Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus and sleepmakeswaves @ Red Hill Auditorium 23/1/14
The working-class suburb of Midland is not usually associated with a vibrant cultural scene but just ten minutes out of the town centre is the extraordinary Red Hill Auditorium; a magnificent, purpose-built concert and arts venue that is quite possibly one of the best places to see live music in Perth. Situated in a valley, the auditorium is almost completely surrounded by bush and serves up a stunning vista of the Perth city skyline. The last time this reviewer was at the venue was in 2012 to marvel at the serenity of Bon Iver’s luscious tunes. Not surprisingly, the venue suits that sort of music perfectly, so it was with a tinge of trepidation that we descended into the hollow to witness the performances of two of Australia’s premier rock bands; Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus, and up-and-coming post-rockers Sleepmakeswaves.
As the sun began to slouch towards the city, Sydney’s Sleepmakeswaves took to the stage to some polite applause. They got straight into things, punching out an enjoyable set of impressive instrumental post-rock. Stylistically cut from the same cloth as contemporary post-rock bands such as Mono, *Shels, Caspian and If These Trees Could Talk, they combined thick bass and crunchy rhythm guitar with bombastic drumming and angelic, higher pitched guitar over the top. The biggest pitfall of many instrumental bands is holding the attention of listeners but the urgency of the band’s playing meant your eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to them. As they walked off stage after their brief set, the crowd’s applause was more enthusiastic and appreciative, with many of the punters notably impressed.
After a fairly chunky break between sets, Brisbanites Dead Letter Circus took to the stage to healthy applause. They launched into their set with “The Space on the Wall”; one of their best tracks off debut album This is the Warning before backing it up with “The Cure”; the opening track of their 2013 sophomore release The Catalyst Fire. Lead singer Kim Benzie, who has a prodigious, higher-register rock voice, was in fine form for the majority of the set but was noticeably more comfortable with the band’s older songs, with some slight pitch issues with some of the band’s more vocally ambitious new material. The rest of the band were also very tight as they rollicked through material from their first two albums with a cheeky run-through of “Lines”; one of the stand-out tracks off their 2007 EP.
The set list was strong but a few excellent songs, namely “Alone Awake”, “Wake Up” and the sensational “This is the Warning”, were noticeably absent. The title track of their first album was particularly missed, as the multiple drummers the song incorporates is an excellent live spectacle that would have brought extra variety to the set list. Despite the considerable talent that DLC display, the similarities between a few of their songs is a noticeable downfall. This was also an issue with their, otherwise solid, most recent album. Due to the talent the band possesses, it is highly likely they will continue to push their already glorious sound to more diverse and exhilarating places in the future, which is an exciting thought.
After another obligatory break between sets, the chant of KARN-I-VOOL gradually broke out in the moshpit as fans decided it was time for shit to get real. The local boys duly obliged, walking onto stage under the eerie ring of sirens that had more than a couple of slightly inebriated revellers looking around sheepishly for flashing lights. Thankfully for them, the only flashing lights were those on the stage accentuating the crunchy start to “Goliath”, their opening song.
From the outset it was very apparent that the sound team had done a spot-on job, with Ian Kenny’s multi-ranged voice easily heard over the top of the band, something that is not always apparent at Karnivool shows. The instrumentation also sounded sensational in the auditorium, even when the wind started to pick up considerably. It was a good thing this was case too, as the band dragged out two of their biggest guns straight off the bat after the opener. “Fade” and “Themata” sent the quickly swelling moshpit into raptures, whilst long time fans belted the choruses out form the stone steps surrounding the stage.
Right from the outset it was clear that the band were in excellent form, with the sureness of performance that only long periods of touring can bring. Ian Kenny was particularly brilliant; not putting a note wrong throughout his sublime vocal performance and not putting a foot wrong with his goofy but always endearing dance moves. His work with the ‘Vool and Birds of Tokyo has made him not only the busiest rock frontman in Australia but also the most outstanding, without any hint of dispute.
The rest of the band’s set continued on from the quality of the first few songs, as they trawled through their entire repertoire, displaying very clearly just how much they have matured as a band from their alternative metal days in the mid-noughties. Their stunning 2013 album Asymmetry was without a doubt one of the best of last year. Gone are the days of repetitive song structures and almost nu-metal guitar breakdowns. They have been replaced with adventurous compositions that display movements towards progressive metal, with delicate interludes and dynamic changes plus more enterprising riffs and more ambitious lyrical themes.
The blend of songs that the band dished up was perfect. Their longer progressive pieces kept the stoners happy, whilst there was enough heavy numbers to get the moshpit well and truly pumping. The main set finished with “Alpha Omega”; the epic final track from the latest album before the band entered the stage again to thrash out crowd favourite “Roquefort” and traditional show ending monster “New Day”. By the time the last rumbles of “New Day” were fading into the night, the crowd had all stood as one, unashamedly giving a completely deserved standing ovation. Even any drunken Midlanders in the crowd would have appreciated that they had just witnessed something very special. For Karnivool, this is just another step forward for a band that is always looking to keep moving. The problem now is where you go once you’re already the best rock band in the country.
Karnivool Set List: Goliath, Fade, Themata, C.O.T.E., All I Know, Sky Machine, Eidolon, Deadman, We Are, The Refusal, Set Fire to the Hive, Alpha Omega, Roquefort, New Day