Neck Deep / State Champs
Metro Theatre, Sydney 09/01/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Sarah Lay
We’re not even halfway through January, and yet, Australia has already bared witness to the pop-punk fight night of the year: chart-smashing Welsh shredders Neck Deep vs. stadium-scaling NYC wildcard State Champs. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the 2016 Pizzaweight Championship, and with two of the scene’s biggest acts battling it out in the ring (a sold out Metro Theatre), things are bound to get bloody.
State Champs step up with their eyes on the prize, smashing straight into “Secrets” in a caffeinated fury. It’s a bold move, kicking off with the lead single from last year’s Around The World And Back. Still, the crowd goes wild. They’ve pulled it off, and by God, it only gets bigger from here – “Perfect Score” and “All You Are Is History” lead the first half of their set, shuttered out with lightning precision as Evan Ambrosio annihilates his drums, and Derek DiScanio annihilates his lungs. The frontman is on fire, never failing to have fists in the air as he bounds around the stage like a deflating balloon. His vocals are fierce, powerful and loud, and when paired with Tony Diaz’s rhythmic shredding, a swift roundhouse kick to the eardrums.
Three songs in, bassist Ryan Graham is down. Broken gear puts the fight on pause, but Tyler Szalkowski’s witty banter keeps the punches rolling through. As the set carries on, the crowd loses its voice, naysayers are flipped into devotees and BLUNT is enthralled by Diaz’s anomalous tornado of hair. “Losing Myself” brings to the proceedings a fleeting moment of sweetness, and “Remedy” an energetic eruption, before “All Or Nothing” comes tearing through the speakers like a bass-tinted body slam. DiScanio launches himself into the crowd for the final chorus of “Elevated”, and just like that, Sydney is left standing in awe with bloodied noses and aching jaws.
Weighing in at 650* pounds from the mythical land of North Wales, softcore skate crew Neck Deep jump into the ring amidst cheers that knock State Champs to their knees. It’s clear who punters are rooting for tonight, and as the quintet launch into “Citizens Of Earth”, the payoff becomes a no-brainer. Ben Barlow dishes king hits hard and fast, his voice a boxing glove wrapped in barbed wire spitting the chantable hooks of “Losing Teeth”. None of the members have a designated ‘position’ – throughout the hour-long assemblage, they race around the stage to their heart’s desire. It’s a solid tactic, inspiring circle pits to open up in every corner of the venue.
Though leading a genre often berated for sounding stale, Neck Deep take every possible precaution to ensure their set never loses its spark. Life’s Not Out To Get You gem “December” is flipped from a pacifying acoustic jam to a full-band banger, and “Kali Ma” tears the motherfucking house down with its inescapable chorus – and, of course, Matt West’s legendary punk jumps. West isn’t the only guitarist dropping jaws, though; newest member Sam Bowden leaves some serious bruises with his rope-a-dope riffery, perfectly complementing Dani Washington’s roid rage drumming. The final bell rings with “Can’t Kick Up The Roots”, and if Sydney was sore before, they’re fucking rekt now.
For this spectator, the outcome is unquestionable. State Champs floated like butterflies and stung like bees, but Neck Deep were pure intensity, giving it everything they had until they had no more. The decision is unanimous: Neck Deep are the 2016 Pizzaweight Champions! …That being said, however, both bands put up a great fight. State Champs are still yet to disappoint us, and Neck Deep just keep getting better and better.
* – just a rough guestimate.
Note: all references to physical violence are purely metaphorical. No band members were harmed in the making of this article (this one short kid got fuckin’ destroyed in the pit though).