Sunk Loto – Gig Review & Photo Gallery 17th November @ Max Watts, Melb (Naarm), VIC

Sunk Loto
Max Watts, Melbourne (Naarm), Vic
November 17th, 2023
Supports: Ocean Sleeper, Red Bee

Man, what a treat tonight is. It’s one of those ‘moment in time’ nights – it’s not a band doing the next show on a garden-variety tour for its latest album, it’s the celebration of two decades of genius, an event that will never happen again. 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of this humble scribe’s all-time favourite Aussie metal album, the dearly and universally (at least in this country) loved Between Birth and Death, and perpetrators Sunk Loto are currently on the road, playing the album in its entirety to enraptured audiences around the nation.

However, we have two support slots to experience first, and the headliners have chosen the undercard very nicely indeed. Red Bee, from the Blue Mountains region of NSW, have been around for a long time, but remains an underrated and underappreciated gem. Whether that’s because they are highly uncompromising in their approach to their songwriting and the presentation of their live set, they are difficult to pigeonhole, or some other reason, is hard to tell. But ultimately, they don’t seem to care, preferring to simply get on with creating their heavy but idiosyncratic tunes and putting on their raucous and rampaging live show with minimal fuss.

Tonight this quirky three-piece grasp this excellent opportunity in their collective six hands. After singer/guitarist Daniel Silk asks us for permission to rip our balls off, the band rips into a blistering 35-minute opening set, a set that takes the steadily growing crowd on a journey into rawness and realness, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Drawing on material as far back as well over a decade ago, to a brand new, as yet unreleased tune (which is a real stomper), this band’s music is sometimes straight ahead, sometimes twisted, rhythmically, sometimes melodic and often dissonant, but these contrasts and dynamics add up to a cohesive and powerful whole. On top of all this, their live show is simply shitloads of fun.

Red Bee are there for your listening pleasure, folks, check them out if you haven’t already, online and and at a venue near you soon.

In a world of cookie-cutter metalcore acts, it’s great to see a band that breaks the mould, and stands proudly amongst the standouts. That’s what we have with Gippsland’s Ocean Sleeper. The first thing we notice tonight is the lack of a bass guitar, the lineup being two guitars, drums and frontman. The feature of this band that sets them apart however is the pure, unadulterated exuberance with which they deliver their excellent songs in the live setting. It’s really quite exhilarating.

At the same time, they do everything that good metalcore does: the clean/unclean vocal tradeoff hits the bullseye, the hooks are enormous and the breakdowns are slow, filthy and punishing. So they are very much going to appeal to the average Joe, or Josephine, metalcore fanatic whilst separating themselves from the soundalike pack. Tonight, they effortlessly win over the ever-building Max Watts crowd with their energy and dynamism.

It’s easy to see why this band is growing in stature all the time and won themselves a coveted slot on the upcoming Good Things Festival lineup.

Sunk Loto hit the sweetest of sweet spots imaginable with Between Birth and Death, it’s almost the perfect juxtaposition of bludgeoning brutality, beautifully conceived and executed vocal and instrumental hooks and intelligent musical complexity within a cohesive and palatable framework. The fact that there is a sold-out throng filling a large club venue in the very centre of Melbourne, celebrating its release and its brilliance two decades later, is testament to its longevity. The fact that many amongst said gathered throng (myself included) are singing and screaming along to every word of every song is further proof of its timelessness.

Something else of note is the fact that there are a good number of people here tonight who weren’t even born when BBaD was released, or at least were nowhere near old enough to understand and appreciate heavy metal music. Yet further proof of its monumental appeal.

Some whiners out there may say that playing an album in its entirety, end to end in track order makes a show a smidgeon predictable. Well, I say bollocks to that. When something is this damn good, it’s worth celebrating, and repeating, over and over and over. While we know exactly what’s coming next, this lends ample opportunity to savour every moment.

Not only are the Sunksters playing my all-time favourite Aussie metal album in full tonight, they recently had a lineup change, bringing one of my all-time favourite Aussie guitar players into the fold, Rohan ‘Ro Han’ Stevenson from I Built the Sky fame (it’s like they’re doing it all for me! Wink, wink). It’s about as seamless a transition as can be imagined, with Stevenson handling the often complex guitar parts, and some of the backing vocals, like he was born into it, like he wasn’t just a young tacker himself when Sunk Loto formed and this album came out.

The album and the band sound as good, as vibrant and as relevant, if not even moreso, than they did 20 years ago. On this, special mention must go to frontman Jason Brown, who howls like his very life depends on it and sounds like a 23-year-old while doing it. It’s almost criminal.

The band round out a magical night with an excellent, and rather heavy, brand-new tune, ‘The Gallows Wait’ (the fact that they’re making new music is music to my ears), and three older tracks from their back catalogue, which go down an absolute treat and put a big cheesy grin on the face of audience members to a man and woman.

Tonight is a joyous celebration of a magnificent work of heavy high art, and 800-plus people file out of Max Watts as if walking on air, ecstatic in the knowledge that they just bore witness to Aussie heavy music history.

Don’t change a thing, guys, coz it’s beautiful in every way . . .

Review by Rod Whitfield

Photo Gallery by Clinton Hatfield. Insta:
Please credit Wall of Sound and Clinton Hatfield if you repost photos.

Red Bee

Ocean Sleeper

Sunk Loto