The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
January 21st, 2018
Featuring: Leprous, Voyager, AlithiA, Osaka Punch, Orsome Welles, Opus Of A Machine, Dyssidia, Kodiak Empire, Balloons Kill Babies and He Danced Ivy.
Australia isn’t quite at the stage of comparing against the likes of Germany’s progressive festival, Eurofest, but we’re well on the way. Hosted at Brisbane’s prime venue, The Triffid, 2018 was introduced to a magnificent night of progressive music. From the technical slipperiness of Dyssidia to epic choruses of Leprous, Progfest 2018 delivered to all. Each band had a short set length of 30 minutes (except Leprous), giving enough time for 5 or 6 songs. It’s a shame if your favourite band only featured a short set; however, being exposed to so many bands in a relatively short amount of time keeps everyone interested and brews a huge number of new fans.
He Danced Ivy
Kicking off the night were the particularly peculiar performers from He Danced Ivy. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to discover the band has a reputation for quirky advertisements, clever comedy and a tendency to heavily massage the extents of progressive rock. The sound of He Danced Ivy is what you’d imagine a drunk chef creates with Violent Soho, At The Drive In, Queens of the Stone Age, lots of sugar and a lidless blender.
Despite their music having so much potential, the band opened to an unfortunately disengaged crowd. Sometimes there’s nothing more an opener can do. All members of the band sang, creating a dynamic playground. This developed into a feature of the show with an acapella section at the end starring a Beach Boys style bass line. Having small features like this as well as whistling melodies around excitingly chunky riffs made He Danced Ivy refreshing to listen to. Without a doubt, they opened Progfest with a bang.
Balloons Kill Babies
It’s not a progressive music night without an instrumental band. Hailing from Brisbane, Balloons Kill Babies combine harmonically rich arrangements of psychedelic guitar and bass with the modern drum grooves of progressive rock. Together, the three-piece demonstrated how large and fulfilling a small band can sound. As the band jammed through a variety of Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) inspired bass licks and atmospheres that took the audience through and beyond space, I couldn’t help but to imagine a vocal line. Hours and days of rehearsal have made the band musically tight and performable, but without a defined melody, it’s difficult to remember each song or find a point of interest. It seemed as though the group were playing for themselves as opposed to pleasing the needs of dire-hard progressive lovers. There were still some very catchy grooves and riffs dancing around the set-list; just not quite enough development to get the crowd moving.
Third in line for the night featured an alternative/progressive rock flavour from the Brisbane born quintet, Kodiak Empire. The first thing apparent about this band is the drummer is extraordinarily active. If you love a technical salad of fills and grooves, this is your band. At some points, the percussion complexity did mask clarity from the guitarist which became fatiguing. It was a relief to hear a calmer approach to progressive music which shone through with alternative rock vocal phrases and a less aggressive guitar. All of the musicians were clearly boffins in their respective instruments and worked comfortably well to deliver a fine show for the night.
The waters had been tested. Was the crowd ready for some heavier progressive metal? Absolutely. Dyssidia have developed a sound that allow their technical mastery to shine without coming off as pretentious or unnecessary. The band begins the almost ritualistic procession of progressive beats and melodies before Mitch Brackman (vocals) treats the crowd to his angelic falsetto. Accompanies by his piano keyboard, the introductory song developed a crescendo before an incredible and original display of unclean vocals. Mitch’s unclean vocals mix the darker side of Danny Filth (Cradle of Filth) and Sam Carter (Architects). He dominated the stage alongside his extraordinarily tight companions. Corey Davis (guitar) and Liam Weedall (bass) play with the precision and speed of musical brothers. Despite the talent available at the fingertips of all members, the band shifted and explored a restrained and mature approach to dynamics and speed. This resultantly made all of the fast and powerful riffs so much more deadly and impressive. Just when the crowd decided who their new favourite band was, Mitch displays that he’s just as much of an instrumentalist as the others. Out of nowhere we were all shredded to pieces by a brief keyboard solo. Dyssidia were a clear highlight of the night.
Opus of a Machine
Opus of a Machine took to the stage and stood back from the technical storm Dyssidia served up. The sound of these proggers slid into early Karnivool territory; smoothly heavy, not unnecessarily complicated and decorated with a soaring melody. From their debut album Simulacra, they featured ‘Crack In The Soul’, a piece contrasting heavier distorted riffs and clean suspenseful verses. They mentioned new music is on the way by featuring an unreleased tune, ‘Strength of Stone’. After the power and refinement of debut album, Simulacra, the band will surely have a treat for us later on in 2018. With their music not being the most technically demanding of the night, the quintet could have shown some more confident stage presence. Each member stood predominantly still for the show, so the crowd didn’t react with too much enthusiasm. Nevertheless, a pleasure to experience.
“Stage blacks are the standard outfit for any progressive rockers.”
We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that, but it’s not a law, nor should it be. Orsome Welles have decided to bin that stereotype and take up the suspenders look and lead singer Michael Stowers goes so far as to rock the grey vest and grey flat cap. It’s a good thing their music reflects their style! Again, here we can see some groove influence from Karnivool’s older music, but with a very different vocal approach and more heavy metal seasoning. By this time of the night, some outstanding originality injection is needed from each band to keep the crowd swimming. The Melbourne born band achieved this by waving the magical jazz wand, specifically in ‘We Want You To Know’. The Michael Stowers EP really doesn’t do this song justice. It seems their live show is dressed up with a few extra ideas to make the performance more memorable. Some might find that frustrating, but an original performance makes a special performance. With less time signature blends, the guys were free to bleed their sweat and dance moves around the stage for the duration of their set. By the end, those suspenders were definitely off and the crowd was shocked at the unexpected deliverance of pure entertainment.
Personally, I think Osaka Punch delivered the most surprising and memorable performance.
“Have we all done our stretches? Have we all done a wee? It’s going to be a long trip kids!”
You need to have a particular type of charisma to deliver an opening sarcastic joke like that. Lead singer, Jack, has that charisma rushing through his blood like a tropical waterfall. Osaka Punch are one of those bands that are too talented for their own good. The guys were smiling and dancing around the stage like a bunch of unnaturally talented kids. ‘How We Operate,’ their most recent single, has quickly become a crowd favourite with its combination of syncopated, down-tuned riffs and funky breaks. If you’re a veteran fan of Okaska Punch, you’ll know that their prog rock spoof on infomercials took the spotlight; “Actibreeze! If you don’t buy it, you’re a RACIST!”
I loved hearing the avant-garde ridiculousness of these musicians, especially with the addition of some hilariously lame dancing. This is why the progressive community is so fun. The rest of the set was filled with more funk, unexpected heavy riffs, premium quality shit banter and some blindingly fun solos.
When 6 musicians set up on stage, I’ll admit I was sceptical regarding how well this next band would work. It turns out, after a short build-up of spacey guitars, synthesisers and drums, a singer enter and the band are a 7 piece. The crowd was in for a loud show. To summarise the sound of Alithia, they’re an epic band. Combining 2 guitars, bass, custom percussion, 3 synthesizers, 2 back-up vocals, 1 lead vocal and drums, they produce a larger than life sound and radiated enjoyment and motivation. The downside of having a band that large in a live performance is, if everyone is always playing something, the overall sound becomes overwhelming. One of the backing vocalists (+ keyboard/custom percussion) was also taking a lot of the melody and MC roles which made it difficult to decide where the main melody was over all of the volume. Still, the spacey atmospheres created and the aggression of extra percussion made it an interesting performance. These guys need to be playing in a stadium or outdoor stage.
Beware of putting Voyager in any position other than headliner, because they possess the capability of stealing a show. Without any delaying banter or introduction, the light faded and three silhouettes of Simone Dow (guitar), Scott Kay (guitar) and Alex Canion (bass, vocals) were faced towards drummer, Ashley Doodkorte. The introduction music for ‘Ascension’ began before Daniel Estrin (lead vocals) entered to signify the beginning of Voyager’s domination. As always, all of Voyager played as if it were a life or death scenario. The big songs such as ‘Misery Is Company’, ‘Hyperventilating’ and ‘Ghost Mile’ made appearances and were accompanied by two large Voyager poster poles on each side of the stage. Most bands overlook the option, but these sorts of visual additions really up the immersion and memorability. Inevitably, the crowd reacted super positively to the Perth proggers. With only a supposed 2 hours sleep after the last show, Voyager proved that they’re arguably at the forefront of Australian progressive metal.
After nine fantastic and talented acts, our Norwegian headliners emerged in yet another eerie stage light, similar to Voyager’s. Leprous are rightfully internationally successful with their precise blend of progressive elements. Frustrating grooves and unjustified time signature changes aren’t a requirement of progressive music; it’s all about making original sounds by pushing standard boundaries. Listen to Leprous to understand.
As for their live show, the initial point of interest goes straight to Einar Solberg (lead vocals and keys). With his Conor Mason (Nothing But Thieves) style voice, he soars above the delicately crafted riffs and drum patterns of each song. Aided by the voices of Tor Oddmund Suhrke (guitar), Simen Børven (bass) and Robin Ognedal (guitar), the composed melodic chocolate is boosted even further with tasteful harmonies. Leprous are one of the few bands that add in backing vocals without sacrificing any performance energy or song writing quality.
Over the course of an hour, we heard songs such as ‘Stuck,’ ‘From The Flame,’ ‘Illuminate,’ ‘Third Law,’ and my personal favourite ‘Mirage.’ Each and every song was executed with precision and power, beyond what any recording could capture. Considering all of their luggage didn’t arrive in Australia for the show, they did a 5-star job of playing borrowed instruments they weren’t used too. Luckily, with the help of their promoters and follow bands, gear was provided for them. Much to the discontent of the audience, no encore followed the performed set-list; however, we were all still more than satisfied with the astronomical load of progressive music we experienced and absorbed.
With the success of Progfest this year, it’s set to grow and expand next year. The bands that played will have stronger fan bases and the international incentive will be thick and sweet. In the meantime, check out the mass of local bands that were featured in each city of Progfest and give them some love. Australia has an incredible amount of progressive rock and metal talent.
Review by Kurt Boldy
Photo Gallery courtesy of Gethin Hill (Gethin Hill Photography)
Please credit Wall of Sound and Gethin Hill if you repost.
He Danced Ivy
Balloons Kill Babies
Opus Of A Machine
PROGFEST – 2018 Australia
Saturday January 27th @ The Corner Hotel, MelbourneTickets Here