Circles + Orsome Welles + James Norbert Ivanyi + Kardinal
The Evelyn, Melbourne
17th September, 2016
Reviewed By: Rod Whitfield
Prog. Love or hate the music itself, you cannot deny that it is played by masterful musicians with immense creativity and vision. Australia is amassing a body of work in the genre as high quality as just about anywhere on the planet, and these four acts, Circles, Orsome Welles, James Norbert Ivanyi and Kardinal are a big part of it.
You know you have a ridiculously broad, deep and expansive scene when you are a massive fan of, and have strong expertise in, said scene, but walk in to a venue to hear a band that you had previously never heard of before you saw the lineup for that show. Does that make sense?
Anyway, whatever the case, I had never heard of Kardinal before, but I walked in and they blew me away. Intense, over the top instrumental prog tunes played by tech nerds with eight string guitars (and remember, tech nerds rule the world!) and a hypereactive drummer who knew his way around the kit with his eyes closed.
Their startling compositions featured odd time wizardry and twists and turns galore. They are obviously heavily influenced by the likes of Animals as Leaders and Exivious, and personally, I love that type of stuff. It’s pretty much the pinnacle of the heavy music scene, from a technical standpoint. If you go any further, you’re getting into jazz fusion territory.
Kardinal’s short, sharp set featuring a bazillion blistering notes played in a completely cohesive and enjoyable fashion, and set this night of progressive mayhem up beautifully.
Exit one bunch of technical virtuosos, enter another. Sydney guitar maestro James Norbert Ivanyi, and his stunning band (which just happened to include monster skinsman Rob Brens), laced into his complicated but accessible instrumental tunes and blew the crowd’s mind. Especially considering the fact that they had apparently barely rehearsed for this tour. That’s what happens when musicians of this calibre play together, they can not rehearse and still play together like legends.
There was a time in the late 80s when instrumental guitar virtuosos, led by Satriani and Vai, had a brief moment in the commercial sun. We have something similar going on now, in terms of quality (if not profile). I loved that scene then, and I love this scene now. The major difference being that now there is a greater emphasis on composition over shred. The shred serves the songs, rather than the other way around (Satriani notwithstanding). And if Ivanyi keeps working hard and doing what he is doing, he will emerge as one of the key figures on the modern tech/instrumental scene. His set this night was superb.
You know you have a highly skilled band on your hands when the drummer asks for more of the second guitarist in his monitor just so he can hear and enjoy what he is doing!
There was a nice symmetrical dynamic to the lineup this night. Two instrumental acts followed by two vocally orientated progressive bands. Orsome Welles continue to improve, continue to impress, and after some brief sound issues at the start of their set, where the enormous sound of the band threatened to overwhelm frontman Michael Vincent Stowers’s incredible voice, this band put on a sparkling and polished set of their thunderous progressive rock tunes.
The band had just come back from Adelaide, where they had played with Circles the previous night, and had stopped in at a winery near Ararat to purchase some of their product for the Melbourne show that night. Appropriate, as this band is just keeps getting better and better the longer they play together.
As the world awaits with baited breath for Circles to unleash their heavily anticipated sophomore album, we lucky ones here in their home country, and especially in their home town of Melbourne, get to experience them live on a pretty regular basis. And with that comes the added bonus of experiencing them road-test some of their brand new tuneage. They played two new songs this night, and I get the feeling we are in for a treat, as well as a lengthy step into a more experimental musical left field, on their next record.
Outside the two less familiar songs, their set was wall to wall favourites from their first album of 2013, Infinitas, and their classic EP of two years previous, The Compass. And favourites they are, whilst the players in this band can play like legends, they emphasise hugely catchy but heavy songs over extrovert displays of musicianship. And they held the crowd in the palm of their collective hand, as we punters sang along with every soaring lyric and vocal line.
And whilst on that, frontman Perry Kakridas is in stunning form, his voice rising like a dream above the full-frontal assault of the band, and sounding very close to how it does on the records. Drummer Dave Hunter’s playing just keeps getting better, and his snare drum just keeps getting fatter, heavier and more cutting. New guitarist Ben Rechter has slotted in beautifully, both in terms of locking in with main man Ted Furuhashi and the superb new vocal contributions he makes to the band. Drew Patton remains a lean, wiry, muscular and hyperactive showman on the bass.
Circles, you are still cutting it in a live sense like a brand new axe. Please hurry up and get that second album out!