Words: Callum Doig
Photos: Nicole Elise
Winter can be super cruel in Melbourne during the night, but it can’t stop anyone from wanting to attend a killer gig and show their support for the local scene. Being a primary staple to Aussie punk and metal, High Tension’s career has shown more than just promising performances at their own headliners. Having just released their third full-length record “Purge”, the Collingwood favourites assembled a tour across the country in support of their latest effort and made the final stop in none other than their hometown. To complete the evening’s formalities, two local sextets by the names of Lost Talk and Fourteen Nights at Sea helped out to support the show and execute their own form of talent to those that had yet to discover their own sound.
With Lost Talk being the ones to break the ice, the six-piece presented The Tote with a unique accumulation of their brand and genre with not just your usual singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer combo, but also a maniacal percussionist. From there, Lost Talk enacted their noise-induced approach to underground punk rock in the form of their debut LP “Symbol/Signal” which earned them a very warm and welcoming reception from the early number of attendees that made it in time to catch the band. As I stood there witnessing what this group had to offer, the first thing that came to mind was an emulsion of Le Butcherettes, Courtney Barnett and Sonic Youth in their audible signature. Being a fresh contribution to the panorama of Australia’s melodically heavier side, their knowledge and devotion to the scene was greatly transparent, and the methods they take to perfect this notion showed that they’re capable of giving their audience a healthy and intrinsic dosage of what good punk music is about.
The atmosphere of the venue would make a drastic change when post metal outfit Fourteen Nights at Sea would storm the stage. For the next half hour, Fourteen Nights at Sea implemented what sounded like Chelsea Wolfe if she sang for Isis and God Is An Astronaut. While switching genres between bands can seem like a massive alteration for some, Fourteen Nights at Sea hadn’t even the slightest dilemma in getting those in the room into the right mood. In a matter of seconds, they pummelled their ambient nature with a lot of abrasive elements that stood out in such a serene and compelling fashion. Having been together for a few years already, it felt as though they were still a neoteric entity with much more capability than your average four-piece that have been at it for a decade. Knowing that Melbourne has itself a fine specimen that carries an essence similar to that of Sigur Rós and Neurosis, it’s safe to say that Fourteen Nights at Sea and their dulcet karma have easily enticed me into their world and that I can see myself coming back for more… and more… and MORE.
In the last four months, they’ve done a single launch and two festivals including Download and Dark Mofo. Now being in front of a sold out crowd in an iconic landmark in local punk rock, this here was going to be a night that would be an absolute game changer for not just High Tension, but everyone else involved at the event. Before everything was underway, vocalist Karina Utomo paid tribute to a dear friend of the band that passed away and lit a candle in memory of them. Soon after, guitarist Mike Deslandes strummed through his distortion to Red White Shame with Utomo unleashing her bellowing screams with Matt Weston’s buzzing bass and Lauren Hammel’s insane percussion. It didn’t take long for the band to get everyone in the pit going haywire to their newer material as they later kicked off with Ghost to Ghost and the Mastodon-inspired Ular.
Thenceforth, High Tension kept their setlist equal to all three of their studio records with fan favourites Mountain of Dead, Bully, Sports and High Risk High Rewards. Utomo would participate in the pit and mosh or crowdsurf while blaring her banshee-like screams with everyone else singing along with her. Though both Deslandes and Hammel have been in the band for three years and have perfected the tunes of past High Tension members, to see them execute material that they were involved in felt like a fresh and invigorating start.
Having seen High Tension eleven times now, each time I’ve caught them in the flesh, they’ve only just been getting better and better. From the first time I caught them with High On Fire at Max Watts, their performance and personas as a band have evolved greater in four years than another group is able to do in ten. After everything I saw, the many patrons that helped sell out the event at the Tote and of course, the bands themselves made the coalescence a lot more special and exhilarating from start to finish. An international show may be exciting, but you’ll rarely ever get to experience the camaraderie at a local show. Especially if it’s a High Tenno gig.
Fourteen Nights At Sea