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Words by Sam Wolstenholme

Titans of Australian metalcore Northlane have soared into the stratosphere following the release of their ARIA #1 award-winning album ‘Obsidian’ in 2022. This release seems to have pioneered a movement in heavy music towards a fervently synth-driven style of core underpinned by djenty riffs and a techno melodic framework, appropriately referred to as “wavecore” – and now many bands are springing up to follow in Northlane’s footsteps. Since the quartet began to move decidedly in this direction, their stagecraft has developed with it, and in recent years, a Northlane live show isn’t just a set – it’s a stunning spectacle. Tonight, these innovative masters are leading by this shining example as they kick off the opening leg of their sole Australian headlining tour for 2024 with support from their US counterparts in ERRA, as well as exciting names on the rise with France’s Landmvrks and our very own Banks Arcade. It’s little wonder the Fortitude Music Hall is packed to bursting with punters ready to get destroyed in the mosh tonight.

Banks Arcade come in hard and heavy with their quintessential nu-trapcore swagger, which gets the crowd moving. Having just dropped their new EP ‘Death 2’ only last week, the quartet’s set tonight predominantly delivers bangers from this release which showcases the diversity of their songwriting and offers something for fans old and new to enjoy. Frontman Joshua O’Donnell oozes confidence and charm as always and effortlessly owns the stage, while bassist Harlan Allen-Jones is bursting with energy in his frenetic movements. Bangers like Worship the Internet loosen up the mosh, whilst the more subdued, melancholy Change inspires a crowd sing-along. This is followed by the similarly poignant Drown, and there’s a momentary energetic dip in the room. However, the heartbreaking Be Someone from their previous album ‘Future Lovers’ hits a high note of intensity and is particularly rousing, prepping us for the aggressive closing number, new single Roulette. Suddenly a circle pit breaks out, and as Joshua rattles through pristinely percussive trap verses, the rabid mosh dissolves into a fight pit, ending with a wall of death. It’s a solid opening set from the Melbournians tonight, and almost certainly a sign of the chaos yet to come.

It’s the first time that France’s Landmvrks have ever toured in Australia, and boy, do they make the most of this opportunity. The five-piece launches straight into a hardcore frenzy marked by a powerful live mix with mighty guitars and razor-sharp kicks and toms, and the mosh instantly gets messy. Right from the first guitar chug, the band collectively maintains an explosive level of energy throughout the set, their dynamic presence matched by an increasingly unstable mosh. Their ferocious yet innovative sound is a masterstroke in genre versatility, at times channelling Bring Me The Horizon, then crashing in with the hardcore aggression of Knocked Loose, and even flashes of the deathcore brutality of Chelsea Grin. This is thanks in part to the impeccably tight blast beats and flawless fills of drummer Kévin D’Agostino and the wondrous technical ability of frontman Florent Salfati. Vocally, there seems to be no style this man can’t perform well – he’s as comfortable with fry screams and growls as he is with honey-sweet cleans and even rapid trap vocals. Ridiculously catchy nu-core numbers like Death fuel the mayhem in the room, and beset by the flickering lighting, it gives the audiovisual impression of Donnie Darko-like hallucinations. Cyclonic circle pits and walls of death abound, particularly to latest single Creature, which is being debuted live tonight, and Self-Made Black Hole, which is one hell of a closing track. Landmvrks had better return stat, because their set tonight has been so much fun – not to mention incredibly impressive.

Eerie green lights and haunting synths announce the arrival of ERRA, who pummel into their brand new single Cure with colossal downtuned guitars. These land with such crushing weight they’re almost overwhelming. The guitars are so loud that even the famously mighty harsh vocals from frontman J.T. Cavey initially fight to cut through, though the live mix does seem to right itself fairly quickly. The five-piece are thunderous tonight, delivering djenty grooves that chop up the pit and send half the crowd into a frenzy, while the other half stands transfixed by the hypnotic clean vocals of Jesse Cash as they soar above the maelstrom. The grooves are so sharp yet swaggering that I am torn between the urge to either fight or dance.

Best-loved bangers Gungrave and Eye of God create carnage in the mosh, with the latter stirring up a circle pit that runs continuously for about a full minute. The lightning shreds from the triple-threat rhythm section of Jesse and Clint Tustin on guitars and Conor Hesse on bass are a wonder to behold, and Conor in particular looks like he’s having the time of his life. There’s a demonic vibe during Stockholm Syndrome when a jump pit breaks out, red lights bleed through the room and the entire crowd raises their horns in solidarity. Closing with Snowblood is an excellent choice, as it tips the scales further in a mosh that has grown and grown and now spirals into complete chaos. There’s no doubt that ERRA are at the top of their game right now.

Holographic lights hang like futuristic pendulums at either side of the stage, and an atmospheric intro builds the tension; with the neon video backdrop, it’s like we’re being lifted off into outer space. Northlane begins our otherworldly odyssey with Carbonized, and frontman Marcus Bridge is absolutely on fire tonight. The light-up visor glasses guitarist/synth tech Jon Deiley is sporting are a nice touch also. It’s a full Blade Runner experience with the lighting and video patterns setting the scene for our journey into wavecore. The already rowdy crowd goes ballistic, the mosh almost engulfing the entire floor as the band debuts Miasma, with a special appearance by J.T. Cavey to cover Winston McCall’s vocal parts in a terrifying duet with Marcus. The sound is enormous, the guitar shreds are perfect and each djenty chug lands like the stroke of a lightsaber in this trippy, dystopian neon nightmare. The psychedelic video backdrop and strobes complement the disco beats of 4D, which starts up something of a dance party before giving way to a massive wall of death. Talking Heads is crushing, and by contrast, there’s something heartbreaking about this track; you can feel the visceral pain in Marcus’ performance of these tortured lyrics. Similarly, Bloodline is as gut-wrenching as ever, and Marcus’ clean vocals are transcendent in this number tonight. 

There’s a quick costume change for Marcus before launching into recent single Dante, and between the polyrhythmic riff and red strobes, it’s like we really are consumed in the titular inferno. Echo Chamber and Clarity provide an opportunity for Nic Pettersen to flex his mind-blowing talents on the kit as he basically starts a rave mosh with florid fills during the former, and whips up a hurricane with blasts and rapid-fire snare action in the latter. We’re then treated to a medley of “old stuff with a new twist”, featuring what sounds like Worldeater from way back in the early Northlane discography. These filthy breakdowns land just as hard today and benefit from the modern treatment of the current lineup’s synth wizardry.

At this point, the mosh is positively seething with pent-up excitement. The band rewards this with another live debut of a brand new, unreleased track Afterimage, and we are the first audience ever to hear it. A luminous intro of clean vocals builds to a punishing guitar riff, anthemic chorus and a feral breakdown – this one’s a certified banger. Then after the rave party of Clockwork, the set ends on a curiously sentimental note with the romantic Nova. It’s an unexpected, but in my opinion, refreshing way to cool down a highly activated, macho-aggressive mosh, and we all leave feeling a little calmer.

Northlane are among those few bands in the uppermost echelons of the metalcore world who are laying the blueprint for aspiring bands to push the boundaries and innovate within a notoriously crowded genre. Not only this, their stagecraft has become part of their lifeblood of everything that renders them so memorable and makes them stand out. And with the support of three heavyweights who are similarly masterful in their own right, tonight they have delivered a celebration of the versatility to be found in modern metalcore as the genre morphs and matures.

Purchase tickets to the remaining dates of the Dante tour here.

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