In a way, it’s kinda neat that this gig would end up on the same night as comparatively major shows such as Alice Cooper and The Dillinger Escape Plan(’s final Melbourne show). It just makes sense that black metal fans, ostensibly the outcasts of the metal world, would forgo all that grandiosity and opt to instead to see a bunch of underground acts play music centring in on the bleakest and blackest ends of extreme metal.
Which is why as an acoustic act, Suldusk were a bit of an oddity on this bill. Consisting of two guitarists, a cellist and a djembe(ist?), the neo-folk (or “acoustic blackgaze,” as they seem to prefer) quartet performed a haunting set that reminded me at various points of the softer, earthier aspects of band such as Opeth, Alcest and particularly Agalloch (R.I.P.). The project seems to be helmed by frontwoman Em Highfield, with the songs all rooted in her vocals and guitar-lines – including some absolutely chilling black metal shrieks here and there – with the rest of the band adding tasteful accompaniment and atmospherics, ebbing and flowing with the varying levels of intensity to best fit the song, all deftly coming together to create something that felt heavy, melancholy, and really quite beautiful. Having never heard of this project before, I can’t recommend them enough now, and was disappointed to find no releases from them on the merch desk. I really look forward to hearing more from them, hopefully soon.
With amps stacked up close to the ceiling and the comparatively small band-room that is the Reverence Hotel, I would generally expect to feel some vibration at a high volume metal gig; it’s only natural. That said nothing could have prepared me for the metaphorical mud-slinging that blackened sludge three-piece BØG would deliver next. This band was so heavy you could almost taste it, with the guitar and bass providing a thick, sludgy, almost literally earth-shaking low-end, leaving the drums to plough right through to give the probably thankful audience something to bang their heads too. You’d think all that noise would get tiring, but no – with a swampy atmosphere, a few odd rhythms and plenty of energy to boot, BØG managed to be really engaging throughout their entire set, and I was totally enthralled – until it sort of abruptly ended. For such a band with such a huge sound, a measly half hour just felt like too little.
From the moment Sundr stepped on stage, the whole vibe seemed to change slightly. Although their was nothing seemingly special about the band based on looks alone, something about the way that they conducted themselves just setting up seemed different. The lighting for their set was mostly blue, a fitting choice, clear and cool, and although it might have just been me, it felt like from the moment the band entered the stage it felt like it was building up to something big. And then they started to play. A crushing blend of emotive, intense post-metal riffs, guitar-built ambience, and songs that progressed with a purpose, Sundr’s set felt like a masterclass in how to create an intense atmosphere without being overly slow or repetitive. There’s nothing I like more than a band who looks like they’re really getting into playing their music, and Sundr was lively throughout their entire set – and their energy was contagious, getting me moving more than any other band on the bill tonight. I was thoroughly impressed, and ended up picking up their album before leaving.
I’ve seen Greytomb a few times, and they’re always incredibly intense, both in their sound and their stage show. Their live performances have been some of the most memorable I’ve seen over the last couple of years, which is pretty impressive considering they’re a local act, and still a fairly young one at that. This one provided something of a spectacle right off that bat with the setting up of a real double bass drum kit, something I haven’t seen in a while. When they started playing this time, however, it was clear that something was different. The music. Without going into too much detail in regards to the new EP, Greytomb’s sound has gone through something of an upheaval, incorporating elements of death metal similar to bands such as Ulcerate and late Immolation into their post-black metal sound, with the result being absolutely ferocious live. Firing off the state with a barrage of dissonant, piercing riffs, Greytomb had a fairly more interesting musical arsenal to go with the interpretive contortions and movements that vocalist Nick Magur complements the sound with, and I found myself watching individual members of the band, frequently marvelling and their technical skill and the precision with which they were able to perform it. Ending their set with Boundless Introspection from their debut album A Perpetual Descent was interesting, and it made me reflect. Although I’d seen them play the song a few times before, it felt different now, coming after the more multi-faceted and pummelling grooves of their newer tracks. It made me really anxious to give the new EP a listen. Considering this was an EP launch, it might have been a stroke of genius on their parts.
After Greytomb, I was honestly ready to leave, and I wasn’t the only one, as the crowd started to thin out a little before Adelaide act Funeral Moon’s set. As the only band on the bill not from Melbourne, they had the final set of the night – for the truly misanthropic. Believe me, I really hated myself for staying, tired as I was… that is, until the band started playing. With a name like Funeral Moon I was expecting something a bit doomy, maybe like some of the slower cuts off Darkthrone’s seminal Under a Funeral Moon. I was instead greeted by a band that seemed to exist solely to ask and repeatedly answer the question – “at what point does hardcore riff become so fast that it becomes black metal by default?. Funeral Moon came off as a hardcore band, both in style and sound, until they suddenly didn’t, and then they were playing some of the filthiest, noisiest black metal I’ve ever heard. With the look of a punk band and a sound straight from hell, they were a sight to behold, especially through blurry eyes. In summation, they scared the hell out of me and gave me a headache. It was pretty metal.
It seems to me that Greytomb has a knack for putting together excellent line-up’s for their headlining shows. Their album launch a couple of years ago was similarly brilliant, and is a highlight in my gigging life, introducing me to some of the sweetest black metal Melbourne to offer. I can’t wait for their next one.
Oh, and obviously their EP’s great too.