new material, but held no grievance with revisiting songs from previous releases. Fan favourite tracks including “Goodnight Alt-Right” and “Outbreak” saw punters rage together in the pit. After sharing that they were documenting every show from the past three months, the band challenged crowdsurfers to find their way into an upcoming music video which resulted in a sea of bodies launching over the barrier.
Ending their set with the ever popular “First World Problem Child”, the band were met with raucous applause as Architects’s Sam Carter made his way onto the stage to perform his feature on the song. Stray From The Path’s set was angry and heated, which is exactly the pump up the UNIFY crowd needed as the festival began to head towards its ending. (Andrew)
Tonight Alive & Friends
I’m not entirely sure we were ready for the Tonight Alive set. It was something else. When the band arrived on stage, all eyes were on vocalist/frontwoman Jenna McDougall who was radiant, all smiles, electric, and seeming to somehow look deep into the eyes of each of us present. Party mode kicked in with the reflectively happy crowd bouncing along with “Disappear” from Underworld.
With the video backdrop playing music videos as the set progressed, “Wasting Away” was played, showcasing the stunning and soaring vocal heights, with the crowd seeming visibly emotionally moved and connecting with what was going down.
I tell you what, it’s something special to hear a crowd of voices singing “My life is what I make it” as in “World Away”. With Tonight Alive’s instrumental and vocal forces, there was a unshakeable and inspiring sense of positivity; that change is ahead and close. As if feeling the importance of this too, at the end of the song, Jenna had us re-sing the chorus, with her singing it toward us. Beautiful!
Given that the set was billed as being “and friends”, it was time to finally learn what this meant! Playing the song “Little Lion Man” from Punk Goes Pop, Vol. 4, Tonight Alive joined forces with vocalist Maz DeVita from WAAX and had ex-Hellions guitarist Matt Gravolin on guitar. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of the stage being something to showcase connection and the different flavours of sound and voice, as opposed to being something to lift only the band in question. There’s something selfless about that and it felt great to witness!
Further by way of friends, having Northlane‘s Marcus Bridge singing on “My Underworld” was just beautiful, with stunning harmonies floating above all of us. And the playful and theatrical nature of “Temple” was enhanced by Hellions‘ Dre Faivre, making it even more fun and loud!
As the highest billed act of UNIFY to date containing a woman, Jenna spoke about the importance of women not being unafraid to get into music, and also, for those who are in the position to, to hold space for women in music. “Crack My Heart” was dedicated to the divine feminine in all of us, and each word of it was felt with the intention of letting ourselves love and be loved. With this, together with the intention of sending love “or whatever energy” to those affected by bushfires, and the assertion to keep demanding change, I’d agree with the audience member nearby who described it all as “a religious experience”. (Kel)
Arriving to the stage amid pulses and darkness, Polaris dove straight into their newest single “Hypermania”. The sweet riffs and tight rhythms and chorus make the new track so easy to get into, and that’s what happened. The stage was set up with a catwalk across the front, which was used by frontman Jamie Hails as well as occasionally the other band members (except, you know, the drums..).
As a frontman, Jamie is one of the best, and his dancing, bouncing, hair-whipping, and just having a good time with the songs is infectious. He’s got a firm grip on the crowd too, where when he demands three circle pits for “Casualty”, you know it’s going to happen. Ditto to bouncing along to “Crooked Path” when Jamie roars “BOUNCE! BOUNCE! BOUNCE!”.
Taking a moment to say hello, Jamie spoke about the state of things lately, and how in these “tragic times we’re experiencing so much love”, while also expressing anger at our leaders. If we’re looking for some kind of motivation or optimism when the entire country seems on fire, this would be it.
“Regress” seemed fitting by way of lyrics and theme, and people were up on shoulders belting out the chorus. All three of Ryan Siew, Rick Schneider, and Jake Steinhauser were head down focused on their technical instrumentation, and the raw question of “What will it take to make you see?” hit powerfully hard.
Grateful to the efforts of organisers and talking about the need to lift our energy before The Ghost Inside, “Consume” came across like efforts to prove ourselves. A scramble of bodies came over the barrier, the song featured a huge wall of death, and everywhere I looked, all I could see were people moving or at least heads bouncing. It was a good time!
Officially announced as the last show of The Mortal Coil cycle, Polaris’ next shows will be for upcoming album The Death Of Me which releases next month. This point was hit home with “Masochist”, which despite its newness still had people up on shoulders and bellowing. The beautiful and thought-provoking song played with bubbles coming from the crowd and CO2 billowing on stage seemed fluid and effortless despite the band working ridiculously hard at it.
“Lucid” and its delectable riffs ended the set, and for a moment people called out for “one more song!” on instinct, like they would to a headlining act, showing how good of a time it was! With quite a lengthy list of favourite sets already, Polaris joined the club. (Kel)
The last time I saw Northlane play (Download Festival in Melbourne, 2018!), I was left with the feeling like I could have been there or not – that it wouldn’t have mattered. It seemed somewhat two-dimensional and not very connective. The band I saw at UNIFY was not the same band. Whether it’s to do with their line-up change, their new music, or something else entirely, Northlane have gone through some kind of metamorphosis, and I couldn’t be happier to get to witness it.
From the huge and intimidating “Details Matter” onward, Northlane beamed out musical mastery and sounded amazing. They sat comfortably in instrumental-breaks that felt natural and easy, not empty or awkward spaces. Full of energy and heart to lose yourself in, the incredible songs of Alien unfolded before us.
Bassist and vocalist Brendon Padjasek adds a ‘madman’ kind of vibe to Northlane, which sees him taking responsibility for demanding circle pits and throwing skateboards at people (haha), and his backing vocals are spot on. I couldn’t get enough of the blend of technical focus combined with soaring thoughts, as in “Freefall”, when multiple layers of CO2 blasted from the stage.
Countless crowdsurfers showed nostalgic appreciation for songs like “Quantum Flux”, but for me, the gold was in the songs of Alien. Wordlessly brilliant, “Eclipse” had a stunner of a breakdown and a huge ending, and both “Bloodline” and “Talking Heads” were next level incredible. There aren’t enough words to say how great this set was.
Finally, “Sleepless” was played. Mostly featuring vocalist Marcus Bridge and Jon Deiley, the beautiful song showed these two talented musicians in tandem, expressing a tense experience/feeling. Expanding to the full band, the stunning song sounded amazing in the open air setting. Just wow, this was one audible message in a bottle, floating out into the night air. (Kel)
The Ghost Inside
Perhaps the most anticipated moment in Australia’s heavy music scene in a long time, The Ghost Inside’s return to Australian shores was met with deservedly the biggest crowd of the entire weekend. As punters squeezed towards the front of the arena to get as close as possible, the excitement in the air as the crowd awaited the band’s return had to be experienced to be understood, and while I can’t justifiably express just how special the time we got to spend with The Ghost Inside was, I’m planning to try my best.
As the opening notes of “Avalanche” rang out and the band took to the stage, it still didn’t really seem to hit that we had the privilege of watching the band’s second set in four years. As a fan, there was always hope that we’d witness their return but whether it ever came was an entirely separate issue. The Ghost Inside are a band that despite all odds, have overcome turmoil and as grateful as every crowd member seemed to be as they witnessed their set, you could see with ease just how grateful the band were to be given this opportunity. Consequently, it was only right that the crowd gave their absolute all during the set, expending whatever energy that they had left over and using it to scream along, crowd surf, mosh, or throw their hands in the air.
In all honesty, The Ghost Inside’s set at UNIFY felt like a blur as they zoomed through a career spanning set that featured songs from their albums from the most recent Dear Youth all the way to 2008’s Fury And The Fallen Ones. Taking the time to shout out several Australian and international acts who shared the bill, including Architects, Antagonist A.D, Polaris, and Northlane, the band took few moments to breathe and made the absolute most of the time they had on stage. While the band could have been forgiven for struggling with the set, but perhaps the most incredible aspect of the performance is just how refined it all felt, like the band had never even had time away at all.
As the set ended with fan favourite “Engine 45”, the full weight and emotion of the set began to hit myself, and seemingly the rest of the crowd and the band too. The moment that thousands of us had just been able to share was truly special for so many reasons, and a testament to the determination and drive of The Ghost Inside who would have been forgiven if they put the cue in the rack following their bus accident. In the band’s own famous words, “Life’s swinging hard, but I’m swinging harder.” (Andrew)
Finding our ways home on the Sunday morning, another unforgettable UNIFY Gathering experience came to a close. Thanks for having us! See you next year![All photos courtesy of Liam Davidson]