Words: Hamza Siddiqui
Photos: Anne-Laure

2019’s been a bit dry as far as good post-rock or post-metal gigs go. True, the local scene is stronger than ever, with a handful of small post-rock bands carrying the torch for all us spaced out music fans – but I feel like ever since the disgrace and implosion of Life is Noise we’ve just had less niche, experimental metal acts coming our way. The announcement of Russian Circles’ Australian tour thus was a very welcome reprieve, and the announcement of Tangled Thoughts of Leaving and We Lost the Sea made it an absolute godsend for me and all other doom and post-metal fans.

You could see this very early on in the night as the line to get into Max Watts went further down Swanston St. than I’ve seen it go in a while. I managed to get through the door just before Tangled Thoughts of Leaving began their set – and then it wasn’t long before I had my ears blown out. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving are not a subtle band, weaving together long, loud, droning tapestries of jazz-inflected doom metal and insanely loud guitar noise. There were many moments where the band let the noise lull a little only to bring it back louder and more cacophonous before. Noise would give way to jazzy piano sections, with the chaos slowly being unhinged as the guitars and the drums (their new drummer is great) built up again in what almost felt like free time.

The set opener, “The Albanian Sleepover (Part 1)” warmed up the crowd well with it’s simple, head-banger rhythms, only for it all to be thrown out the window with the following track ‘The Alarmist.’ Being a much more crazy track, it was a sudden injection of pure mayhem and it gave me whiplash. This and the following track were songs from the band’s last album No Tether, which I was only slightly familiar with, but this didn’t affect my ability to enjoy the music, as it was incredibly satisfying to watch the band pull rhythm and musicality out of what would otherwise be mindless, sometimes dissonant noise. It was beautiful and highly impressive, and
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving’s set ended up being my personal highlight of the night.

We Lost The Sea took the stage shortly after Tangled Thoughts of Leaving had left it. They wasted no time, and it took me a minute to realise they’d actually started when the rest of the band came into what I assumed was just guitar noodling. I’m very familiar with We Lost The Sea’s work, and so my confusion gave way to excitement once I realised that I was hearing the band was playing new material. With new songs book-ending their set, I found myself moving less and listening more intently than during Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving. The new songs were intriguing, and I was captivated by it. I was thrown off-guard by many of the sudden changes, both in dynamics, rhythm and tempo.

We Lost The Sea are still very much in the realm of post-rock but seem intent on exploring ways of ramping up the intensity without always resorting to the cliche of the cheesy crescendo, making their music much more fun and unpredictable. I can’t wait until I can hear these songs recorded. In between these were ‘A Gallant Gentleman’ and the second half of ‘The Last Dive of David Shaw’ were two of my, and also clearly crowd, favourites. Seeing this made me think back to the first time I’d seen We Lost The Sea, on a tiny stage at The Old Bar in Fitzroy, and it gave me shivers to see how far they’d come in the last 4 years. It was really great to see such large portions of the crowd awed into silence with the first new notes of ‘A Gallant Gentleman.’ We Lost The Sea performed incredibly well but were let down by a mix that was a little too clear; I could hear everything, but there was less weight to the heaviest parts of their set than there maybe should have been. It was great, but it could have felt bigger. But this isn’t really the band’s fault.

The room had filled up steadily during and just after We Lost the Sea’s set, and the fact that the show was sold out really became apparent. Having left due to feeling a tad boxed in, I was outside the band-room when Russian Circles first came onstage. The band was amazingly heavy, and you could tell that the room was more suited to their trio format than We Lost The Sea’s sextet. It was really amazing how much sound they mere making considering there were only three of them, and they’re probably one of the tightest bands I’ve ever seen, at points even managing to keep in time with distorted guitar loops. Most impressive to me was drummer Dave Turncrantz, whose kit, cymbals and overall sound were absolutely massive.

I can’t say much for their setlist because I’m not as familiar with their discography as I’d like, but I recognised the ‘Station’ tracks ‘Youngblood’ and ‘Harper Lewis,’ and there seemed to be a few other crowd favourites sprinkled throughout the setlist. As I didn’t recognise many of the songs it all started to get a little confusing over the course of the 80 minute set, but there were always a few moments in each song that I found either musically impressive or that pulled me out of my funk and got me spontaneously headbanging. I enjoyed their set a lot, and they closed off what was, indeed, a great night.