Voyager + Klone + Branch Arterial + Glass Empire
The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne
29 May 2015
Review By Rod Whitfield
One of the many things I love so very much about prog rock and metal is this: many of prog’s detractors think that prog music is widdly wanky cerebral nonsense, whereas if they actually took some time to truly experience many prog bands, they would discover that prog acts actually know how to rock just as hard and as well as regular rock acts. They just do it with more class, dynamics and significantly higher levels of musicianship than straight-up rock bands. You kinda get the best of both worlds with prog, and that was on display this evening.
Excellent Melbourne progressive rockers Glass Empire have an airy, ambient feel to their music overall, but yes, they know exactly how to rock the fuck out as well. And when they do, they go hard. But, similar to a band like Dead Letter Circus, they hit hard and utilise a massive wall of sound without the use of heavily overdriven guitars, which is a great skill to have. A lot of that comes from the drums, their drummer Joel Moser is one of the busiest players you will ever see, but he hits hard and plays with real dynamics as well. The voice of frontman Ben Rechter is a joy to behold too.
And with their progressive and liberal use of light and shade, when the rock comes, it comes huge. Glass Empire were an excellent choice to open this magnificent night of progressive music at The Evelyn.
Branch Arterial are similar to Glass Empire, in that they have that very Australian, reverb soaked prog sound, they just hit harder and more often when compared with Glass Empire’s more atmospheric approach. Their tunes are more in your face, and their onstage energy was palpable as they delivered their soaring songs to an almost full room.
As individuals, these guys are all superb musicians, with special mention given to pint sized powerhouse frontman Nigel Jackson, whose voice and performance just gets better and better every time I see the band, and newish drummer Addzy Zafarese, whose is an incredible player and has grown into his role beautifully. His notes are so pure, it’s like he is being studio-edited as he plays live. It’s quite amazing to hear.
Of course, great musicianship is worthless without great songs, and these guys have exactly that as well. They treated us to a swag of new material tonight, all of which was excellent. And the quality of the songs is really hammered home by the massive vocal hook/harmony thing that they have going on. Other bands take note: unless you’re playing brutal thrash, death or black metal with all-dirty vocals, big vocal harmonies can seriously lift your performance and set you apart from other bands.
This band have had a couple of members with some serious health issues in recent times, which have slowed their progress a little. They now seem fully back on track now though, and I can’t wait to hear a new release from this very promising Melbourne progressive act.
Now. Klone. I have been heavily into this French band for several years, and to hear that they were coming out to tour small, intimate venues in Australia was music to my ears.
Firstly, I’ve always thought that this band is very poorly named. And I mean that as a compliment. They are nobody’s clone, they sound purely like themselves, and no other band I can think of sound like them. Especially now that they have released their brand new album Here Comes the Sun, a mellow departure from their normally doomy progressive rock/metal sound. When a band has a major change in direction, it is always interesting to see how the new material sits alongside their older stuff in a live set. I recently had that experience with Opeth, and as was the case with the mighty Swedes, Klone’s more mellow stuff sat seamlessly in with the older, heavier material.
I get the strong impression that many in the crowd were pretty unfamiliar with Klone. Whilst they have been around for 20 years, they don’t have the biggest following here. It was a big risk to bring them over, but if this show was anything to go by, it was a risk well worth taking. Within a song or two, they had won the crowd over completely, with their unique songs, strong stage presence and powerhouse performance overall. By the end, the crowd was in raptures and wanting more.
In fact, that is my only beef with the night, at 40 odd minutes, Klone’s set was way too short. It seemed to go past in the blink of an eye. They closed their set with their stomping cover of Bjork’s Army of Me. Talk about a cover improving on the original!
Perth’s Voyager are Australia’s, and indeed one of the world’s finest exponents of fun, feel good heavy rock/metal. Tonight’s set was virtually a celebration of their entire career, and that ‘fun’ element is best exemplified by their highly entertaining medley of whatever cover songs they feel like doing at the time. Tonight they gave 30 second renditions of Rammstein, Midnight Oil, The Prodigy and Ghostbusters! This always puts a big fat cheesy smile on the punters’ faces. But then again, so does their entire set.
An hour of Voyager capped things off the absolute perfection. This night warmed the cockles of my heart on a cold late autumn Melbourne night.