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[LIVE REVIEW] Graves and supports, Melbourne, 8th December 2016

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Headliner: Graves
Supports: Kublai Khan, Justice For The Damned, Cursed Earth, Alpha Wolf
Venue: The Bendigo Hotel
Date: 08/12/2016
Review by Mitch Alexander

In the weeks leading up to this gig, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen (which happens to be everyone within a half mile of my regular, booming, horrible speaking voice) that this gig was very important. It was important for the bands, who are all on the cusp of breaking into the tier above them; it was important for the business movers-and-shakers, who need to see if small to mid-sized bands can tour successfully across small venues while bringing over internationals still building their profile; it was important for the punters, to know that their scene is healthy and vital. And after going to the show, on paper, I still think it was an important gig. But I’m starting to think maybe Australian underground heavy music needs to die and start again, after seeing the ludicrously cringe worthy mosh pit last night, where six awkward, uncoordinated, rhythmless forever-babies “punched” and “kicked” the air like primary school kids hepped-up on Dragon Ball Z, looking desperately for approval from their fuckwit idiot mates or their very obviously embarrassed girlfriends (after being barged into by some directionless zilch who’s been looking for purpose since his dad left, some poor young woman gave me a heartbreaking “what are you gonna do” shrug), who then stand around waiting for the next “good bit.” Hey guys, you ruin live shows. People don’t think you’re cool or tough looking, they just tolerate your pointless existence while they try to enjoy a band they’ve paid to see, like how your mum tolerates you still living at home. You’re the human equivalent of gig sweat or a hangover; an inevitable occurrence one apparently needs to grin and bear, except of course that you serve no evolutionary function, which is lucky, because your inability to control your body in any dedicated way sends very clear signals to potential mates that you’d fuck like a dying fish on pier, sob gently afterwards and provide no benefit to future generations with your limp genes. I don’t want to harsh anyone’s vibe, I don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum; you do you and by Jove you enjoy it. But don’t fucking include me. Mosh to the front and fuck off away from everyone else. Your right to throw weak-wristed mosh punches like someone who’s generation serves no purpose ends at my face.

I think I’m being such a Negative Nelly because if it wasn’t for these six or so vacant boy-shells trying and failing to define their redundant masculinity, the gig would have been almost perfect.

Alpha Wolf played an awesome set of new age nu-metal with the occasional breakdown, and if you tell me they’re anything but a nu-metal band I will call you an alt-right truth denier. They have their own masked guitarist for Pete’s sake! I was there during the original nu-metal wave, and like a water diviner or a Supreme Court Judge looking for porn, I know it when I see it. I really dug the thumping grooves and the energy they put into their live shows, though the sound was a little muddy (which could possibly just be the unfortunate lot of the opener). I’m fairly sure they’ll be headlining gigs of the same size before long.

Cursed Earth brought an amazing, grimy old school hardcore/Trap Them-esque vibe to the gig. I’ve been a fan of theirs since the split they produced with Burning Season, and they’re just as ferocious live as on recordings. The crowd was initially less boisterous than they were for Wolf, but it was fun to see Cursed Earth’s undeniable energy win people over. The reason this band has some well-deserved buzz is that their live show backs up the claims their recorded sound makes.

While watching Justice For The Damned I couldn’t help shake the feeling I’d seen the singer from somewhere before. Does he appear in commercials? Is he in another band? Do we have mutual friends? Oh wait! He’s the guy that did a needless guest spot during Cursed Earth. And he did it during Kublai Khan as well. Dude, get the fuck off the stage. You’re not CJ from Thy Art Is Murder, no one is surprised you’re there, and you’re getting in the way of the singer we want to see. It’s like an open mic comedian with a five-minute spot doing 15 minutes, consistently bombing but just wanting to end on a laugh. Your time on stage ended; leave.
His actual set wasn’t bad, though their washed out sound and odd drum mix didn’t help. From the crowd reaction, it was obvious that you can get so much more from JFtD if you know all their tracks, which is on me. The songs I did recognise kicked a fair bit of ass, but I was left out in the cold for the others. It was a very solid set, and like every other band on the bill, they’re going to get bigger before they disappear (if at all).

I’m going to skip Kublai Khan for now, because they deserve top billing in this review.

Graves headlining this show was a weird choice, but I am stoked for them. A top 30 Aria debut for a band that plays fucking breakdowns is an unbelievable accomplishment, but like a semi-racist YouTube comedian who goes viral and tours live before he’s worked on his stage craft, Graves were a little on the “main support” side of the show. The crowd loved them and they loved them right back, but there was just a little too much dead stage time between songs, a little too much absent-minded palm-muting over the singer trying to talk, a little too much tuning and blown out vocals and unsureness. Graves are very good, but I would’ve thought on their own headline tour I would’ve seen them come out and absolutely dominate both the stage and my attention. Instead they just sort of had a good gig. Which might partly be explained by the fact they had to try and go on after Kublai Khan, which I don’t think any band should ever have to do unless it’s a punishment.

Kublai Khan were, without hyperbole, the best live act I have seen this year. They are what every band should strive to emulate. Even accounting for personal taste in regards to their music, I think their performance was flawless. There’s not a single thing I could fault them on.

The passion and intensity they put into every second of stage time makes it so obvious that every member eats, sleeps and breathes Kublai Khan; they’re all on the same page, and they only want to be playing this exact music. My friend said, as a compliment, that he hasn’t seen a band that invested in their own music since high school, and I agree. The guys don’t play in Kublai Khan, they are Kublai Khan.

Their sound was also the best I’d ever heard at The Bendigo Hotel. Not since Cattle Decapitation at The Corner Hotel has a band seemingly unlocked the hidden potential of a venue’s PA. Every other group on tonight’s bill sounded like muddy headphones in comparison. The same passion and care they put into their performance is also obviously put into their production, guitar tones, drum mix; all of it. They bother, and it shows. Too many bands these days seem to rely on a reamp and a producer to make them sound tight, tough and huge. Kublai Khan are too invested for that.

I can’t gush enough praise; you won’t find a heavier and more enjoyable live show this year. They were professional, humble, intense, and as close to perfect as you can describe a hardcore band. If you’re in Melbourne they’re playing Invasion Fest this coming Saturday night. You have to go, it’s not in question.

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