The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart TAS
June 28th, 2019
Supports: Gravemind, Break Through and The Absolution Sequence
Oh boy, another show at The Brisbane. Last time I was here, I managed to get punched in the head a solid 7 or 8 times (you sort of lose track after about the third flying fist for some reason), and then I dropped around $10K of camera gear into the toilet. This feels like a perfect metaphor for shows here because they’re seething, barely organised chaos held within a room not much bigger than a suburban kitchen.
When Browny asked us to go along to this one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve never listened to any of the bands before in any great depth, so I was going in with virgin ears. So, how did it stack up? Read on and I’ll tell you.
The two local supports (Break Through and The Absolution Sequence) sounded a lot alike, to the point that it’s kind of blurred together. The prevailing memory was that they were both ridiculously heavy, and both staffed by a compliment of what I can only assume were gently wounded banshees calling out into the night. Overall, they set the tone for the evening preeeetty compellingly. The crowd’s violence certainly attested to that.
Both are pretty capable bands, and in time I can see them going on to find pride of place at least in the national scene. All in time, lads.
Q: What do you get when you combine Pantera, Disturbed, Soulfly, Adrien Belew, three guitars, and a rabid bear with a very bad headache?
A: These guys, more or less.
Honestly, there’s so many influences and similarities to be drawn here, it’s hard to nail them down in one little section of the full scope of sound. And you know what? It’s pretty bloody good. They sound huge, and by the end of the set you’re pretty much exhausted because of it. They also feature probably the fastest double kick I’ve ever heard, which is pretty insane when it’s only a very small portion of the sound.
One thing you don’t really expect when you’re being howled at by somebody who could curdle T-rex piss, is being overcome with samples and other electronic accoutrement riding on the crests of fiery riffs (three guitars, after all). At some point, the vocalist informed us that the next song was going to be ‘fucking heavy’, which if I’m honest was somewhat overshadowed by the swelling mass of fists, feet, and a dude wearing a balaclava and full Slav regalia. It was also sort of redundant given that until this point it wasn’t exactly a Coldplay show. He wasn’t wrong, though.
Their set was pretty damned good. They definitely complimented the headliners well, and the crowd definitely appreciated their efforts. Really, it was just a solid rock show.
Alpha Wolf are a bit of an oddity in the modern age: fresh, but well-stocked with anachronistic elements from genres long assumed dead. I grew up in the Nu Metal era; Limp Bizkit and Korn were standard fare fed to infants and juvenile delinquents, and Rage Against The Machine had proffered their blend of rock and hip-hop for the better part of a decade incredibly successfully. These guys have a bit of that edge, featuring essentially rapped vocals at points, drumming syllables at the audience with a machine gun pace, and swirly-flange-y-distrorted-as-hell guitars layered over heavy beats. Don’t mistake them for a throwback, good-time nostalgia trip, though — they are perfectly at home in the late teens, featuring cutting, modern riffs and punchy rhythm to make even the top of the pops envy.
The thing that makes their sound especially profound is how intense the low end is. Even as I’m sat here listening back their latest release in my (admittedly pretty good) headphones, it feels like the bass register is trying to burst my eardrums. It’s music you feel, because it carries like a fucking atom bomb and shakes your bones. How they manage to somehow extend below the realms of human hearing on commodity hardware, I’m not sure… but then again, I’m not sure I care either. It’s just cool.
The best bit is, they can play too. A lot of bands from the genre hide behind gimmick or pretense to carry them; not so for Alpha Wolf. Every single member of the band stands alone in skill, and come together in a charismatic and compelling blend of howls, riffs, and nosebleed-inducing punch. Being sort of ‘hometown heroes’ (in that they’re from Burnie, a scant 6 hour drive from Hobart… practically the next suburb), the crowd definitely wasn’t holding anything back. The circle pits spilt wide enough to basically start climbing the walls and well and truly onto the stage, replete with flying fists and leg drops to make Wrestlemania look piss-weak.
There’s only so much to say. Their sound is fucking good. After a night of fairly intense music, they were almost a pleasant change. I can see them going places, and they definitely deserve to. I’ll be supremely surprised if they don’t end up inducted into Australian hard rock royalty in the coming years as they gather steam.
Hat tip to Browny for calling this one, he knows what he’s on about every now and again (don’t tell him, though).
I must confess, it’s a lot of years since I’ve listened to much in the way of heavy stuff. Because I’m old as hell now, I’ve mellowed… but the tail end of this show got me moving despite all expectations to the contrary. The grooves, the beats, the charisma. Pretty much it’s exactly what I want out of a show now, even if the tunes themselves are a bit left of centre for where I normally find myself.
The message here, then, is step outside of your comfort zone. You might find some stuff you really dig. Or if you already name yourself as a fan, get along to their shows – they’re really something else.
Gig Review by Benji Aldridge @norks
The Absolution Sequence