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Gig Review: Caligula’s Horse + Supports, 9 April 2016, Melbourne

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Caligula’s Horse + Chaos Divine + Enlight
Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne
9 April, 2016
Review by Rod Whitfield

The Australian HEAVY and alternative rock and metal scene is virtually completely ignored by the mainstream media, and so virtually completely ignored by the mainstream music fan who is completely guided by the media as to what their tastes consist of. “My favourite artist is whoever my favourite pop radio station is playing this week.” Sound familiar?

And yet, I have been to multiple completely sold-out shows so far this year, shows made up completely of Australian ‘underground’ artists, with not an overseas headliner in sight to boost numbers. Artists with virtually no mainstream media support, unless you count the occasional play on Triple J late at night. But artists who are more than good enough, have more than enough of a hardcore grassroots following and push themselves hard enough on social media etc. to completely fill venues of their own accord. I am proud to do my own tiny part to keep this scene going, because that’s what it’s all about, everyone doing their part.

Enlight is a young, female fronted band from Melbourne, three blokes and two chicks, with big ideas and ambitions, but just finding their way at this stage. There certainly may have been mitigating circumstances behind it, but doing a full blown sound check after doors had opened and the general punters were flooding in, and after their advertised set start time, is pretty much a no-no. Hopefully they will learn from that and professionalise their attitude from here on in. (Ed – I have since been informed that there were indeed circumstances beyond the control of the band that led to the late start)

Musically, this band has excellent potential. They have a slightly different approach to most alt and progressive rock bands, in that their sound is ambience-based, interspersed with big rock-out moments, as opposed to the other way around. And this in itself is quite refreshing. They have some nice vocal harmonies happening, including some sweet acapella moments, which is quite surprising and very pleasing to the ear, and their general musicianship is very strong. Especially drums and lead guitar.

There is somewhat of a trade-off happening here. Obviously a young band is not going to knock back a highly prestigious gig like this, however I feel a band in the very early stages of their career really need to cut their teeth on lesser bills in slightly less well known venues. They seemed very nervous, and thus didn’t quite put on the show they possibly could have. Had they 15 gigs under their belt when they hit the stage this night, their confidence in themselves, their music and their stage presentation would have been so much stronger.

All of these things will come with time, experience and hard work however. I mean these words as constructive criticism and I hope they will take it this way, rather than a complete slag-off, as they are far from slag-off worthy. Keep working their arses off on their craft, and Enlight will be very good.

This was an absolute dream pairing, and match made in Aussie HEAVY music heaven. You almost couldn’t get two bands more suited to sharing the road and the stage together, whilst still remaining highly distinct from each other. Chaos Divine is a legendary band from Perth, celebrating their decade anniversary together, and their live show is now a slick display of powerhouse melodic metal. What strikes me about these guys these days is that their songs reach such incredible soaring heights, their sound is so choc-full of adrenaline and passion. So much so that the power went out early in their set, did their high-voltage sound cause a short in the venue’s system?

Whatever the case, they took it in their stride, and appear to be having a ball on stage. Their camaraderie, even after a decade in the rehearsal room, in the studio and on the road together, is absolutely palpable, and the crowd have an absolute blast as well. These guys are true masters of their HEAVY music craft.

Brisbane’s Caligula’s Horse got a hero’s welcome from the Melbourne crowd just by the drummer sitting onstage in the darkness by himself, such is the esteem in which this band is now held in Aussie progressive HEAVY music. I had seen this band several times before, but I think it’s always been in 30-40-minute festival or support slots. Finally seeing them in an hour-plus headlining setting was a dream, and this turned out to be my favourite set of theirs I have seen.

Initially the mix was a touch too drum-heavy, however this sorted itself out over the course of the early tunes and the band went about its business of kicking the Ding Dong crowd’s arse in the classiest manner imaginable.

This band has something for everyone, they can be massively HEAVY when they feel the need, but their music is just so full of different moods and dynamics it’s hard to keep track. Their levels of musicianship are world class, but it always serves the song, the mood and the whole.

In particular, guitarist Sam Vallen has developed into one of the best guitar players in Aussie rock. His silky lines and blistering but melodic fretwork are a joy to behold. Plenty of guitarists can shred like madmen, it’s often the setting that makes them stand out, and this guy shines like a beacon partly due to the unique and dynamic band he plays in.

Similarly, Jim Grey has developed from an excellent frontman to one of the absolute elite in the country, and his stance on the Australian government’s horrendous approach to the refugee situation is both brave and highly informed. Many could learn a lot from listening to this man.

Two sensational encores, This City Has no Empathy and Dark Hair Down, and the crowd went home way more than satisfied. This night was yet another sold-out celebration of the magnificence and enduring quality of Australian HEAVY music.

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