The Corner Hotel website says there are more tickets to be released prior to Karnivool’s first of three sold-out Melbourne shows. At first the news is exciting, but upon arrival you get the feeling fans of the Perth quintet have somehow been shortchanged. The venue is packed – but not in the sold-out sense. The vibe is fairly mellow as the opening act takes stage. Over-Reactor are a solid two-piece from Melbourne whose sound is immediately infectious. The crowd starts to liven up a bit but doesn’t quite embrace the reckless the 90s once encouraged – back in the heyday of hardcore and nu-metal.
Maybe we’re just keen to thrash around a bit, up to the eyeballs in a sea of sweaty people. This will have to do, but mostly because this scribe is ‘pee my pants excited’ to finally be seeing one of Australia’s most beloved bands, and the atmosphere doesn’t quite reflect that excitement yet.
Oddly enough, the night’s second act is a DJ. ShockOne starts his set with a nice selection of dubstep but again the crowd seems a bit confused. There’s a moodiness to the music that reflects Karnivool’s own prog-rock sound, and so the leap in genres isn’t asking too much of listeners. However, the fact that fans are that much closer to seeing Karnivool take stage is what shifts gig-goers into gear. The atmosphere changes to one of anticipation with people chanting ‘Kar-ni-VOOL, Kar-ni-VOOL!’ over and over. And as the lights fade down, the crowd loses its Melbourne cool. The night is finally on.
The boys start their set off with ‘Goliath’ and there’s something very appropriate about lead singer Ian Kenny singing lyrics ‘Wake Up’ repeatedly. He is captivating the moment he takes stage, his intense gaze is hard to break away from and his angelic vocals mystify. Guitarists Andrew Goddard and Mark Hosking also seduce the audience with their own signature, somewhat ambient guitar riffs over bassist John Stockman’s charging bass line. The sound system is cranked to 11 and the crowd seems to hold its breath until drummer Steve Judd relieves us of our statuesque positions and encourages us to thrash about a bit with his solid drum grooves. His timing is impeccable, even when the song’s time signature evades those of us less musically inclined – we still manage to find the groove.
The bass line in ‘Simple Boy’ drives the point home. The song is built on Stockman’s talents, and the rest of the instrumentation works to enhance his playing. And then a song like ‘Themata’ exhibits Goddard’s musicianship. The opening riff sends shivers through the crowd and Kenny’s vocals add that next level of emotion. Everyone joins in on the chorus and it almost feels like church.
This is what the band’s music is known for – each member’s ability to find those spine-tingling notes. And when you put them all together, you get a performance of epic proportions.
After punishing a few more songs off their sophomore album, the boys take us back once again to their debut album with a rockin’ rendition of ‘Roquefort’ – and end the show with an encore performance of ‘Synops’ and ‘New Day’. It’s a pity the boys only have two albums to play from. Karnivool quite possibly own the prog-rock genre here in Australia. Another album of these proportions might take some time to create – but it wouldn’t be too soon.
– Cayce Hill