Bondi has long been the Jewel in the crown of Sydney. Its world famous beach, the dais that pits bronzed Aussie flesh against the British white walkers has long been a beacon for leisure enthusiasts. This bastion sheltered what would soon become one of the most important and influential alternative acts to emerge from our shores. Three pioneers, who would eventually be heralded as Australia’s long awaited answer to Tool and who would help lay the groundwork needed to make prog more accessible to our sun burnt countries malnourished ears. I present to you this piece, outlining the monumental impact that rock titans Cog have had on the live music circuit.
The alternative Aussie music scene of the nineties was already well represented by a healthy dose of bands such as Silverchair, Grinspoon and Spiderbait; all of whom achieved critical acclaim both locally and abroad. However an unfulfilled seductress lay restless and unsatisfied on her rose petal stained bed, as no prog rock band had been able to satiate her ravenous appetite. Many attempted to scale the unforgiving rocky crag only to fall to their lonely, untimely deaths. After the demise of local heavy groove heroes The Hanging Tree, guitarist Flynn Gower illuminated the bat signal for percussion virtuoso Lucius Borich, to see. The two artists began sculpting the framework for the Juggernaut that was to come, eventually recruiting Flynn’s brother and hand me down receptacle, Luke, into the coveted bassist role. The search for a vocalist proved to be a more challenging one. After 18 months of chasing red herrings, Flynn opted to adorn the mantle. One “Eye Of The Tiger” montage later, Flynn emerges from the hyperbolic time chamber wielding one of the most distinctive, haunting and instantly mesmerizing voices the country had ever heard.
The Bondi threesome had developed a formula that would make even the most prudish music fan cream their denim. Flynn’s delay heavy, crunchy guitar work, haunting vocals and cryptic, evocative lyrics; Lucius’s concussive beats, an unrecognizable descendant of the tribal drumming they spawned from; the grinding, pulsating groove of Luke’s distorted bass hooks. This perseverant trio wrote and toured relentlessly, at every scurvy ridden venue Australia had to offer and people were starting to sit up and take notice. The injection of a worthy spearhead of progressive music had punters salivating in relief and wonderment, leading to a previously unheard of and now infamous four month residency at the recently deceased Excelsior Hotel in Surry Hills. This coincided with the release of the Just Visiting EP’s which were receiving high rotation on Triple J and recurring appearances in the ARIA charts over a two year period. Securing the opening slot for Armenian-American metal royalty System Of A Down and the release of a complete re-imagining of “Open Up” by Leftfield, torpedoed the boys back into the ARIA charts once again. Prog rock was definitely on the rise with the popularity of already established bands such as Karnivool and The Butterfly Effect coming to the forefront. Cog were ready to release an LP and they elected to head to Weed, California to record with world renowned producer, Sylvia Massy.
2005 saw the release of their critically acclaimed debut album “The New Normal” featuring a full roster of awe inspiring sing along anthems including “Run”, “Silence Is Violence” and “Anarchy OK”. The chill that ran down my spine when “Doors” was played live and the sold out venue would roar “OY-YA-HOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” brought me to a state of pure ecstasy and I had no doubt in my mind that this was the pinnacle of live music entertainment. Cogs impressive sound was much bigger than what I thought a three piece was capable of and it was this booming lushness and colossal stage presence that kept the punters returning. More and more local bands were citing Cog as their major influence. The live music scenery evolving as emerging acts rode on their tailcoats and the advent of bands such as Dead Letter Circus added more fuel to the wildfire. Cogs onslaught of sold out shows and festivals continued; touring with the likes of Shihad, Karnivool and Kora. They we’re the artists that everyone wanted to share the stage with; that every musician wanted to emulate.
We were teased with the singles “What if?” and the tear jerking “Bird Of Feather” prior to the release of a new form of monster that was 2008’s “Sharing Space”. The sound had evolved with the lyrics becoming more in your face and less cryptic. When the album was eventually released, social media platforms came alive with the mantra “Yes they’re making lists”. The punters were more receptive than ever before as the crowd sizes for tours increased dramatically. The boys even managed to coax British prog Gods Oceansize down under for an Australian tour in what many believed to be one of the greatest prog lineups Australia had ever witnessed.
Cog truly are one of Australia’s great treasures. They laid the foundations for progressive minded, doe eyed musicians to drive on. Through genius composing and sheer tenacity they’ve inspired a whole generation of Australian musicians to continue and uphold their legacy. Because of my musical heroes, bands such as Dead Letter Circus have achieved heights bigger than anyone in 1998 would have ever thought possible. Twelve Foot Ninjas rapid fan acquisition is thanks largely in part to their willingness to lead from the front line, charging blindly into rusty bayonets. Sydney favorites Breaking Orbit continue to grind away on the snow covered plains of Hoth because Cog have already demonstrated the just rewards that come from perseverance. Cogs cult following have cemented their place as one of the single most important bands in Australian history and their music will forever stand as a testament to a change in the way the Australian public view the alternative live music scene.