Sunday, 6 July 2014

VOYAGER “V” album launch

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.

Joshua Towney

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more. It was simply epic! Hadnt heard of Voyager 3 weeks ago and followed a link on Facebook. Checked out the music on Youtube and am now hooked. The new album "V" is a masterpiece. As a musician for 30yrs I dont say that lightly. They played impeccably and with a fun attitude that the Australian music scene is seriously lacking. Great to see a band that actually looks like they enjoy what they do also. One of my all time favorite gigs alongside Metallica snakepit in '92 and Strapping young Lad at the metro Newtown.