Gig Review: Karnivool, Melbourne

Karnivool + Cairo Knife Fight
The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
13 May 2015
Review by Rod Whitfield

There are a number of two piece bands doing the rounds at the moment. You can see the attraction, easier to keep it together, only two attitudes to deal with, easier to organise things and so on. And now you can add the name Cairo Knife Fight to a list headed up by the likes of Jackson Firebird, King of the North and Over-Reactor.

Cairo Knife Fight are a very different beast to those three however. They are not gutsy, blues based raunch-rock like the two former, nor are they eclectic rap, rock and metal like the latter. They have more of an alternative rock vibe going on. And they do it rather well.

The drummer singing lead is another point of difference for these guys. When it’s just guitar, drums and vocals, obviously the guitarist has to play around with his sound to ensure that the overall band sound is still nice and full. And such is the case here, these guys’ sound is huge, despite the fact that it’s just the two of them up there. Their tunes are interesting, especially their closer, which was long, experimental and built very nicely to a massive climax, and consequently received an uproarious reception from the already packed crowd.

Despite that, call me a traditionalist, but I still like to hear a great rumbling, fat, supporting bottom end in rock music. It just sounds more complete. But, even with the absence of bass guitar, these guys put on a very satisfying warm-up set for the main act.

I interviewed Karnivool guitarist Mark ‘Hoss’ Hosking in the lead up to this tour, and he admitted that some may find the idea of a 10 year anniversary tour to celebrate the release of a key album a little naff. And, viewed from a distance, maybe they have a point. But when you’re at the venue, in the middle of watching an awesome band smash out an amazing album end to end, it is anything but.

It’s great to see a band like Karnivool in a relatively small pub venue, a band that have stepped up to playing larger halls and theatres in the last few years. The setting, and the fact that they were playing Themata end to end seemed to give them a more relaxed vibe on this tour.

That said, their delivery of said album, and then a bunch of stuff from their other two albums, plus a classic track from their second EP, was utterly flawless. As you would expect from these consummate professionals.

They even treated us to a brand new tune, which may or may not be called The Great Escape. They seemed just a smidgeon tentative on it, but I’m sure as they develop it further it will become huge.

It became a celebration of the album that truly kicked everything off for them (even though they’d been around for several years beforehand). If there is a crystalising moment in any successful band’s career, the release of Themata, and the subsequent tour, is definitely it for these guys.

One of the things that makes Themata so special is its accessible nature. In fact, rarely has complex progressive rock been more appealing. Even in their own career: second album Sound Awake was heavier and slightly more of a step into left field, whilst third album, 2013’s Asymmetry, took that step to the left and turned it into a giant leap. It truly lived up to its name.

And that appealing nature comes across beautifully in a live setting as well. They closed with an epic version of New Day, a song of longing and hope, and band and capacity crowd had a sensational time on this cold Melbourne night.

Written by Robyn Morrison

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Photos: The Haunted + Insomnium, Melbourne