The Workers’ Club bandroom definitely does what it says on the tin. Adorned by a giant Rolling Stones-style mouth out front, the inside is cosy and boxed in on all sides with what looks and smells like freshly-installed plywood. Very quickly, the sold-out room went from awkwardly silent and near empty to quite packed upon the first support act.
Terrestrials wasted no time warming things up. A sleepmakeswaves-styled ambient, reverb-laden intro quickly dropped out to thundering bass and drums, shaking our eardrums to an overpowering sub-human octave. The barefooted singer carefully cradling the mic as though not to break it similarly betrayed a soft entrance, breaking in the night with a powerful, soulful Prog-style voice, akin to Dead Letter Circus, standing still and looking outward into crowd.
Utilising the now almost-typically-Australian-branded method of Karnivool-esque delay and reverb-washed riffage, the band built up off-time shuffling towards massive anthemic riffs in each of their expansive but catchy numbers. Some harsh alt-rocky sneers came through the mix, but mostly melodic soaring lines were to be heard from the singer with a huge stage presence.
A super-tight rhythm section of rolling drums and hard-clanking bass served as an appropriately solid undertow to the melodic feast. It was a pleasure to watch the entire band toe-tapping, smiling and appreciative, with lots of shout-outs from the singer. With the room packed by the concluding song, the audience reaction was a mix of surprise and joy; definitely a band to keep on the radar.
Adorned with more tattoos and more in black than their prior stagemates, Death in Bloom looked to set to do what it says on the tin. An epic synthesised intro was swept very quickly out of the way by some furious down-tuned Metalcore, the whole band instantly gyrating and jumping up and down on the spot. Heavy screeches and roars in the typical Hardcore style belched from the singer, alongside the classic adorning poses and passionate performance. The instruments were tuned down to hell, with open strings that almost conjure up a feeling of subcutaneous Meshuggah levels of oomph.
Contrast this with a melodic guitarist-singer whose warbling soul brings Serj Tankian to mind almost (minus the weirdness), and you have a feeling very reminiscent of The Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive in their early days, in full drive. Distinct lack of hxc dancing, thankfully. Larger-than-life breakdowns aplenty rolled out the end of a brief but intense set, to huge applause.
Next cab off the rank were post-Hardcore locals Arkive (“it’s me, ya boi Arkive from down the road,” the singer proclaimed). Some technical issues led to a delayed starting time, but the crowd warmed very quickly to the dual harsh/clean two-singer stage presence and use of super-detuned riffage.
Arkive utilised a lot more of that (dare I say it) Emo-styled scream-to-sing verse-chorus dynamic, harsh screams and harmonics, showing off a heavier side even with melodic singer, who was more strained. This led into quiet bits with rolling drums and feedback into epic melodic chorus and some clean duelling leads. The entire band threw themselves into each riff, not forsaking any energy, massive breakdowns once again – “bang your f***ing heads!” was a common refrain which was followed gleefully by crowd and band alike.
And then, after a very short break, Rohan and friends in I Built the Sky took to the stage, showcasing an effortless polyrhythmic, genre-straddling opener that weaved through chords, scales and time signatures like flipping through an encyclopedia of music theory.
Not only this, the raw talent was bolstered by what has to be one of the most fun Prog Metal bands going. Lurching, smiling, laughing and grooving, the drum and bass combo were in an ecstatic mood and the Man himself looked up from his busy shredding every few bars or so to smile, nod and wave.
It was readily apparent why this gig had sold out, based on the fluidly technical procession of sweetly heavy instrumental music. Keeping a Metallic backbone but reaching soaring heights of melodic noodling similar to fellow Aussie rock god Plini, the more fast-paced and neoclassically-oriented frontman played all manner of hand-warping arpeggiations, blistering solos and complex chord changes in an easily digestible, smooth and powerfully emotive performance.
Keeping the entire thing moving and morphing was a stellar performance by the insanely animated rhythm section. Bouncing as though playing in a vat of jellified air, the octopus-like drummer and bassist kept an intricately systematic groove with stage presence that was a band unto itself. It was very clear this is a band who plays for love and passion of their own music, and the rabid reaction of cheers, hoots, hollers of “We’re not worthy!” and, “We Love you Rohan!”
There was effortless one and two-hand tapping and plenty of muting and chords that never dragged into heavy territory despite complexity. Taking the fourth wall and smashing it, Rohan even decided to run into the audience, shredding and riffing away whilst fist-bumping, hugging and taking selfies in between blistering chords and scale runs.
As the single Celestial and older, darker material were brought forth, the tone took a heavier and less flighty aesthetic. Grounded in mathematical Djent but spinning Steve Vai levels of guitar trickery, the man’s modest grin and constant deflection of crowd compliments (“How slick is Rob?” “Nah, Brent’s the real hero here”) it’s clear this is all about playing for the sake of showing people a good time without resorting to egoism or over-the-top theatrics.
Sitting down on a seat with acoustic guitar, he then proceeds to solo a dreamy shoegaze/dream-pop acoustic number. Simpler, more stripped back, but also not without clever use of ringing harmonics and disparate chords, it was a warm, deceptively subtle track. Unfortunate that loud drunks were talking over a major part of it – thankfully they were shooshed by others!
Standing back up to straddle the electric alongside his bandmates for two more songs, the Godlike meandering through Prog and Metal with such fleeting ease was a mark of true musicians. By the time the enraptured crowd had time to pick their jaws up, it was clear on the way out that people had been touched not only by an insanely skilful performance, but by a band who loves them, appreciates them and makes music that strikes a cerebral and emotional nerve. Well warmed up enough inside to contend with the nights’ winter cool.
Watch this space, this three-piece is destined for great things.
PHOTOS BY NICOLE SMITH-WALKER
TICKETS FOR I BUILT THE SKY’S SYDNEY SHOW AVAILABLE HERE!