Monday, 1 June 2015
"It's dangerous to go alone! Take this" urged the sagacious cave bum as he handed me a dated Myki. I was still too young to ride Epona and the very thought of catching public transport sent me into a Molly Weasley-like rage. "Listen" my fairy offsider ordered, but in my berserker rage it fell on deaf ears. I unsheathed the Master Sword as my eyes caught wind of the old man's antique pottery collection. Before he could voice an objection, I had unleashed a devastating fully charged spin attack and shattered every pot in his subterranean home to smithereens. "Listen" Navi implored as I turned my attention towards the cowering sage in the corner. "Lis..ooooff". The boomerang had found it's mark and knocked the luminescent mosquito to the ground. Opening up my inventory, I equipped the Megaton Hammer for maximum damage and held it over my fuming head ready to strike a fatal blow. The whimpering elder meekly held out the ocarina in defeat which I quickly snatched away from him. I pursed my lips and played the "Requiem Of Spirit" to warp me to the Spirit Temple which housed tonight's show but not before unleashing an army of Bombchu's to level the dusty cavern.
I arrived just in time to catch the last song of Melbourne's GLASS EMPIRE which was a shame because they a pretty spectacular way to kick off the night. It was a combination of solid alternative rock and echo-heavy vocals with nods to Dead Letter Circus, old Karnivool, and new Incubus along the way. Props to the drummer for managing to keep his singlet from falling off whilst maintaining the tempo. It looked like it was giving you quite a bit of trouble.
After a rather lengthy setup, five-piece Melbournites BRANCH ARTERIAL hit the stage with a flurry of technical precision and accented nirvana. The groups instrumentation punched me in the face harder than Charlie Sheen hitting the bottle, with each accented riff adding to the distorted cacophony before me. It was an absolute pleasure watching Kade Turner's fingers dance across his steel cables faster than any given person accepting a marriage proposal from The Rock. Adam Zaffarese is a fucking monster on the skins. His sticks hit harder than a domestic abuse offender as he sports a shit-eating grin on his face like he's about to give someone's kid brother a wedgie. His technical prowess comes off as being effortless as he is constantly trying to catch the attention of members of the band simply to give them a nod and a smile as if to say "how cool is this shit?". The dual guitar work really drove the music home and brought influences such as Tool and Sevendust into the fold. My one minor gripe with the set was from the mic control used by vocalist Nigel Jackson. He has a great range and a really powerful voice which does wonders for the overall sound of the group, however it does become a problem when he goes from quieter moments to banshee levels of booming without adjusting the microphone distance from his gob. In saying that, when the mic levels were adjusted correctly, he made a solid impact on the punters and even managed to pull out some sweet harmonies with one of the groups guitarists. We were treated to a special musical guest in the form of a violinist mid-set which added an intricate level of flair to the groups dynamic. I was disappointed that she only hung around for a single track but it did get me more invested in what the band was trying to showcase. Solid set from a group I will definitely be keeping an eye out for in the future.
The room was at triple capacity by the time international quintet KLONE hit the dais and I had no idea what to expect. The Frenchmen encapsulate every single punter in the room from the opening note. The grinding chugs from the twenty year veterans caused all conversation to cease and all eyes to face the stage. The music is heavy, slow, progressive, and calculating. It puts a smile on my face bigger than a teenager who's just kissed his long term crush for the first time. The immersive light show paints the band in silhouettes of green and purple, and it really sets the group apart from any other band on the bill tonight. Vocalist Yann Ligner elevates the group another ten levels with a gravelly pitch-perfect voice that could grate chocolate. Much like Chino Morino of Deftones fame, he can go from delicate and reserved to Galactus destroyer of worlds in a matter of nanoseconds. He uses the latter sparingly at the cusp of crescendos, giving you just enough to become emotionally invested and to leave you craving more. In terms of influences, I can’t think of a single band that the tourists reminded me of, and that is truly a feat unto itself. Klone close the set with a pretty epic cover of Bjorks "Army Of Me" which caused a bit of debate amongst our group over which version was better. While I don't believe it surpassed Bjorks incarnation, it was certainly an excellent homage to the Icelandian.
Expectations were high for the headliner and I had brought along a group of friends who had never heard the band before so my reputation was on the line. VOYAGER come flying out of the red corner throwing haymakers and uppercuts into the air. Smiles litter the room as the visitors from Perth showcase their unique brand of progressive-technical-pop metal. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single song can have you singing along even if you don't know the music. The onstage chemistry is amazing with every single member of the band having the time of their lives especially guitarist Simone Dow who was constantly Gene Simmonsing her tongue whenever she melted our faces off with Santana shaming solos. Alex Canion has fun with the crowd, his eyes opened wider than a fat kid spotting cake as he belted out the tunes far away from any microphones. The hits keep coming as crowd participation increases with every song. That's when frontman Daniel Estrin whipped out his flaming red keytar much to the delight of a few overexcited punters in the room. Estrin is an invaluable asset to Voyager's lineup. He knows how to work the crowds but he can also revert to a reserved demeanour which allows to focus to fall onto the rest of the band and give them their time in the spotlight. A symbiotic cycle is formed by his repeated vocal hooks which encourage crowd sing alongs which pumps the band up, which in turn pumps the crowd up. Guitar duelling, synth samples and rave shaves all add to the aural tapestry Voyager bestow upon the audience and the crowd laps it up like a thirsty dog who's been locked in a car in the middle of summer. Hits such as "Stare Into The Night" and "Hyperventilating" have the masses singing along with the fervor of ninety nine percent of X-Factor wannabes (with the exception that the judges on stage will love us no matter how out of tune we are). Just when you think the show can't get any better, Voyager bust out the theme from Game Of Thrones much to the hordes delight. This led into a medley which included the theme from Ghostbusters, "Breathe" by The Prodigy, Midnight Oils "Beds Are Burning", Rammstein's "Du Hast", Tina Turner's "Simply The Best", and finally ending on the closing riff of Rage Against The Machines "Killing In The Name Of". If any person in the room wasn't sold before then they certainly were now as Voyager had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. A group of spectators were now adding their own chants in between the vocal parts of the songs much to the delight and/or horror of the band. The acknowledgement from Canion sent a flock of laughter up in the air like doves released at a wedding. The hour long set from the group seemed to go by in a heartbeat and every member of the band willingly hung around for as long as was needed to speak with fans, get photos taken and to sign CDs. This connection with their fan base is the mark of a truly great musical talent who will forever hold a place in my heart and the annals of Australian rock history.
Amazing job Melbourne. Love your work.
Sunday, 25 January 2015
CALIGULA'S HORSE • BREAKING ORBIT • ORSOME WELLES • RED BEE
FACTORY FLOOR - 23/01/15
The Bat-Signal had been lit hours beforehand following my beat-down at the hands of Pyro but to no avail. It dawned on me that a rival comic book companies hero did not exist in this universe and so I reluctantly accepted that I would have to make the arduous journey alone. For three days I crawled on my stomach under the scorching twin suns of Tatooine like a cockroach who refused to die, clinging to the lustful thought of being able to aurally mount a C-Horse at the end of my journey. The only other danger I faced on my pilgrimage was the Mongol-like wrath of the indigenous tribes. I managed to avoid the ire of the local Tusken Raiders with my life-like impersonation of a grain of sand, and even managed to hitch a ride in one of their raggedy shoes as they passed over the top of me. I nestled snuggly into a damp nook between the two biggest toes and rode that sweaty foot all the way to the Mos Eisley Cantina Bar.
Aesthetically the opening act has always reminded me of Beaker, Rizzo and Lew Zealand of The Muppets, and that they formed a band purely because Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem weren't metal enough. Blue Mountains juggernauts RED BEE masterfully launch the first volley of brutal entertainment up into the air, temporarily blackening out the sun before descending to the earth below. As the missiles make their swan dive, they pierce the arrow fodder in their unprotected chests with crystal clear clarity of sound. The unashamedly Australian trio have been kicking goals ever since my first review; securing a spot on the 2014 Soundwave lineup and opening for the likes of Protest The Hero amongst others. The boys brutal, Dillinger-inspired math-metal has to be seen live to truly appreciate the epic insanity that has gained the attention of The Powers That Be. Second track "Dark Days" brought the stragglers running in like teenage girls who had spotted Justin Bieber at their local shopping mall. Vocalist/guitarist Dan Silk bellows out the tunes with an unapologetically Aussie voice which to me sounds like the love child of Phil Jamieson and Brandon Boyd. His fingers pirouette across the strings with the grace of a royal British swan. An infectious smile was plastered over the face of bassist Jim Silk as he stomped around the stage in his giant oversized Osiris moon boots like Reptar laying waste to a Lego metropolis. Drummer Ian Dunn absolutely punishes his kit up the back of the stage, laying the ground work for the intense levels of synchronisation littered throughout the entire set. Effortlessly merging elements of metal and lounge music together was the track "The Gift". Musically it was very strong however I think it lacks the vocal hooks of the rest of the set. The multiple complex time signatures, gorgeous sweeping guitar work, and stupidly in sync accents of the incredibly infectious instrumental track "Angelo's School Of Arms", all manage to get it stuck in my head for days whenever I hear it. The crowd showed their appreciation of this brilliant Aussie band with fist pumps and thigh drumming. A broken bass drum was replaced faster than a tyre in the middle of the Grand Prix as the group announced they would be closing the set with the two tracks from their upcoming EP. My favourite was the first of the two with its Gatling gun guitar work really driving home the ferociousness of the band. Solid way to end an epic, metal-as-fuck set.
The room was unbearably muggy by the time Melbourne quintet ORSOME WELLES hit the stage. It was the type of heat that would cause Satan to say "fuck it, I'm out" and opt to spend the remainder of the night in the fires of Mount Doom. This was the only band on the bill that I hadn't seen before so my excitement levels were high. I was greeted by five young guys who shared two flat caps and two vests between them and much like a fedora, more than one of those items per crew can turn a group of white kids very uncool, very quickly. I ignored this and decided to open my body to the music that was about to be unleashed upon me. A cacophony of influences hit me like a battering ram. I could hear System Of A Down, Rook, Deftones and even the music of old ye England when lutes were in their heyday. The bassist opted not to use any effects and instead utilised a series of hammer-ons, pull-offs and slap bass which would seem more at home in reggae and funk rather than the genre-defying music before me, however it worked a treat for the tunes. As a whole, the music was really solid and shows a lot of potential to branch out and explore even more experimental avenues. Vocalist Michael Stowers showcases an incredibly powerful voice which emulates that of Jack Black and to a lesser extent Serj Tankian. It holds the room well but where he really shines is when he hits those ball-tightening high notes which could shatter glass. The band is interesting and the vocalist commanding however, combined they rarely work. Stowers show ponying detracts so much from the music that it is painful to watch at times. The only track that worked as a whole for me was the third song of the set which had me gasping for air at how mesmerising it was. I can understand the appeal of the band and why certain people would gush over it but it was a deal breaker for me. In short; great music, great vocalist, bad cohesion.
Sydney foursome BREAKING ORBIT are a group I have admired going on ten years now, stretching back to their beginnings under the incarnation of Nucleus. It was the boys first show in six months and the noticeable absence of regular guitarist/percussionist Dylan Mitrovich seemed to cause a little unrest amongst their fan base. Opening with the anthem "Orion" they come out of the gates with authority, much to a delighted audience. The lighting effects used painted the group in strobe-induced silhouettes as they bombarded our senses with delightfully chunky yet delicate prog riffage. Bassist Ayden Mitrovich flung around the stage like a two headed woodpecker hammering its escape out of a drywall. His ferocious bass lines thundered through the music like a fart rumbling through an aluminium park bench. Mark Tyson pounded away at the war drums like a crackhead playing for the high score in whack-a-mole in order to score his next hit. His special blend of tribal and modern percussion helps elevate the band to levels that make other drummers swoon with envy. Replacement guitarist/percussionist Jarvis had some pretty big shoes to fill and I feel he did pretty well considering the complexity of the music and time signatures. While he did seem a little disorientated at times, he did manage to add his own flavour to a lot of the well established tunes of the prog rock powerhouses. Frontman and guitarist Matthew Quayle's guitar work was impeccable. The icy reverb of his axe adds an intricate layer of detail over an already awe inspiring musical landscape. Quayle's ethereal vocal performance is normally pretty solid, unfortunately it was a bit lacklustre on the night as he constantly struggled to hit a lot of those high notes. "My Direction" is always a treat to see live due to the percussive battle between the drummer and guitarist which always leaves me swooning like 1830's Alabama white girl. Breaking Orbit close out the set with easily their best song to date "The Time Traveller" from the album of the same name. This was the only song of the night where Quayle nailed every note and lured the punters back into the palm of his hand. It wasn't the strongest set I've seen from the lads but it was still fucking epic and once they shake off the ring rust, they'll be wooing the punters en masse in no time.
When speaking with the headliner at the Locies a little over a year ago, they expressed concern of not being able to draw a crowd in Sydney. I am proud to say that that has changed since that encounter, and in a big way. There was no secret that the horde was there to see Brisbane quintet CALIGULA'S HORSE and their mass erection inducing take on progressive Australian rock. "Dark Hair Down" was a powerful opening track which took the room from emptier than a freshly evacuated bowel, to fuller than a bukake victims gob in a matter of seconds. After only one song the mob was foaming at the mouth like a captured spy who had activated the cyanide capsule hidden in his left molar. And just like that we lost the bass which caused the band to cease playing for ten or so minutes. While this seems like a long time, not one person in the room seemed to mind at all due to the fact that frontman Jim Grey can effortlessly hold any room he is placed in with hilarious anecdotes, jabs at the audience and a level of charisma so intoxicating that you can't help but hold onto his every word. TLDR he's basically the anti-Jaden Smith. We got a preview of a new acoustic track in this "lull" which caused a few loads in the room to shoot off prematurely. Grey's vocals encapsulate you tighter than a Russian bear hug and effortlessly switch from pitch-perfect falsetto to booming, Pavarotti shaming bravado. The bass rig came back online to thunderous applause from both the audience and certain members of the band, and just like that we were back in full swing. Dave Couper's glorious head bobs to the music like that of a pigeon in full stride. His staccato heavy bass lines lay down the rock-solid foundation for the rest of the group to build on. I should also mention that the man has a voice like a castrated cherub and it compliments Grey's vocals perfectly. Guitarist Zac Greensill's epic pirate beard is now bigger than the rest of his combined head and this performance was the clearest I've ever heard his guitar through the speakers to date. Every note he played brought me closer to climax, right up until my favourite guitar riff of the night which is his closing twenty seconds of "All Is Quiet By The Wall". Second guitarist Sam Vallen constantly wears the face James Hetfield makes whenever he says "yeah yeah" as his fingers blitz across the brown and silver pedestrian crossing of his instrument. The digits move at a faster rate than a game of ping pong between Quicksilver and The Flash. The amount of technical prowess between the two guitarists is staggering and anyone who has ever picked up a guitar in their life will have a heart attack deciding which of the two to watch. In what felt like being a kilometer off the back of the stage sits the beast incarnate that is drummer Geoff Irish. The ginger pirate's arms flail around like they were possessed by a fish out of water and he brings the music together tighter than Bruce Banner's pants after stubbing his toe on a mahogany coffee table. The influences of Opeth and Karnivool ring through clear and unashamedly as the audiences gets further seduced by the C-Horses musical pheromones. New track "Fire Light" was performed as an absolutely gorgeous tribute to the passing of a close friend of Jims and every single punter in the arena was bathed in the emotional impact attached to the ballad. As midnight approached the band announced the final track of the night "The City Has No Empathy" which injects four shots of caffeine directly into the hearts of an already overexcited crowd. The repeated phrase of "Fuck This City" widens the grin on my face the more it intensifies until Dave Couper's pop diva delivery of the line which makes me gush every time. I won't be surprised if Caligula's Horse need a bigger venue for the next show as the speed at which they are picking up momentum in Sydney is an absolute pleasure to see. I have no doubts that these guys will be huge here and internationally before you know it.
Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the music scene!
Sunday, 20 July 2014
GAY PARIS • THE STIFFYS • THE BERKSHIRE HUNTING
CLUB (“TAYAR” ALBUM LAUNCH)
BLACKBIRD • SORCERY • BONEZ
THE ROLLER DEN – 18/07/14
“Inky!!” screamed Pinky whilst darting around the corner to escape her puck-shaped predator. As she turned the sharp left she bumped noggins with her tangerine-coloured comrade, Clyde…. at least she thought it was Clyde. For reasons unexplained, the four of them all turned the colour of mystique’s bangin’ sweater hams whenever “Round Yella” got on the gear. She regained her composure, groggily looked up and became instantly mortified upon witnessing Clyde’s ectoplasm dripping from the corners of her pursuer’s toothless food hole. She fled the scene faster than a teenager could get an erection, and found herself lost in the death maze once again, however the sounds of “wakka wakka wakka” could always be heard in the distance. “Ayyyeeeee!” came the blood-curdled shriek of Blinky…. and then….. there was silence. The realisation that she was all alone had sunk in harder than the Gummi De Milo in Ashely the babysitter's booty. She accepted defeat and stood at the centre of the labyrinth, when a shadow on the north wall signalled the advent of the buttery behemoth. Emerging from the darkened corner came the death-dealers; Fozzy Bear, riding side-saddle atop of Pacman. The unification of “wakka wakka” and “wakka wakka wakka” had proven too much for the motley crew of would be hunters. As Pinky drew her last breath, a slam on the tabletop pulled me out of my 8-bit trance. “Let’s go” whined Scrappy Doo “we’re gonna miss the first band”. I gladly obliged my protégé and together we descended the stairs into the Rancor’s pit.
My virgin outing to The Roller Den had me frothing at the mouth at just how good the room was. Beards and dreadlocks filled the space early which was filled with more hair than an Ewok village. Up on the stage, BONEZ tried their hardest to woo the early birds. I immediately associated the guitarist and bassist with the Wet Bandits from Home Alone due to their matching fingerless gloves. The group exude a classic pub rock sound, drawing on influences such as The Doors and Santana. Vocalist Tomy Gray had the eyes and intensity of Mick Jagger but without any of the stage room to cut sick. He was entertaining in his own right but it was the bassist who garnered the majority of my attention. His fat rumbling tones and bluesy walking bass really played a vital role in the overall punch delivered by the group. The Damien Sandow look-a-like also provided some surprisingly passable impromptu trumpet into the fold which brought joy to the room in a way that only an animated Disney movie could. I wish I had more to write but I only managed to catch the last three songs from the set. My only beef was that the backing vocals were completely lost in the mix but other than that, the music was good for what it was.
SORCERY hit the ground running to deliver a feisty mix of thrash, punk and metal onto the ever-growing crowd. The high-pitched, fast-paced screams of the vocalist (who I’ll refer to as Ryan from The OC as I was unable to locate any sort of webpage for the band) complimented the brutal distorted tones of Treebeard the bassist, Blackbeard the guitarist and Nobeard the second guitarist. Despite dressing like Oz’s band from Buffy, I actually really dug these guys. Ryan from The OC is a natural frontman who utilizes an “I don’t care” attitude to his performance in the same vein as Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. He mussed his hair in time to the music and his eyes were constantly rolling towards the back of their sockets, enriching the performance ten-fold. Amidst all the trash came an incredibly heavy breakdown reminiscent of the “Shut up! I’ll fuck you up!” section of Korn’s “Right Now” which had my head bouncing around like those of the Stark family. Definitely a group to keep on your radars.
Sydney six-piece BLACKBIRD came out of the gates strong with their take on sixties inspired rock n roll. All three guitarists and the bassist playing the exact same riff really gave the genesis of the set a sense of turgid beefiness. The “oomf” quickly wore off however once I realised that I was watching a jam session rather than a performance. Apart from the bassist, not one member of the band acknowledged that the crowd was even there. Awkward silence filled the space between every song. No “Hi. We’re Blackbird”. No “Thankyou for coming out”. No “This is our last song”. No banter. Nothing. Everyone adopted the shoegazer stance and the vocalist took it one step further by having his back to us the entire set. Add to this his out of tune singing/wailing which was unsuccessfully masked by copious amounts of reverb. One of the guitarists was behind a pole the whole performance and the truth of the matter is, they might as well have all been there. Towards the end of the set the drummer developed an excitement level rivalling that of Augustus Gloop upon seeing the chocolate waterfall for the first time, but it was too little, too late. The music was solid but became very repetitive, very quickly. Quite frankly, I was insulted they played third.
“Gloriously insane” best describes the stage presence of post-hardcore outfit THE BERKSHIRE HUNTING CLUB. Guitarist Nick Ryan had swindled me out of my hard earned money in a game of Connect Four at the merch stand. The rules were simple; if you win, you get free merch. If you lose, you HAVE TO buy it. It’s a brilliant piece of interactive marketing which sets the lads apart from other bands before they even hit the stage. Needless to say I lost the game (as well as the shirt on the way home). Moving the events back to the stage, Berkshire are fucking insane live and will have you scrambling to find your children (or someone else’s children) to protect them. Vocalist Matt Browne is the spitting image of Lips from The Electric Mayhem and performs with the insanity of Cyprus Hill’s collective membranes. Every inch of his body makes contact with some part of the floor throughout the set with band members (and audience members) attacking the man as he performs. Whether it be a push, a tackle, a thrown cup or a piggy back, Browne welcomes the interaction and incorporates it into his performance (usually through reciprocation of the attack). Top-lip moustache advocate Rob Hudson looks half the age of the rest of the band but his on-stage demeanour interlocks with Browne’s like Jim’s dick in a warm apple pie. He utilizes a butt-tonne of slides in his guitar style which only enhances the abrasiveness of the groups already grating post-hardcore sound. Nick “Swindling Cunt” Ryan had his guitar strap so high that it looks as though he is holding a rifle as he plays. Male model and bassist Mitch Antman has no aesthetic business being up on stage and should be ashamed for making everyone else look ugly. Up the back of the dais, Ryan Wakeling pounds away at his kit like a kid playing whack-a-mole. His high-vis pumpkin coloured beanie never leaving the comfort of his mathematically programmed head. The bands unapologetically vicious performance won more than a few hearts tonight and if the music didn’t, then the mouth-to-mouth beer exchange between Browne and Ryan did. To my horror, every person on-stage threw their instruments around with the ferocity of a PMS’ing Sheila Broflofski and were actively trying to break their guitars. As my little sugar biscuit so elegantly put it “It’s so refreshing to see a band that isn’t so precious about their gear and merchandise” and I couldn’t agree more. The Berkshire Hunting Club are one of Australia’s best keep secrets. Jump on this bandwagon now so you can be that guy in five years’ time who says “I knew them before they were famous”.
Melbourne two-piece electro-rock outfit THE STIFFYS were the strangest addition to the bill but holy balls did they get the room moving. Two men dressed in matching Donald Duck sailor outfits (except with pants) managed to deliver a sound bigger than the first three bands combined. I’m reminded of artists such as The Presets and Regurgitator as bassist/vocalist Jason Leigh grinded away at his instrument in his almost knee-high socks. Providing pitch perfect harmonies on the drums was Jared Leto impersonator Adam Stagg. Together these two juggernauts managed to get the majority of the room dancing and singing along to their infectious tunes. It was my first listening of these guys and I already knew the songs by the end of the set. Leigh’s colossal, rumbling bass tones sounded as if they were produced by an entire orchestra made up entirely of bass guitars amplified through the vocal chords of Michael Clarke Duncan and James Earl Jones, and if that doesn’t suck you in, his flamboyant over-the-top performance will. Leigh’s brilliant use of loops and the fact that some dude brought a boogie board on-stage and used it to ride the crowd waves, ensured that every smile in the room joined together like a chain of paper clips. Grooves inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” turn up the intensity to eleven as tracks such as “Sexy Lemonade” make you reach for a bottle of Gatorade to avoid dying of dehydration. I was so impressed by these guys that I bought a cd (which I also lost on the way home) a light blue shirt which I’ll never wear) and a branded sailors cap (which I’ll wear every day for the rest of my life). At the risk of stating the obvious, I have a stiffy for The Stiffys.
The headliner were a band I had heard a lot about but had never seen. More importantly I had heard a lot about the live performance. Sydney foursome GAY PARIS didn’t hit the stage until after midnight but that only made the brood of punters hungrier. My first observation of the hirsute group was that the mix was way too loud and made it very hard to hear a lot of the set. Luke Monk’s unique vocals are a combination of Bobcat Goldthwait and Spider One of Powerman 5000. The music had a bluesy, swamp-rock kinda feel to it but with a bottle of bourbon poured into every track to give it a sexy modern tinge. Despite the sound being a bit lacklustre, Gay Paris more than made up for it with their insane live performance. There was more beard on-stage than a ZZ Top expo and every member performed as if the throng of zombies were there to see them, and them alone. Guitarist Lachlan Marks rode atop the shoulders of a groupie and shredded his way through the crowd whilst his sweaty bratwurst brushed up against the back of the mules’ neck. Monk couldn’t resist the urge to crowd surf but whilst on stage he held out his arms in an effort to look as big as possible and to scare away any bears that might attack. Bassist Dean Podmore couldn’t contain his excitement between each song to provide the comic relief of the night. The backing vocals from himself and Marks brought an excellent element of old-school cool from the punk and ska bands of the early nineties. The audience were more volatile than a Diet Coke that had just had a Mentos dumped in it. Bodies were flying everywhere and no matter where I stood in the room, I was getting injured. Towards the back end of the set, half the audience had managed to get up on stage only to fail miserably at crowd surfing. The group received a thunderous ovation at the conclusion of their set which led to a gratuitous encore. I opted to retreat to the back of the room for this to nurse the multitude of blisters I had amassed in the mosh. Was the sound good? No, but in the end it didn’t matter one iota. I’ll be counting down the days for a second chance to catch these Sydney-siders again so they can hopefully make me ruin a pair of my pants with butt-fuckingly good clarity of sound.
One gig a month helps keep the scene alive. Also buy some fucking merch while you’re there you cheap bastards. Another successful gig means another huge win for live music.
Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the music scene.
Sunday, 6 July 2014
VOYAGER “V” album launch
w/ CALIGULA’S HORSE • TROLDHAUGEN • WITHOUT PARACHUTES
THE FACTORY FLOOR – 05/07/14
The Hogwarts Express departed platform nine and three quarters right on time. The locomotive was abuzz with excited children eager to attend their first year at the prestigious school of metal excellence. To the rear of the train sit our trio of heroes; Smella Longbottom, with the power to substitute the jalapenos on a breakfast burrito for bacon; Flaito Malfoy, with the powers of intense bear-like hibernation and; Narrator, with the power of extreme handsomeness and wordsmithery. Malfoy and Narrator were entering their senior year at Hogwarts and had promised their parents to look after Longbottom who was making her debut appearance. While Flaito slumbered, Smella looked around the steam engine, wide eyed and full of fascination and Narrator perused the Daily Prophet. The front page reported that a tie-wielding Gorilla and his cap wearing simian sidekick had gone and gotten all their bananas stolen by the incredibly lame, instrument inspired Tiki Tak tribe (Kremlings or die). The sun disappeared behind the city line as The Hogwarts Express arrived at The Factory Floor station. Hagrid stamped our hallpasses onto our wrists and shooed us into the Great Hall for orientation.
Marrickville was colder than the surface of Hoth and the punters had arrived early to catch Wollongong (I’m sorry) indy/rock outfit WITHOUT PARACHUTES. Some technical issues with the samples at the beginning of the set hindered the initial impact of the fringe wielding trio, but it was quickly forgotten as soon as the lads started playing. Like a malnourished fish I was instantly hooked. I am a sucker(fish) for a three-piece band that can deliver a huge stadium-quality experience. The colossal sound bombarding my senses was one of kids who have grown up on a musical diet of Muse, Coldplay and The Killers. Both the group’s instrumentation and the vocals of guitarist William Cruger, emulate these three complimentary bands. His lower tones reminiscent of the coolness of Brandon Flowers, his higher notes capturing the warmth of Chris Martin, and his falsetto effortlessly paying homage to musical prodigy, Matt Bellamy. Bassist Michael Cooper delivered a monumental sonic barrage all on his own with a heavy use of low-end distortion and octave effects. He danced across the stage like a knock-kneed nutcracker and was seemingly spent after the opening track of the night. Up the back of the dais, polo shirt enthusiast Bob Stewart hammered away at his kit like a blacksmith forging a broadsword, showing considerable favour to the floor toms that encompassed him. Cruger’s mastery of guitar sounds lathered the music with a hollandaise of Dead Letter Circus delays and a salsa verde of grungy distortions. The effects heavy threesome had heads in the audience bobbing like a parliament of owls, possibly due to the sonic boom of Stewarts kick drum being harpooned into their sternums. By the end of the set, Cooper was sweatier than Ethan Hunt dangling over the sensitively alarmed floor of the CIA headquarters, and the crowd were spooging with appreciation of the perfectly selected opening act.
Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, Marlon Brando’s “Stellaaaaaaaaaaa!” and a simple growl of “Cookies” suggested that even during the sound check of Wollongong’s (I’m so, so sorry) TROLDHAUGEN, it was evident that we were in for an entertaining set. The folk/metal foursome enter the colosseum to a mash up of The Simpsons Theme and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” dressed in matching retro 80’s sunglasses except for the frontman, who sported a rubber deer head. Without warning the mask was torn off and the frenzied set began with a flurry of eye-opening absurdity. Vocalist Reventüsk immediately commands the attention of the entire room with his larger-than-life persona and exaggerated theatrics. The man was dressed like a used car salesman and had eyes crazier than Cristopher Lloyd’s incarnation of Uncle Fester. The way he performs on stage is like nothing I have ever seen before. Think Heath Ledger’s Joker crossed with Jack Nicholson’s Joker, combined with Mark Hamill’s Joker, merged with Raul Julia’s representation of Gomez Adamms, blended with the enthusiasm of workout mogul Richard Simmons and the downright lunacy of System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, and you’re not even close to how insanely enthralling the Ron Jeremy doppelganger is. The vocals were a mixture of the aforementioned Mr Tankian and the beloved diabetes endorsement that is the Cookie Monster. The man used more hand gestures than a deaf translator and even conducted the band sporadically throughout the set. I somehow managed to avert my gaze from the Xena calling comedian who was constantly using his jacket as a cape, only to hilariously catch drummer Grädenøk shimmying behind his kit as he played. He wore a matching valet outfit with bassist Svarog who provided the subtler comedy of the group, and by subtle I mean if anyone else had been fronting the circus/pirate/polka/folk/jazz/metal group, then his comedy would have been louder than Gilbert Gottfried mid orgasm. The low-ender pirouetted across the floor like a figurine in a jewellery box as his pupils shot back and forth to the corners of his eyes in time to the music. Guitarist Meldengar was the serious one of the group but still fit the mould snugger than a foot long pork sword in a virgin prison purse. He sported a wife beater and sung along to himself the majority of the set whilst stomping around the stage with the lovable ferocity of Reptar. Meldengar and Svarog worked both sides of the stage like seasoned professionals and transitioned fluently between the two. Reventüsk joined them towards the end of the set as they marched around the stage in single file like ducklings following their mother across a busy highway. Without the crazy stage antics, Troldhaugen would have killed it. As it stood, they ritually slaughtered it, brought it back from the dead, and killed it again. They incorporated copious amounts of abrupt syncopation and utilised their circus and piani (not a typo) samples to perfection…… it was super effective. With a set loaded with masterpieces like “Slaughterhouse Swing” and “Beast Wagon” it is little wonder these Wollongong (Oh lordy, I’m sorry you had to go through that) madmen have been turning heads across the country. Brilliant.
Brisbane’s CALIGULA’S HORSE were the band I had braved the weather to see tonight and the only group of the four that I had heard of. I haven’t stopped dreaming about the prog/rock/metal five-piece since I reviewed them at The Locies last year, as the easy listening grooves of the “Sea Horse” were downright crafted for love makin’. Straight off the bat the sound was sharper than Snape’s acid tongue, and every bad decision I had ever made in my life, melted away for forty or so sexually stimulating minutes. After talking with the lads last time they were down, they stressed their concern over just how hard a city Sydney Town was to crack. As far as I am aware, this was their biggest Sydney audience to date and it really showed in their performance. The band as a whole had a stage presence more vibrant than the Broadway production of The Lion King as every member sung along to the tunes regardless of whether they had microphones or not. Vocalist Jim Grey’s comedic timing was as snappy as ever. He deflected the playful heckles from the crowd with reactions quicker than Indie’s bullwhip, until one saucy reviewer floored him with a verbal rally instigated by a cheeky “Show us your dick”. Jim utilises the stage mannerisms of a 90’s pop diva and for whatever reason, it just works. Mr Grey was sporting a hirsute Christian Bale look this time around but all I saw was Malibu Ken doll now with a new beard accessory. I wasn’t even mad at my two lady tag-alongs for drooling over the bronzed Adonis as I found myself questioning my “P” or “V” orientation. Seriously though, the guy packs a calm yet punchy vocal tone which switches effortlessly between pitch-perfect, ethereal falsetto and Pavarotti rivalling robustness. Dream Theater could be heard encasing nuggets of djenty goodness as bassist Dave “Little John” Couper’s sultry eyes targeted random individuals in the audience. One of my favourite moments of the set was during “The City Has No Empathy” when Couper unleashed his inner prima donna during the “Fuck this city” part of the track and made the entirety of their fanbase all hot and bothered. His fingers danced across the fortified cables of his instrument with more grace than a pre-Mountain Red Viper of Dorne. At the conclusion of one of the songs mid-set, the quintet were being verbally assaulted with deafening cheers which instantly cut to the sound of a record stopping, followed by crickets. It was one of the funniest moments of the night and Grey played it up like a boss. Guitarist Zac Greensill was also sporting a new beard which made him look like a young version of Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto. Shadows of Periphery and The Butterfly Effect were composed on his six-string as he proudly showed off his bushranger jaw shrubbery. Speaking of Periphery, second guitarist Sam Vallen adopted a Misha Mansoor power stance whenever he bewildered us with his note stampeding solos. Vallen brings an avalanche of awe-inspiring licks and harmonics into the fold that are inspired by goliaths such as Steve Vai and Opeth. He arches a shoulder and screws up his face whenever he bends a note, causing him to look like a scrawnier version of Peter Dinklage. Vallen and Greensill floored me at the conclusion of “All Is Quiet By The Wall” with my favourite riff of the night. It caused me to create a twitter account there and then just to tell the world just how good it was. On the bongos to the rear of the stage sits the ginger pirate Geoff Irish with his flame-kissed hair. He once again showed off to the crowd by twirling the drumsticks between his hands and acknowledging every single person in the audience who was vying for his attention with an “Ayeeeeeeeeeeeee” reminiscent of the Fonz. In a moment of unplanned, subtle comedic timing, Irish unleashed his blood red mane from its shackles when Grey announced the final track “Dark Hair Down”. I was so god damn impressed by these guys that I hired a group of accountants to do the maths for me, and I can confidently say that I am exactly fifteen times more impressed than I was before. One of Australia’s, nay, the world’s best bands roaming the earth today.
As mentioned earlier, I had never heard of Perth prog/metal royalty VOYAGER before I bought tickets to tonight’s event and I didn’t really know what to expect. The set opened with drums mimicking the theme from The Terminator and my two companions and I had a sick feeling in our stomachs that the headliner would be disappointing compared to what we had just witnessed. I was unsure how I felt about the group until the third track of the night, when the sold out venue was bellowing the chorus of the song with a bloodlust fervour. I was swept up in what a salesman would call “The Jones Theory” and immediately wanted to be all up in Voyager’s business. The brood of savage punters were like a pack of velociraptors being served a cow at feeding time. Fist pumps filled the air as power metal influences such as Dragonforce and Manowar wallop me with an aural bitch slap to the face. Throughout the set, bricks of Soilwork, Killswitch Engage and Karnivool’s “Persona” EP filled the musical wall being constructed in my earholes as well as more obscure influences such as David Bowie and early Bon Jovi. Frontman/Keytarist and Skrillex impersonator Danny Estrin is the epitome of charisma. The carefully crafted vocal hooks of his ridiculously sing-along anthems fuel the mayhem of the horde to higher levels with each passing song. Percussionist Ashley Doodkorte was sporting a glorious chopper that Merv Hughes would be envious of. He pulverised the skins of his kit much like Animal of The Muppets and his brutal double kick booted the intense moments of the music straight up its proverbial date. The 80’s synth samples littered throughout the set worked a charm in enhancing the flavour of the already obtuse musical opus in which a saxophone wouldn’t have been out of place. By the forth song of the set, a single crowd surfer laid waste to the rabid fans much like a boulder launched from a catapult. It was nice to see a femme guitarist in the form of Simone Dow, shredding her axe like a Ninja Turtles villain. She looked right at home amongst the boys, ensuring to show more tongue throughout the performance than Gene Simmons of KISS. Her counterpart Scott Kay was geeing up the crowd much like Metallica’s Jason Newstead and was just as skilled on the electric future-lute as Dow. The two of them spoiled us with copious amounts of duelling guitar work which ruined more than one set of pants in the room. Voyager were beyond stoked with the capacity turnout and the raw passion of the zombie horde. The love that Voyager has of performing was showcased through the expressions of every member of the band. Some random groupies’ shoe managed to make it up onstage which was held up in the air triumphantly by Estrin, and the crowd reacted much like the aliens at Pizza Planet upon witnessing “The Claw”. Bassist/backing vocalist Alex Canion had the excitement levels of a toddler who had just tasted sugar for the first time and his onstage bromance with Estrin was nothing short of adorable. He hilariously got sucker punched in the gob during one of his choral moments when an overexcited devotee hit the base of the microphone. Troldhaugen vocalist Reventüsk made a guest appearance in an entertaining melody consisting of Starship’s “We Built This City”, Backstreet Boys “Backstreet’s Back”, Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love”, ACDC’s “Highway To Hell, John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” and some other song I couldn’t work out. It was all luminously interlocked by an increasingly humorous, chuggy riff, reminiscent of Timmy And The Lords Of The Underworld. The bone-shattering syncopation between the kick and bass whipped the mob into a frenzy that looked as if the Hulk had been unleashed onto a room full of Loki clones. The fan interaction was as intimate as teenagers up the back of a theatre; handshakes were thrown around like mid-sprint man boobs and all the guitars were held out over the crowd during the finale for the fans to play along with the band. The inevitable encore satiated the appetites of the infected throng of devotees and sent the Western Australian’s off with more vocal showing of support than Helen Of Troy the first time she got her norks out for all of Greece to see in Girls Gone Wild BC. Voyager, I am forever at your service.
On a side note, whoever did the sound tonight really hit it out of the park. Whoever you are, (whispered) I love you.
This was one of the strongest sets I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing in my entire gigging career and it would easily slip into my top five list of all time. Not one of these bands came from Sydney and yet managed to inject a much needed adrenaline surge into our cities stagnant music scene. For anyone who didn’t attend, you really missed out (Craig, I’m looking at you).
Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the live music scene.
Sunday, 29 June 2014
SURRENDER THE SUN – “TAURI” ALBUM LAUNCH
W/ RED REMEDY • CUERVO • WE WITHOUT
THE FACTORY FLOOR – 20/06/14
“Open the gates!” boomed the hawkeyed sentry. He had spotted Shadowfax the second he emerged from Fangorn Forest, and the rider whose foot had been caught in the stirrups being dragged along behind him like an unwilling cavewoman. The town mystic hastily scurried to my side to apply a balm of eye-of-newt and camel toe to the wounds I had acquired in battle, a battle where Bitch Gimli had fallen victim to the Uruk-hai of Late Night Roster Tower. I awoke in a panic and was immediately bombarded with the banter of hundreds of boozey townsfolk. The mead was going down faster than a housewife in a porno and all memories of the approaching doomsday army had seemed to flee their minds. The villagers were mustering up the strength to stand and fight and had assembled a ragtag group of unwashed musicians to help boost the morale of the regiment. Before I had time to digest the impending danger, the heralding of horns, battle drums and war cries filled the stagnant air. I nervously gripped my halberd, swallowed my fear, and charged headfirst into the hybrid riffraff.
The Factory Floor is a quirky little room adorned with figureheads, murals of Vikings, and hanging lights straight out of Bioshock’s underwater metropolis, Rapture. It set a really cool scene for Sydney rockers WE WITHOUT to woo the already buzzing crowd with the tough opening slot. The sound was a little shaky at first (which is usually the case) but the five-piece were firing on all cylinders by the second song of the set, which sounded heavily influenced by Dead Letter Circus’s “The Mile”. We Without are a grunge band at the core but influences from bands such as Bloc Party, Powderfinger and Faith No More, craft the overall sound into a marble cake of rock. Bassist Rick Thomas grinned like a Gremlin as he demonstrated his vast knowledge of power poses, while guitarist Cameron Roberts introduced a lot of eccentric influence into the fold, including some gorgeous blues licks inspired by The Doors. At the end of the day though it was the frontman who seduced the punters. Chad Kemp has a unique vocal tone similar to Scott Stapp of Creed or Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies (although nowhere near that deep). Even though his vocals were tough to hear at times, he more than made up for it by really having fun with the crowd tonight. His antics included ribbing his bandmates for stuffing up the start of a song, and overcommitting to pumping up the audience in a style very similar to Will Ferrell in Step Brothers. I feel that the following statement is the only way to describe it: It was fucking adorable. My third run-in with We Without proved to be the strongest I’ve seen them perform to date and I am genuinely excited to see where they go from here.
The room was only at half capacity as Sydney quartet CUERVO hit the stage, but within the opening three seconds of the set, every jaw in the room hit the floor in unison. I was instantly hooked as the bands’ influences rang through unashamedly resplendent, and amalgamated into what I would describe as trance-inducing dance/rock. Arctic Monkeys hit me with a quick left jab while Franz Ferdinand sucker-punched me with a solid right hook. System Of A Down went for cheeky kidney blow while The Living End pulverised my nose with a swinging haymaker. Queens Of The Stone Age finish the job with a Shoryuken to my Spartan jaw that would make Ken and Ryu weep tears of joy. Vocalist/guitarist Nic Villanueva is an instantly likable character and a superb frontman for Cuervo. If Aliens ever declare war on Earth and Hugh Jackman or Jennifer Lawrence aren’t available as ambassadors for peace, then Mr Villanueva would make a worthy understudy. His warm vocals cut through the musical mayhem being projected on-stage much like a glass of coke cuts through the grease of a cheese and salami pizza. Guitarist Carlos Romanos has a stage presence that rivals the absurdity of SOAD’s Darren Malakian. The wizard of sound throws every part of his body into every note that he plays; his eyebrows, his nostrils, his appendix…….everything. Percussion virtuoso Sam Sakr absolutely punished his kit and was bent forward so much that his back was running parallel to the ground the entire set. Sid Norris’s chestnut brown hair which shielded his visage, created an unmistakable resemblance to beloved children’s book character Grug. He seems quite reserved on stage until you look down at his hands. My god! Those fucking hands! They fingered the steel cables of his brown-noter faster than a kid with Parkinson’s, who’s been in the friend-zone his entire adolescent life, stabbing the cat of his high school crush after downing an eight-ball of gas. The knee-jerk syncopation that was littered throughout the set showed more discipline than the soldiers of the Queens Guard and as the performance progressed, even more influences decided to join the melee. Bite sized pieces of Karnivool’s “Sound Awake” album could be tasted in the chaos along with tracks like “Shut Up And Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings. Every song had unbelievably catchy instrumental breakdowns which breathed even more life and rhythm into the abundant nirvana of sounds entwining in the air around me. By the end of it all, the room was full of hungry punters screaming for a much deserved encore and I was right in the thick of it. Incredible high energy set from one of the most promising young Australian bands I’ve seen in years.
I was standing next to a few of the lads from RED REMEDY when Cuervo finished their set and they realised the magnitude of what they had to follow. As this was my forth time viewing the Sydney foursome, I had little doubt that they would have no problems knocking it out of the park tonight. The neo punk/screamo rockers were the heaviest addition to the bill tonight and they knew it. Red Remedy are brash, loud and unapologetic. Influences such as Refused and The Dillinger Escape Plan ring loud and clear, as well as songs such as “Disease” by Sevendust. They weren’t everyone’s cup of tea but that didn’t stop the boys from snapping up more numbers into their diehard fanbase. Zach Evans is a natural frontman who oozes confidence and charisma. His high pitched, abrasive banshee scream is the bread and butter of the bands’ in-your-face sound, which hits you harder than a fart in a bathtub. Leigh Czerwonka’s grainy, mid-heavy distortion accompanies Jess Rossiters hard-hitting, stampeding drum style and Adrian Booth’s booming bass, to a picnic spread full of Waldorf salad, chicken soup and lemon cakes, and then stomp it into oblivion like a Kaiju laying waste to an unsuspecting San Francisco. The heavier songs from the groups’ first ep were a bit much for tonight’s crowd but more approachable tracks such as “Love This Machine” and “The Butcher” from their sophomore release, lured the curious back in for seconds, much like mulled wine in the dead of winter. Solid set from a great Sydney band.
This was it. The crowd was primed and ready to go. SURRENDER THE SUN hit the stage to a sold out and well lubricated room of people gagging to hear tracks from the bands’ debut album “Tauri”. I felt as though I was the only one in the room who had not seen the group before, so I unpuckered my butthole and let the Sydney four-piece have their way with me. The show opened with a video projection on the back wall which transported me back to my childhood. The geometric shapes dancing across the screen reminded me of the Arwings from Starfox on the Super Nintendo. The music abruptly kicked in and I immediately felt Darren Navan’s huge rumbling bass in the pit of my stomach. Shane Dwyer’s tribal percussion grooves drive the music as Luke Connolly’s delayed guitar work dances through the air like the ash of the obliterated Hometree of Pandora. The band showcase a progressive sound, with underlying ancestral beats that at times flirted with the idea of techno-like rhythms. It really was a great canvas for petite vocalist Gess Flynn to belt out her surprisingly powerful Siren song. The effortless way her vocals seemingly waft through the background of the music while remaining at the forefront, is on par with what Free Dominguez manages to pull off in “Before I’m Dead” by the Kidneythieves. At the conclusion of every track, the fervent audience reciprocated the noise back to the musicians with a volley of deafening, well deserved cheers. I found it hard to compare the group to other bands at first but as the much appreciated set continued, the influences crept through the air sneakier than the Hamburglar after graduating from ninja school. Echoes of Cog, Breaking Orbit and Meniscus, chimed throughout the set as a troupe of performing artists twirled epileptic fit inducing LED batons off the side of the stage. Flynn left the dais and gave the boys some time in the spotlight without her. The trio bewildered the room with a rambunctious instrumental track in the same light as “Scarabs” by Karnivool which really demonstrated just how skilled the boys were with their weapons of choice. Flynn returned to the stage with a smile that told us just how happy the band were with how their night had unfolded. Surrender The Sun had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands and utilized some really great sample work throughout the entire performance. My favourite moment of the set came during the closing number of the night when Connolly complimented Flynn’s commanding vocals with some really bangin’ harmonies. It left as quickly as it came and I could feel Sub Zero’s icy fingers running down my spine. That was how the set ended. They finished the show with me standing there wanting to hear those gorgeous harmonies one more time. The lights came up and the brood projected a sonic boom of cheers towards the chuffed stars of the night. I was on such a high as I left that I forgot to pick up an album on the way out which goes to show just how incredible tonight’s bill was. Incredible gig.
The incredibly hard working people at The Synesthesia Massive have once again given me hope for Sydney’s unstable live music scene by putting on an absolute corker of a show with four shining examples of the best in Aussie rock. I say this every review but it still rings true: if we all see at least one gig a month then the future will be in bright hands.
Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the music scene.