Words: Jospeh Dipisa Fiorenza
Photos: Jose Sanchez
Something about the atmosphere felt different inside The Corner Hotel, Richmond, as the audience flooded through the doors and into the band room. There was a different sense of excitement in the air, a carefree and light spirit that had smiles on the faces of most attending. It was a vibe that would start growing from the minute I Built the Sky took the stage and continue to do so right throughout both headline sets by Polyphia and then Intervals. As a result, the whole gig felt very much like a party, but with instrumental Progressive Metal.
Melbourne-based guitar genius Ro Han kicked off the evening with his project I Built the Sky, and it was clear from the get-go that the crowd would be witnessing some absolutely mind-blowing guitar performances. The way that Ro arranged each of his songs perfectly positioned the guitar to be the lead instrument without making it feel like it was a constant shred-fest. Throughout the set his playing remained melodic and rooted in what was going on with the bass and drum parts, sometimes even stepping aside to let them lock in and groove. An extra impressive aspect of the melodic writing was that despite how rhythmically busy it could become, it remained distinctive and catchy, as well as super impressive to watch. The aesthetic was also notable, with Ro nearly constantly having his hair covering his face and hardly saying a word, bringing an element of humorous mystery to the show when he began using arm gestures to communicate. An all-around great performance that functioned exactly as it should have in warming up the crowd and bringing hype for what was to come.
When the curtains re-opened, the crowd cheered and Polyphia swaggered onto the stage. They began their set with heavy hip-hop and trap influenced track G.O.A.T which had the audience bopping and bouncing in a way that a Prog Metal crowd doesn’t usually bop and bounce. The entirety of the set had similar R ‘n’ B vibes mixed in with the shredding and the Prog Metal, meaning that when there was a mosh, it was a feel-good one, where it was light shoving and surprisingly, some dancing. There were smiles all around, jokes were told and laughs were had. The guitar harmonies between Tim Henson and Scott LePage were indeed something to behold, all floating like air over the rock-solid grooves set in motion by the bass of Clay Gober and the drums of Clay Aeschliman. They were harmonies that were ambient by their very nature, often utilising intervals (no pun intended) that would typically be considered hollow sounding, such as fourths and fifths. This was then offset by the bass providing the colour notes such as the third and seventh, instead of the root, leaving it to the overarching harmony to imply the chord. For the non-musicians reading this, all this means is that they’re very clever songwriters.
They steadily made their way through a solid number of tunes from both first album ‘Muse’ and second album ‘Renaissance,’ while of course including new song O.D and the aforementioned G.O.A.T from forthcoming album ‘New Levels New Devils.’ For those that dig the latest tunes, seeing them performed so well live would probably have the anticipation mounting for the new record.
The excitement reached new heights when Intervals stepped out with arms up and instruments in hands. Wasting no time, they launched straight into the first three tracks of the latest record ‘The Way Forward:’ Touch and Go, Impulsively Responsible and A Different Light. Immediately, lead guitarist and mastermind behind the project, Aaron Marshall, demonstrated why he is in a league of his own in terms of technical ability and perhaps songwriting as well. By the time I’m Awake rolled around the audience was in full swing and moshing near constantly. Fan favourite Sure Shot had the smiles widen on everybody in the room. As the band continued to blow minds with their incredible metric complexity and polyrhythmic structures, Aaron informed us multiple times that he felt incredibly comfortable on stage and was receiving great vibes from the room. Every couple of songs he would come up to the mic and converse briefly with the audience as though they were old friends. He went so far as to say he almost wanted to just keep chatting and not play another song for the time being. After teasing the audience into believing a heavy song was about to be played, the band eased into perhaps the most laid-back song in the Intervals catalogue, Belvedere. This song holds the distinction of having the most catchy melody of the whole gig, and many people were humming it as they sought the exit.
After then indeed performing some ultra-heavy tunes from the ‘In Time’ EP, Intervals closed out the night with Libra from ‘The Shape of Colour,’ giving us one final euphoric moment of soaring and cascading melodies. Overall, it was a night that brilliantly demonstrated what instrumental Prog music could be.
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