Review: Hellions at Fowler's Live

Words by Connor McKenzie

Life being a pain, I walk into Fowler’s Live tonight just as Newcastle boys Introvert launch into their final song, and quickly I curse myself for missing the rest of the set. But just one song of their beefy, Thrice-like post-hardcore was enough to convince me not to miss them again.

Local boys Sleep Talk are getting all sorts of positive adjectives thrown at them lately, and it’s very well-deserved. The way their songs twist and turn in all the right, unexpected ways might make for confused moshing but it sounds fantastic, and with Jacob Clement’s impassioned shrieks create a bleak, yet cautiously optimistic atmosphere. It’s kind of like Deafheaven-Lite; easier on the technicality but still an emotional, heavy-hitting, damn good time.

On the flipside, Sydney journeymen Endless Heights and their brand of muscular mid-2000s alt rock didn’t really do much for me and at least a few others in the room. We were in the minority though, the rest happily bopping away through a tidy set, singer Joel Martorana taking charge with a stage presence beyond his years. The talent is clearly there and so is the passion, but for some reason the songs just weren’t tonight, and I can’t quite put my finger on why... 

An ambitious marriage of hardcore punk and theatrical grandeur, last year’s Opera Oblivia was such a complex and, well, operatic record that I doubted Hellions would really be able to convincingly bring it to life on stage without a full theatre company behind them.

But boy, was I proven wrong.

"Breathe, be still, be free" goes the opening of ‘24’, but no one did. Limbs and lungs were go as the anthems of Opera Oblivia and its predecessor Indian Summer were rolled out and welcomed warmly. They may not have had a choir, but they had a crowd – the stubborn defiance of ‘Thresher’, the romantic resignation of ‘Nottingham’, all roared back towards the stage and the smiling faces of the boys who wrote them. Gracious throughout, it was clear Hellions are still taking in just how much their hard work has paid off and loving it every step of the way.

Of course, there were still throwdowns aplenty; ‘Nightliner Rhapsody’, the self-titled ‘Hellions’ and Latin-spiced ‘Lotus Eater’ are perfect pit flint (songs that, given the right materials, set the pit alight) for a crowd all too ready to go wild – It was Friday night, after all. One punter even took it upon himself to curl into a ball and play springboard for wanting crowd surfers, though I’m not sure who I felt more sorry for; his back or the people the surfers came crashing down on.

However, one can’t help but long for more. Don’t get me wrong, tonight was an absolute joy – I sang my heart out and got a fine dance-sweat on too – but there is just so much potential in the scope and story of these songs that almost feels a bit wasted on this stage. If you gave Hellions a choir, a string section, some kind of full stage production, I really believe they could create something special.

Y’know… like an opera.

For better or worse, these are songs built for bigger stages than Fowler’s. And I for one sincerely hope Hellions can get them there. But until then, I’m more than happy to cheer wildly as they power through a thunderous encore of ‘Quality Of Life’, reminding all who hear it, "You could be happy, if you wanted to be".

Tonight, we all were.

Hellions' Opera Oblivia tour rolls on around the country 'till the end of May.
Dates, tix and more here.