Words by Camilla Astrid Strand
It’s Friday night in the Valley, and I’m at a tiny venue with a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance.’ Tomcat is a place for the freaks and geeks with a friendly disposition and a keen desire to graffiti every surface within arm’s reach. Tonight, it’s the release of Brissie alt-rockers Torizon’s latest single Burning Away. The sound system at Tomcat plays anything from Karnivool to La Roux. When I signed in under the new QR Code world order it was honestly one of the more enjoyable experiences with the landing page of the app advising me in a smart-arse Australian prankster personality that only 14 people were allowed into the smoking area behind the pool tables. I decided to check this out, only to find the below on the wall, and 4 long-haired metal dudes smoking and talking film genres that indicated the kind of night I was in for.
First on stage are a band who are new to the scene, Gold Coast four piece, Ayons. Made up of members from Verum and We All Drive, they aren’t quite sure how to define themselves yet but are going with Surf Rock or Dark Psychedelic rock for now. The band begins, opening heavily and within the first minutes the long-haired metal guys from the smoking area are moshing like mad, probably excited to be able to touch other people for the first time since March 2020. The lead singer is scream-yelling unintelligibly before giving short “Thank yous” to the crowd, and the guitars break into a sludgy rock style, the drums start thrashing and the combination of the music, the flashing lights and the moshing metal dudes give the main floor of Tomcat an electrifying vibe.
The lead singer oscillates between a softer delivery and just flat out yelling, with such lyrical mastery as “Something, something, something” that indicates we are not only post-genre, we are post-understanding-anything. The shoulder length hair of each member hangs over their faces, and that combined with their impressive performance reminds me of early ‘Frogstomp’ Silverchair vibes. Ayons plays to the crowd, building anticipation expertly for a band that had their first show in September of 2020, and everyone is just having a bloody good time. Unsure of exactly when their set ends, Ayons lets us know “We’ll play this last one and that’s all we got ha ha” in a nervous sort of laughter that can’t help but endear, and then the tightest most technical guitar busts out and the crowd goes absolutely off. Ayons is bringing out of their best with unassuming potential, a mixture of sludge rock, psychedelic guitars, and an aggressively friendly vibe. I’ll be interested to see where they go.
Next up we have Seraphic, headed by Sam Wolstenholme. This is their first gig of 2021 and I’m so stoked to be witnessing it. Seraphic released their second full-length studio album ‘Chrysalis’ in October 2020. As the band is setting up the stage, a crowd begins to form awaiting what we all know to be something special. Starting off the gig with the second track from the album, Garden of Unearthly Delights. A smart choice because when Sam breaks out the line “Surrender to me” the crowd goes absolutely wild and I can’t help but have a headbangingly good time. Each member of the band is so incredibly polished to perfection I feel like I’m watching a cross between Epica and Evanescence and the only negative I can say is that the stage they are on needs to be at least three times the size. This is the kind of band that would be perfectly at home selling out the Brisbane Entertainment Centre or headlining Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. We are all being spoiled by getting this tiny venue version of a band that will go big.
Sam stops momentarily to thank the crowd and tell us we are beautiful, and then begins the sparkly piano that opens up the track The Monster Within, before the drummer Daniel Langdon breaks out into the heavier main part of the song and the metal dudes in the audience respond in kind, even at times breaking into a new mosh style I’d never seen before, where they huddle in a circle and mosh inwards to the center. A move I shall dub “The Wizards Circle.” Third track played was Midnight, an epic anthem that is a highlight on the album, and even better live. This track gives guitarists Patrick Feagan and Raouf Al-Araji their chance to shine, the guitar solos were completely blissful and the moshing metal dudes started a skipping circle in the folksier parts of the song.
Seraphic then played a track off their first album, The Final Act. An unusual choice that saw the crowd noticeably chill out. I’m not sure if that’s because they weren’t familiar, or if it was just a more subdued track. This was quickly remedied by the hard-hitting intro to The Phoenix, where the now increased group of metal heads started a mosh train over the double kick trills of the track. When the best line of the song breaks out, “You Have no Power over me,” I’m just feeling incredibly lucky to be witness to it in such an intimate venue. Michael Bates growly vocals while he plays bass is perfectly timed, completely suited, and yet another example of a band that is ultra-impressive.
The last song Chrysalis, the album namesake, was just too much for my mere human existence and I was forced to attempt escape via violent yet perfectly timed banging of my head in the air. Following my “this stage is too small” instincts, the crowd breaks into a two-handed side to side wave as if the band was a kilometer away instead of the 1 meter they literally were. If I’m sounding like a complete fangirl of Seraphic that would be because I am. Do not sleep on Seraphic.
Next up is the band we are all here to see, Torizon. The crowd has shifted slightly, the metal dudes are still there but they are buffered by a more punk crowd, reflective of the fact we are shifting genres from symphonic metal to heavy Alt-Rock. Torizon starts off with electronic elements in the intro to Hey You, an anthem criticising the most untouchable of topics in society, religion. Mish’s vocal style is a little punk, a little valley girl and a lot aggressive. For a band that just began a couple of years ago in 2019, they come across as seasoned, and remind me a little of Coheed and Cambria.
The next track is Shine On, an uplifting and honest song about overcoming trauma and never letting anything hold you back. It’s a much slower tempo and a lot heavier than the first track. Torizon’s political and personal sensibility is backed and bolstered by Sarah Allen on guitar, and she utterly shreds in this, bringing the metal boys back into their headbanging and moshing. Next up is Find My Way Out, an anthem that rails against emotional abuse and gaslighting. The heavy bass by Jeremy Edwards make this an instant headbanger, with Mish aggressively stalking the stage as she spits the lyrics.
The next track Immerse showcases Mish’s vocal ability, with an epic wail of “Can’t you hear me scream” hitting heart and hitting hard, with an incredible display of drumming by Aaron Hose. Torizon then revealed their new track called Maybe, and this brought the pace right down, so much so that the metal dudes do a sit-down head bang at the front of the stage, before quickly rising back to their feet when the tempo picks back up.
Mish expertly plays to the crowd, but on the new track, the unfamiliarity of the song means that the crowd softens their response. This signals to the band to pull up the performance needed to hold the audience. The chorus of Maybe is so infectious though that it doesn’t take long for the crowd to respond enthusiastically, at one point doing raising their arms for the metal version of the fist bump, letting the band know they are onto it here. Support continues to grow in the mosh during Falling, a punk infused banger of an anti-love song with a crescendo building chorus, the kind of song that a more familiar crowd would definitely yell along to. Torizon have immense energy that will only become more explosive the more they get on stage.
The next song is a cover of Korn’s Thoughtless, where Sarah Allen once again demonstrates her effortless rock’n’roll attitude on her headless guitar as the energy starts building. Mish then asks the crowd if they are ready, before Torizon then delivers on their new single Burning Away, which has an intensely cool guitar intro and mega huge beats from the drums leading the crowd to unleash once again. The energy in the room has been amped up and Mish is wailing the lyrics into the microphone, head tilted high and the build-up of the prior songs on the set list has given way to the excitement of this new track.
Burning Away was inspired by the world imploding pandemic and is critical of governments all over the world putting profits above human life as well as continuing to ignore the urgent need to address climate change. The song also criticises more directly the Australian government for letting the arts industry drown, which is especially frustrating considering how much money the arts raised for Australia during the bushfires of 2019 – 2020.
Being that the gig was Torizon’s single launch, I assumed they would be the headlining act, so I ended my night of live music and left after they finished. Though to my horror, I realised later, that I had missed the fact that Handful of Helmet actually played last to wrap up the night. Handful of Helmet are a stoner rock band hailing from Northern New South Wales, all reports have confirmed they performed a really tight set and ended this night of glory with super cool vibes and I am sorry I missed it.
Overall, it was a post-genre gig filled with post-COVID people enjoying a bubbling cauldron of insanely cool talent while a group of metal heads hugged, skipped and sat all over the place. It was a night of happiness and joy, a long-awaited chance to get amongst the crowd that we are privileged to be able to experience. Keep safe and Rock On.