LIVE: Karnivool, live at The Metro Theatre, Sydney (01-07-10)

Karnivool #5

One week ago, I embarked on a journey of epic proportions. Joined by one of my best friends and my dad, at approximately 8 o’clock in the morning we began a 7 hour drive to Sydney to see one of my favourite bands ever: Karnivool.

Doors at The Metro Theatre were set to open at 8pm, and not wanting to miss the opportunity to be up against the barrier, we lined up 2 hours early. Around 5 minutes after lining up, looking down the alley beside the Metro, who do we see but the one and only Ian Kenny! Deciding to take the chance while we had it, my friend and I walked up to him to see if we could get a photo before the gig. At first I wasn’t sure how he’d react – musicians such as himself must get asked for photos and approached by fans all the time, and it would probably get tiring. But he was the nicest guy, and was only too happy to have a quick chat and take a photo. It really made the night, getting to meet a musician from one of my favourite bands.

After that, we returned to the line outside the Metro. We were still basically at the very front, and the next 2 odd hours were spent chatting with a couple of people in line with us and a security guard (who by the way was one of the coolest security guards I’ve ever met).

The clock hit 8 and we all waited with anticipation for the doors to finally open. It took them about 10 minutes to let us in, and we walked (albeit very quickly) up the stairs to hand in our tickets and make our way inside.

Gay Paris #1

The first support act, Gay Paris, were on at about 8.30, so we didn’t have long to wait for some entertainment.

Initially, I had my doubts about Gay Paris. I checked out some of their demos and wasn’t terribly impressed, but their live show was something a bit more special. The lead singer’s style was out there, to say the least. Jumping all over the stage, talking with the audience, telling stories, rolling on the floor – it was all a bit odd, but it was interesting. He put a whole tonne of energy into it and it paid off. The guitarist I was closest to kept pulling surprised faces every so often, and did some awesome jumps during the tenser moments in their set.

In an instrumental sense, their material is full of loud rock hooks and quasi-punk-rock drumming, and it really does sound pretty good. The vocal lines consist primarily of deep growls, making most of the lyrics unintelligible from my perspective, but if that’s your thing then you should check these guys out. All in all, they put on an energetic show, and looked thrilled to be supporting someone as relatively big as Karnivool. So kudos to the guys for being interesting and warming everyone up – you did a great job.

MM9 #5

Next up were electro-rockers MM9. I was pretty excited to see these guys, having heard about their solid reputation when it comes to live shows.

They ended up being pretty entertaining. For those of you unfamiliar with them, they’re like a rockier version of Pendulum. The lead singer stood behind what looked like a small keyboard and a Mac, occasionally standing away from it and singing directly at the audience. The drumming was top notch, and was clearly tough work. The drummer had sweat pouring off his face by the end of the set.

Apart from a few troubles the guitarist had at one point, the set was flawless (as far as I could tell) on a technical level. It sounded good, and they interacted with the crowd, getting us all to sing along at a few points.

MM9 have recently released their debut “The Air Between”, and it sounds like they could begin making some bigger waves very soon. Keep an eye on them.

By this point the crowd was brimming with excitement. With each support act the mosh was getting more and more lively. With the curtains drawn over the stage, and the Karnivool guys doing a quick little sound-check to make sure everything was in order, everyone was getting fairly pumped.

The curtains opened, and we were given an empty stage. Everything was in its place. All we needed was the band. Then they came out.

Karnivool #9

The reaction from the crowd upon their entry was to be expected. It was enormous. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for.

Coming out on stage, Karnivool launched into the lead single from their latest LP “Sound Awake” – “Set Fire To The Hive”. And what a fitting beginning it was. The raw energy behind the song was matched only by the energy inherent in the audience’s enthusiasm. It felt like at least half of the mosh pit was singing along to every single word.

Karnivool then moved onto the rhythmically changing “Goliath” and LP opener “Simple Boy”, which saw guitarist Mark Hosking pick up a pair of xylophone mallets for the distinctive opening melody.

Karnivool #14

Everyone’s performances on the night were amazing. Drew Goddard’s extensive pedal set-up allowed him to recreate the majority of the studio sounds in a live environment, and when a band puts on a performance that’s so good you can hardly tell the difference between them and a CD, you know they’re something special. Ian Kenny’s vocals were amazing, and did not disappoint one bit. Jon Stockman’s bass playing was energetic and ferocious, yet still accurate. Though Mark Hosking was over on the opposite side of the stage to where I was, I couldn’t fault anything I heard, and Steve Judd’s drumming was superb, handling every time signature change and rhythmic nuance like the expert he is (I’m not sure why he had a plush bee on his drum kit, but it was cool none-the-less). In a sense I expected all of this. Karnivool are widely renowned for their live performances, and it really was a sight to behold, seeing 5 extremely talented musicians up on stage playing together.

Launching into “C.O.T.E”, one of my favourites from their debut album “Themata”, provided a nice contrast between their equally interesting songs from a few years ago and their latest material. At the end of the night, they really did quite a good job of mixing together old and new material. “Roquefort”, “Themata”, and “Shutterspeed” all got an airing, and the crowd loved it. These more mosh-friendly tunes really got everyone pumped up and excited.

Karnivool #7

Having already played through most of “Sound Awake” however, there was one final track to play before the main set was closed: “Change”. Having been alternating between “Deadman” and “Change” at previous gigs, I was glad they played the latter. It’s an amazing track that goes for over 10 minutes, and it really showcases everything brilliant about Karnivool: their ability to create moving songs, that despite their length manage to be captivating and beautiful. “Change”’s different sections fit together seamlessly, and this song is truly amazing. A brilliant end to the main set.

Karnivool #2

After around 5 minutes, Karnivool came out again to a rapturous applause. Everyone knew the encore was going to be something special – and they were right.

Bringing out fan favourite “Fade” from their “Persona” EP showed just how far Karnivool have come over the years. Moving from their early nu-metal influenced days, they’ve developed into a more progressive and unique group. I warned my friend earlier about “Fade”, and it turned out I was right – the mosh pit went off. Everyone loved it. I suspect that the New Day tour gigs could be the last gigs that they’ll play it. Maybe they’re giving it one last run before they put it on the shelf. I don’t have any evidence to justify it, but it’s just a feeling I get.

After “Fade” they pulled out the tour’s title track – “New Day”. Kenny’s hair was a little dishevelled, and they were beginning to look tired, but it seemed to me that Karnivool put in every ounce of energy possible, right up until the final notes.

All up it was an amazing gig. My friend managed to get one of Judd’s drum-sticks and a set-list, but the real prize was a drum plate thrown out at the end. It had been signed by all of the band, and was well out of my reach, going straight into the middle of the mosh.

I feel like I probably spent too much time taking photos and not enough time getting into the gig (you live and learn I guess), but regardless I still enjoyed myself a hell of a lot. It was one of the best gigs I’ve been too, and one of the most enjoyable. If you ever get a chance to see Karnivool, do so. For $40, Thursday was an absolute bargain. Make sure you see them before they start filling stadiums.

You can view a tonne of fairly good quality videos from the night here from ChezBerryxXx.

You can check out the whole set-list from the night here.

You can view all of the photos that I took here.

Also; check out the professional, and consequently much better photos taken by TheEnglishGentleman from FasterLouder over here.

triple j also managed to snap a few awesome ones. Take a look here.

FEATURE: Albums that grow

Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you listen to enough music to have experienced what I would call a “grower”.

A “grower” is simply an album that grows on you. An album where on first listen, you may have wondered what on earth you were listening to. Where at first you may have thought what you were listening to was absolute rubbish. But then it begins. You slowly, but surely, start to like the songs. And over time, the album continues to get better, it continues to grow on you. And you like it more and more. Until one day you look back and realise something. This album which you at first thought was awful, is now one of your favourite albums.

These kind of albums are pretty special in my opinion. They require much more attention, but in the end they become so much more enjoyable.

Now, just because an album grows on me doesn’t mean it will grow on someone else. But even after taking a subjective perspective with this, there is still a question I’d like you to think about: what is it that makes an album grow on us?

Not only that, but how are we meant to know whether an album is growing on us because of our own developing tastes and musical preferences, or whether it’s growing on us for another reason?

I’m going to be entirely honest with you at this point, and in what may seem like a poorly structured article, give you my conclusion before I explore this question.

In the end, it doesn’t matter one bit. Whether someone likes an album because it has grown on them naturally, or whether some outside influence has affected them, the fact that they enjoy listening to it should be enough.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s think about the now seemingly unimportant question for a minute. Just for the sake of it.

It all may seem rather ambiguous and murky at the moment, but let me illustrate what I mean with a few examples.

Example 1:

Karnivool’s album “Sound Awake” is an album that has grown on me a great deal. At first, having liked portions of their debut “Themata”, I thought “Sound Awake” was pretty bad. It was much more rhythmically difficult to digest, and seemed to lack the catchy hooks of “Themata”. But over time I learnt to appreciate these rhythmical differences, and I can confidently say it is one of my favourite albums.

Now I can’t say I’ve listened to much progressive rock, which is ultimately what I would classify Karnivool as. Especially “Sound Awake”. So perhaps in this case I had to become used to an entirely new style of music. Does this make it any less of a growing album though, or de-value it? I don’t think so.

I think it’s safe to say that sometimes an album may take time and grow on us because it is so drastically different from our already established listening habits. Which is one of the best reasons to listen to music: to expand your tastes and appreciate material you aren’t familiar with.

For me, “Sound Awake” was an album that grew in a way that I would consider natural. I hadn’t read any reviews of it at the time, and my other friend who is into Karnivool thought the album was terrible, so there weren’t any real influences on me that indicated that I should enjoy it or that it was good. At one point I was more than ready to dismiss it and listen to something else.

But, it grew on me.

Example 2:

Recently I’ve been giving Grizzly Bear’s album “Veckatimest” a bit of a listen. At first, it didn’t strike me as mind-blowingly good. It seemed alright though. But here’s the thing. And I’m not going to lie. I have given it a few listens, and will continue to give it a few more listens, not only because it seems alright, but because it got good reviews. This is what I’m talking about when I mean something might grow for “another reason”.

This sounds like a pretty sad thing to do, and I probably sound like I’m listening to it because it’s a “cool” and “hip” album. But ultimately, it was very well received, and I’d like to know why and give it a proper chance.

Now since I started listening to this album with the view that it would be good, if it does grow on me, how will I know whether it’s growing on me because it’s a good album, or because everyone says it’s good? How do I know I’m not simply convincing myself that it’s quality music because a large number of people say it is? I don’t know. But I get the distinct feeling that sometimes these outside influences (reviews, recommendations from friends, etc.) seem to influence our view of the music way too much. I’d like to think “Veckatimest” is a good album and that I’ll enjoy it. So when it all boils down to it, does this desire for the album to be enjoyable, in fact make it more enjoyable for me? Do I lower my standards because I want to like it?

Personally, I don’t think I do. A case in point being “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective. I wanted to like it, and despite being named Album of the Year by various music sites and reviewers, I still can’t get into it. Not matter how much I try. But it’s undeniable that these kind of reviews and recommendations do have an affect on what I listen to, and to an extent, how I approach it. I’m more willing to give something that’s been recommended to me or something that’s received great reviews multiple listens than something that hasn’t.

As I said before, regardless of whether a review of “Veckatimest” helps me get into the album more because I want to like it and enjoy it, that ultimately doesn’t de-value my experience of the album as a whole. If I enjoy it, that’s all there should be to it.

You may be thinking at this point, “But Jeremy! You review music! Your opinions should not be altered by any third-parties! Why do you have to be told something is good to give it more of a go than anything else? It’s the equivalent of lying to us.”

I would have to disagree with you.

In the end, it’s my opinion and recommendations that you’re reading, and if you choose to act on them and be influenced by them (eg: I give a good review, which prompts you to check an album or song out), your mindset and view is being influenced in exactly the same way mine is when I read reviews. You would expect to hear something that you enjoy, and it follows on that when you listen to it you want to enjoy it.

So when I follow this same pattern and hear things I like and enjoy, it’s exactly the same process.

I don’t think that I necessarily like something more because it got a good review. But I’m more willing to give it an extensive listen in an effort to understand why people think it is good. If along the way I discover that I like it for the same (or for different) reasons, so be it.

That said, I think it’s important to not let these things influence us too much. If I give “Veckatimest” a few more listens, and I’m not motivated to listen to it any longer, I won’t. Just as you shouldn’t listen to something I recommend if you genuinely don’t enjoy it.

You can’t force these things. It has to be natural.

If you take one thing from this article, take this:

In the end, I think the most important thing to think about, and to keep in mind, is this: is the album growing on you naturally, or do you want to like something so badly because it got a good review that you convince yourself that it’s good, or lower your standards?

It’s not good to lower your standards (intentionally or otherwise), or to try and change your opinion, due to someone else’s.

I’m not saying don’t listen to albums that have been given good reviews. It’s important to try new things and give them a serious go. It’s perfectly fine to be influenced in this respect. But it’s important to realise that although something may be popular, it doesn’t mean that you have to or should like it.

Don’t take us music bloggers (or any professional journos for that matter) too seriously. Give stuff a listen and make your own mind up. After all, our opinions are just as valid as yours.

NEWS/TOUR: Powderfinger split and tour + Karnivool tour!

Yesterday I learnt of the sad news that Australian rock band Powderfinger would be splitting up after one final tour. After the release of “Golden Rule”, the band felt inclined to quit after what they felt was a fitting last album.

They’re planning a tour of Australia, for which I and many other fans are very grateful. They’re a good band and deserve a proper send off. Over the course of 7 weeks they’ll not only be playing the obligatory major centres and capitals, but they’ll also be travelling to certain regional centres along the way.

Check out the tour dates and details here. Tickets go on sale at 9am on Friday the 30th of April.

In other news, Australian prog-rockers Karnivool are planning another Australian tour in support of their brilliant sophomore LP “Sound Awake”. Having just returned from a tour in the states, the New Day Tour will run through June and July, and it’ll be their last set of tour dates for 2010. I certainly don’t want to be missing this one.

You can find out more about dates and details here. Tickets go on sale on Friday the 23rd of April (I’m not sure what time). Here’s hoping for a fair few all ages gigs.

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2009

1. Karnivool – Sound Awake:

An experimental outing relative to their debut, Karnivool have crafted nothing short of a masterpiece with this album. Put simply, this album is a grower. It’s one of those seemingly magical works that transcends logic by becoming more intriguing and enjoyable after every single listen. Rhythmically, Karnivool work on a level superior to most other bands I’ve heard. I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate how great this album is. Ian Kenny’s vocals are really something to behold. However if I was to recommend this band to someone, I would tell them to try their debut album “Themata” first. It’s more accessible and easy to get into, though it has many of the elements of “Sound Awake” in a slightly less experimental form. It’s a great stepping stone for approaching this amazing album.

Link to full review.


2. The Antlers – Hospice:

Hospice evokes a great deal of emotion in observant listeners through it’s tales of death, cancer, and relationships. A very moving album, it makes use of simplistic piano chords that resonate through low levels of ambient electronic noise, that contribute to the songs tonally. Lyrically it’s thematically similar throughout, though it’s incredibly well crafted. With lines like:

With the bite of the teeth of that ring on my finger,
I’m bound to your bedside, your eulogy singer.
I’d happily take all those bullets inside you and put them inside of myself,”

you just might wanna sit down and listen to this one carefully. It’s well worth the effort.


3. Taking Back Sunday – New Again:

Though nothing fancy and special, it’s a great catchy album full of typical pop-rock/punk songs. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s strong and fun, and I liked it. It’s as simple as that.

Link to full review.

~

Other honourary mentions, in no particular order of importance or worth:

The Temper Trap – Conditions:

A blend of catchy pop hooks and stylistically distinct vocals made “Conditions” the strong album that helped The Temper Trap achieve a moderate level of mainstream exposure across Australian commercial radio stations. Though this point is often associated as the beginning of a band’s downfall in terms of originality and livelihood – the fall into being controlled by industry giants in terms of creativity and sound – “Conditions” builds the foundations through which The Temper Trap can continue to grow and explore music. Hopefully they will.

Metric – Fantasies:

The electro-pop synths of Metric merge together with agile guitar hooks, all overlayed by Emily Haines’ entrancing vocal lines, to portray the confident sense of maturity inherent on this album. Moving from the dominating songs like “Sick Muse” to songs like “Twilight Galaxy”, which show a more delicate side of the album, helps display the diverse range of moods that are explored over the course of the LP. An engaging album that is an exciting look at what seemed like – to me – a stagnating style of music.

Passion Pit – Manners:

Infectious pop melodies dominate the debut from Passion Pit. The first 4 tracks are very good indeed. After that, it drops a bit, but manages to pick up before the end. “Sleepyhead” is short, but very catchy. Not a bad effort for their first album. I like it for the most part.

Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another:

Taking a raw, alternative rock sound, Future of the Left created an album full of simple and strong riffs, interspersed between harsh and powerful vocal lines. Stripping songs down to what seems like the essential qualities of fast, angry rock music, the album has it’s moments, with fills in-between that leave just a little to be satisfied. Despite giving it a score of 6.5/10 (maybe I was a tad harsh), it’s well built, and it’s just plain fun.

Link to full review.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:

Catchy french pop/rock with distinctive vocals. This album really propelled Phoenix into a musical limelight. It’s quite good, but hasn’t caught on with me as much as I’d have liked it to. It’s one of those odd times when I can recognise how good something is, yet still not feel compelled to listen to it for some reason. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good album.

The xx – xx:

The xx make slow, relaxing, and dare I say minimalistic music, that gives off an aura of spaciousness, while still seeming defined and not coming off as some band’s attempt at improvisation. Though the songs do seem to lag a bit in the middle, and the first half of the album does seem great deal stronger, they’re worth checking out. Plus the first track, “Intro”, is actually a very good introduction, which sets them apart from those bands who have introductions that seem to contribute absolutely nothing to the album.

REVIEW: Karnivool – "Sound Awake"

"Sound Awake" retains the atmospheric environment that debut "Themata" created, and develops it to the next, more consistent level. With the songs ranging from a mere 1 minute and 49 seconds to the 12 minute long penultimate track, "Sound Awake" has often been described using the ever so clichéd word "epic". Despite the popular term now being used so loosely, "Sound Awake" is clearly deserving of it in a more serious sense.

Off-beat and syncopated rhythms display a clear level of technical integrity, both in the drumming and guitar lines, and Ian Kenny’s magnificent vocals interspersed between these two often varying patterns seems to somehow fit in perfectly. The seemingly experimental nature seen within a vast majority of the pieces (for example, opener "Simple Boy" makes use of a xylophone) separates the album from something another progressive rock band could or would do.

Kenny’s simply amazing voice and lyrics go hand in hand, as he manages to make simple lines like "It’s a new day" soar. Four simple words become four infectious words that sound so clear and free.

"Sound Awake" consistently impresses, throughout it’s entire 72 minutes. Long tracks like "New Day" don’t bore at all, as many bands who aspire to such song lengths often do, and in fact leave you wanting more. Many believe "Sound Awake" inferior to predecessor "Themata", claiming that the debut’s tracks are instantly addictive and awesome. Whilst to a certain extent they do have a point, the defining feature of "Sound Awake" is that it grows as an album. With each listen, it becomes more interesting and enjoyable, which is an attribute of music that should be cherished, encouraged, and most of all enjoyed! The ability to create music that people discover something new with in every listen is a great ability indeed. To be able to go back to an album and enjoy it even more than the last time you listened to it is brilliant. This is exactly what makes "Sound Awake" so good. Thundering guitars, off-beat drumming, technical riffs, beautiful vocal lines, and an experimental edge all merge together to create something very special.

Score: 10/10