In the run up to this show, drummer Ryan Burt announced he would not be present for The Amity Affliction’s remaining UK and EU dates due to mental health issues. As the Facebook post explained, TAA are no strangers to the demons and darkness of depression. Lyrical themes of personal pain, loneliness and soul-searching have long been a hallmark of the band, standing defiant to inner anguish. This defiance is embodied here by the recruitment of Casey McHale (Funeral For A Friend) on drums in order to complete the tour.
Openers Wage War are sonically the most similar band to the headliners on the bill. Melodic choruses intersperse hefty metalcore verses and riffs, delivered in a performance that is solid if a little wooden. The Floridians looked awkward and unimpressed to be performing to a less than half full ABC little after 6pm, ploughing through their short set with little said by singer Briton Bond bar pleasantries. Tight, enjoyable but unremarkable, Wage War are exactly what is to be expected from an opening act. (3/5)
Next is Stray From The Path, a “very outspoken band”, in the words of vocalist Drew York. Here, this extends to mumblings about Donald Trump and Ian Watkins. Musically however, the Tom Morello-influenced lone guitar of namesake Williams remains the driving force behind the chaotic, relentless hybrid of hardcore and metal that yields arguably even more energy performed live. York’s political ramblings might fall flat lyrically, but he injects a much needed energy to the mute crowd, bounding around the stage. Now a more than established presence, Stray From The Path deliver a performance to match that status. (3.5/5)
Northlane are a mightily impressive live band. Their expansive take on metalcore is effective on record, but comes into its own in the live setting. Everything is assured and slick, from the startlingly full-on light show, to the effortless commanding of the stage of Marcus Bridge, to the sparkly gimp mask worn by guitarist Jonathan Deiley. ‘Leech’’s crushing breakdown provides the outstanding moment of the show. Bridge’s vicious growl wins the screaming contest of the night with ease – and whisper it, but Northlane might just have sneaked it for best Australians too. (5/5)
The Amity Affliction’s arrival is curiously sudden and subdued, the house lights scarcely dimmed before ‘I Bring The Weather With Me’’s opening church bells chime. There is no further mention of the absence of Burt, likely out of respect for privacy, but there is a certain subordination to the band throughout that may or may not be connected to their bandmate’s illness.
In contrast with Northlane, the over-produced style of their studio work has never translated well to the stage, drums losing impact (though performed impeccably by the covering McHale) and choruses considerably less soaring. While these are issues that may lie in the realm of sound engineering rather than performance, favourites such as ’Open Letter’ and ‘Pittsburgh’ feel considerably downsized.
Ahren Stringer’s clean vocals are overly drenched in reverb, though this hardly affects crowd participation in his trademark hooks, and of course when Birch urges everyone to “fuck it” and crowdsurf over the barrier for closer ‘This Could Be Heartbreak’, they oblige. This, along with current single ‘All Fucked Up’, are singalong highlights, and represent the side of TAA’s newest work that leans to the softer and – slightly – more adventurous. Perhaps in pursuing this path, they can grow and become a band capable of selling out these large venues, and eventually even larger venues – rooms with the scope and and capacity to recreate their mighty sound. (2.5/5)
Words by Peter Stewart (@PeteStew_)