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Live Review: Absu + Portal w/ Denouncement Pyre and Thrall @ The Hi-Fi Melbourne

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Having been introduced to them just weeks before the announcement of their Australian tour through two unconnected chance encounters, by way of the humorous game ‘Ikea or Death’, and subsequently finding their CD in a huge pile of promotional CDs handed to me almost four years ago. I was astonished at the prospect of seeing this band live after two unexpected encounters all within weeks of each other. I decided to buy a ticket the day they went on sale and looked forward to seeing this odd American metal band that refer themselves as ‘occult metal’.

Thrall opened the show to some mildly entertaining aussie bogan black metal. What caught my attention after the first few songs was the line-up, half the band were females. Drum and bass duties were carried out by two blondies, after all the gigs I’ve been to in Melbourne, I can’t recall having seen any black metal bands with multiple female members, let alone just one.

Denouncement Pyre play black metal and they wear it too. Whilst the music is somewhat run of the mill black metal, the band dress up just enough to make it interesting to watch. Leather pants and jackets with a plethora of tattoos. If you’re going to play textbook, genre specific metal, I suggest you do it like Denouncement Pyre, with some flare and attitude about it.

Next up were Portal. This is a band that has circled my ears in terms of talk and speculation many times before, still not having heard any of their songs. I was intrigued as to what it was that I’d be witnessing. A certain degree of theatrics was expected. Having worn my ‘Papa’ Ghost shirt, I was excited to see Brisbane’s even darker and more brutal take on one of my most favored bands of recent times. Unfortunately, the sound was abysmal, with a minute amount of riffs being audible over the course of their whole set. This was something that was never rectified and gave me a sour taste for my first experience of Portal, a band Philip Anselmo himself had mentioned at the Golden God awards as the heaviest band in the world right now. With that being said, Portal’s set was highly un-enjoyable due to the wishy washy sound and not being able to hear any of the riffs. I will not write them off so quickly, so I shall keep my mind open and await my next chance to see them live.

Four bands is really a lot for any bill and The Hi Fi was not packed out by any stretch of the imagination, but the half sized crowd seemed revved up enough to expect a ferocious roar once Absu finally hit the stage. The roar came and Absu followed. Guitarist Vis Crom bolted onto the stage with an energy that was intoxicating. This energy seemed to carry on throughout the whole set, Mr. Crom ablaze in a fit of occult metal frenzy. His gigantic ’80s Dimebag lookalike hair was a view all in itself, combined with some rather tasty guitar licks on his Les Paul, Vis Crom accounted for the absence of a second guitarist. Although drummer and main man Proscriptor McGovern with his frenzied induced guitarist at his side carried the show with a great live performance, the crowd still seemed somewhat relaxed and casual between songs. The audience seemed to be divided into two, the front half which craved more Absu with every song, and the back half which seemingly treated Absu as a supplement to their casual drinks and conversation. This aspect ruined the atmosphere in between songs and eventually became hard to tolerate and felt embarrassing. To add to this dilemma, Absu had the worst light show I’d ever seen. For a band that cloaks themselves in themes such as odd mythology and occultism, a light show that beemed all the colours of the rainbow constantly throughout the whole set quickly became irreparable, with my assailant having to retire to the back of the room because of a severe rainbow-light-show induced headache.

Make no mistake though, Absu put on an astounding show, but was plagued by bad lighting and an audacious crowd. For next time, I hope they have a different light person and a more attentive crowd. The Hi Fi may have been overstepping the Melbourne Absu fan base and would have possibly made for a better show in a downsized venue. One sold out show is better than a half packed larger venue.

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