An eclectic line-up of Melbourne Progressive Metal and rock welcomed punters in from the cold at the iconic Bendigo Hotel. One of Melbourne’s most elusive and underrated bands, LUNG, were to headline the evening; with Cirrus Crown performing their second show ever; Flynn Effect continuing to woo their new hometown audience; and Little Rituals opening the night with some relatively chilled out grooves.

Indeed, Little Rituals opened with one of the heaviest songs of their set, Cabin Fever – a number with a few nods to Black Sabbath and an introduction to their heavily 70s and 80s rock-influenced sound. After the first song however, it became clear this was not a Metal band to accompany the rest of the line-up, but stacked the sonic diversity with alternative rock. Guitarists Kyle Probst and Josh Wood were early stand-outs, with their instrumental prowess deserving of stronger highlighting; while drummer Jake Spaghetti showed that one does not have to lean into over-the-top technicality to be a dominant presence on stage. Unfortunately bassist Rob Caldicott became plagued by technical difficulties halfway through Little Rituals’ set, and though they fought hard to salvage the situation, the mojo was understandably lost. Frontman Jack ‘Little Fella’ Eastick, while a great vocalist capable of unleashing some devastating cries, simply wasn’t up to the task of bringing the audience along on the journey once things started to fall apart.

With the technical issues continuing into Flynn Effect’s set, the former Brisbanites entered onto a difficult stage. Guitarist Jesse Higginson was unfortunately all but inaudible for the first two songs of the set, the uplifting All for Love and Believer. Frontwoman Tomina Vincent handled the issues with aplomb however, with her siren call drawing the crowd’s attention to her through every moment with her empowering vocals and soulful eye contact, engaging every crowd member at an individual level. This skilful delivery kept the wheels turning until Higginson was back online from the third song, thankfully in time for a brand-new track to be tested with the voracious crowd. This song harks back to Flynn Effect’s first album ‘Skin’ in its deep Gothic melancholy, though also highlights the band’s growth towards a more mature sound, with a disciplined and engaging approach to epic grandeur. Long-time and new fans alike will surely be keen to hear more of what’s to come.

Cirrus Crown were performing live for only the second time ever, but one would be hard-pressed to pick it from the way they hit the stage and absolutely took it by storm. This newly-minted addition to the Melbourne Progressive Metal canon is in fact made of veterans of other top-class bands, including Acolyte (Pete Borzeta), Sydonia (Adam Murray), Degrees of Separation (Markus Saastamoinen) and more. Though the sound is hard to pin down to any particular influence, one might turn to the solo material of Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie; indeed, there is a touch of LaBrie in Saastamoinen’s delivery from time to time, though he is far from a direct stylistic descendent, rather bringing his own powerful approach. Cirrus Crown introduced a new song early, Red or Blue, and even comparing this to the set’s opener Passive showed how quickly the band have evolved in terms of their song writing, with Red or Blue standing out as one of the strongest songs of the set. Nevertheless, Cirrus Crown put on a powerful performance throughout, with Saastamoinen making the timely and relevant pronouncement that we could “choose to be on the right side, or the wrong side” of history before launching into History’s Stain. By the time Cirrus Crown launched into the next song, Paper Dictator, the energy was such that bassist Murray descended from the stage to perform in the crowd; with guitarist Borzeta not to be outdone as he later circumnavigated the entire room while playing, enabled by his wireless set-up. With a well-deserved fanbase already clearly growing, Cirrus Crown are sure to dominate Melbourne stages over the coming months.

The night was topped off with a set from LUNG, a treat for their fans so soon after their previous appearance supporting Die in a Dream at Whole Lotta Love Bar. LUNG have a distinct sound, though one might suggest it nods to both Tool and A Perfect Circle; though the ever-present and one might say, broad Australian humour of Liam Burke would be more suited to Puscifer. To make all these comparisons with the various projects of Maynard James Keenan is however to completely gloss over the fact that Burke revels in audience interaction, using the exchanges to bust out spontaneous one-liners with the skill and alacrity of a stand-up comedian. In one such moment, Burke got into an exchange with an audience member attempting to snag a setlist from the stage; responding, “Oh, you want ours? It’s on the drummer’s phone. You can have it after the show, though. He’s a rich f***!”

It wasn’t all laughs however, and when it came to the business of delivering a solid set, LUNG smashed out their Progressive grooves in an enthralling set that showed how Burke and co absolutely own the stage. Where some bands have a stand-out star, LUNG are most effective as a balanced unit, with Burke’s vocal performance standing alongside and enhanced by Jeremy Buswell (drums), Brett Burnell (guitar) and Greg Costa (bass).

Overall there wasn’t a dull moment in the night, with every band delivering killer songs, and in some cases, fronting up to the adversity of uncooperative technology as best they could. On some nights, that’s just part of the excitement of live performance. One can certainly look forward to seeing every one of these bands again, as they’ll be an asset to many a Melbourne line-up.