Karnivool, MM9, Helm @ The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (24/06/2010)

I’m feeling a sense of deja-vu tonight inside the Hi-Fi. This is the second time in almost as many months I find myself watching another one of Ian Kenny’s performances. As soon as his tour with Birds of Tokyo, ended he went back on the road with Karnivool for the New Day Tour. Love him or loath him, Kenny is one of Australia’s hardest working frontmen. As soon as the New Day tour is over he will head off on a stadium tour with Birds of Tokyo and Silversun Pickups. Tonight, all of the bands manage to back-up their consecutive performance without too many signs of exhaustion.

The Hi-Fi is looking devoid of an audience for tonight’s openers Helm. The punters also seem rather unenthusiastic at this point as well. When front man Dario Lagana urges them to participate, no one moves an inch from where they are standing. Thankfully Helm isn’t fazed by this, or by the fact that they barely fit on the stage, with the Karnivool backline consuming most of the room. With a style reminiscent of post-metal acts like Isis, the three guitarists contrast delicately finger picked ambient guitar work which climaxes to pulverising walls of coarse sludgy riffs. Perhaps they haven’t reached the apex of their song-writing abilities and musicianship, but Helm are beginning to craft out a sound that will set them apart from similar bands in their genre in the near future.

MM9 are a band which must be scrupulous at sound check or they will more than likely produce an erroneous and disappointing sound. Thankfully tonight, this is not the case with their intricate layers of industrial, electro and hard rock melding succinctly in place. Dan Sutherland anchors the compositions with electronic samples, multitasking programming and vocal duties with ease. Guitarist Kerry Foulke leaps around in what little space is available to him. His guitar parts serve a more rhythmic purpose, interlocking with the bass-lines of Luke Ford and the electronic sampling to produce the solid driving beat in songs like SOSOS and They Murder. The more up-tempos songs like Living Dumb are propelled along at mind numbing speed through the frenzied drumming of Ben Ellingworth. The invigorating sounds of their set highlight why MM9 has become a breath of fresh air in a genre where it is easy to become trite and predictable.

By this point in the evening the crowd has swelled to almost full capacity. As the curtains open to a stage bathed in a glowing red light, Karnivool launch into Set Fire to the Hive followed by the churning syncopation of Goliath. the material tonight is a balance of songs from their breakthrough debut Themata as well as the magnum opus Sound Awake.

Ian Kenny remains centre stage for most of the night. He stares out into the audience transfixed upon something. It’s almost as if he’s detached from reality because he ignores the cacophony that takes place in front of him during Fear of the Sky. Occasionally he bounds about playfully or writhes around. He only breaks free of this almost trance-like state to thank the crowd, but the massive grin that forms on his face goes to show that he does acknowledge them. His vocal delivery is once again, sublime.

Guitarist Mark Hosking walks over to the side and picks up a pair of soft mallets, promptly beginning the Xylophone introduction to Simple Boy. John Stockman’s bassline pulses underneath the ambient layers of guitar by Drew Goddard. The band’s stage presence has a controlled energy to it, preferring to showcase their prowess with their musicianship rather than hurling their bodies across the stage. It should also be acknowledged that they have been playing back-to-back shows throughout the tour. No doubt, this has a drain on the band’s stamina. The audience sings in unison for All I Know as Kenny’s voice soars over the minimalist guitar to spine-tingling heights; before the short track The Medicine Wears Off leads into the ebb and flow of The Caudal Lure .Elaborate light patterns flash on scaffolding erected at the back of the stage creating a dazzling display which complements the music brilliantly.

The band departs from the more expansive numbers to deliver, Shutterspeed, Themata and Roquefort in quick succession. These heavier riff driven numbers send fans into a frenzy before Steve Judd’s tribal-like tom fills begin the twelve minute odyssey Deadman. This track especially highlights how his drumming ability holds together all the intertwining musical elements. His precision never falters despite the piece being a gargantuan length. It is this sheer length which causes this song to be almost too drawn out towards the second half of the piece before reaching a rather sudden end. Rest assured, there will be an encore for the unsatisfied punters.

The encore tonight shows exactly how much Karnivool has evolved their soundscape over the years. Fade from the Persona EP harks back to their nu-metal beginnings before the show ends with the glowing expanse of New Day highlighted by Hosking’s daintily finger-tapped melodies. The only criticism of the final track is that the lights at the back misspell the title – epic fail. As the crowds shuffle out of the hi-fi a bizarre xylophone version of C.O.T.E can be heard on the in-house playlist. It caps off a night in which all bands delivered exceptional performances.