Symbiotic Gig Reviews aims to add much needed structural support and criticism to the live music review scene. Too many published reviewers post bland and uninformative pieces that tell you nothing about the bands or the circumstances that enhance or diminish the potential of a performance. My end goal is to make you feel as though you were at the show. I aim to point out what works, what doesn't and to create a symbiotic relationship where band and reviewer are dependent on one another.
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 Raiderswith 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 Zealandof 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.