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Words by Matt New

Pix by Angie New Photography

It feels like just yesterday we were treated to the first Sunk Loto shows in over 15 years, but how quickly the past 12 months have flown by. The Gold Coast alternative-metal quartet is embarking on a national tour to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of their sophomore release, Between Birth & Death. This album earned Sunk Loto unbridled acclaim and massive industry attention. Then unexpectedly, the band decided to take a lengthy hiatus at the height of their success.

Sunk Loto have begun to evolve to meet the current trends within modern metal and have experienced a few challenges in their reformation. This includes the sudden departure of founding guitarist Luke McDonald and the introduction of I Built The Sky’s creative mind, Rohan Stevenson, as the very suitable replacement for the band. Many have been eager to see how this change would manifest itself both recorded and live.

The roster of supports for this national tour highlighted a wide range of stylistic variety, but Sydney was treated to something very special indeed. Before the Blue Mountain’s favourite sons Red Bee hit the stage, a little-known duo called Immortal Within had the honour of being the first band to perform for the evening. The band consists of Red Bee frontman Dan Silk’s son, Lyric, on guitar, and Sunk Loto bassist Sean Van Gennip’s nephew, Lenny, on the drums. The 14-year-old duo’s powerful and groove-heavy sound cut through intensely, likened to bands such as Meshuggah, who heavily influenced them. For the lucky punters in the Metro at the time, this moment was special, serving as a reminder of how amazing our heavy music community is in supporting our talented youth.

Red Bee is a band I have had a very long history with on both a personal and professional level. As a Blue Mountains native, I have grown up enjoying their music, and I have had many opportunities to play alongside them with my previous band, The Mirror Phase, back in the early 2000s. We even competed in many band competitions, but the talented 3-piece prog-metallers could never be dethroned, asserting their right as the best heavy band west of Sydney. So, to see my great mates supporting Sunk Loto was a dream come true.

For those who have never seen Red Bee before, they are one of the very few bands that possess an uncompromising live energy, coupled with a plethora of raw natural talent. The three-piece, ever humble and appreciative of their loyal fans, delivered a powerful set that included tracks such as Dead Inside, Chasing Shadows, and a song that takes me back a very long time, Killing Time. Dan Silk’s intricate guitar style was contrasted by his chaotically melodic lines, while the rhythm section, which includes younger brother Jim on bass and Ian Dunn, powerfully encapsulated the room sonically with incredible precision. It was a true testament to an ensemble that has stuck it out through thick and thin, continuing to deliver high-quality music and an amazing live performance.

Gippsland natives and metal-core powerhouse Ocean Sleeper are a band I have been waiting to experience live for quite some time, and I was very excited to see their addition to this tour months ago. Since their inception in 2016, Ocean Sleeper has ridden a wave of success backed by an unrelenting will to work hard and consistently deliver good music that translates well live. Their sound combines powerful detuned riffs reminiscent of the juggernauts of the metalcore scene with a gentler melodic approach. Now formally a 3-piece ensemble after the recent departure of their original drummer, Ocean Sleeper exceeded many of the challenges I thought they might encounter live. They proved me wrong as they delivered a high-quality sonic experience with the help of an intricate backing track that featured the missing live bass and many soundscapes of haunting synths.

Ocean Sleeper delivered an engaging set that was both unrelenting and incredibly vigorous. The dynamic and contrast between main vocalist Karl Spiessl‘s guttural screams and guitarist and backing vocalist Ionei Heckenberg‘s gorgeously angelic clean melodic passages were truly incredible, as the pair complemented each other so well. Their latest single, Never the One, received a robust performance as all members of Ocean Sleeper threw their bodies across the stage of the Metro Theatre. This tour served as a great opportunity to prepare for the upcoming Good Things Festival, in which they will be a part of, and I highly recommend checking them out.

The early 2000s were an incredibly fertile and important time for Australian alternative metal bands, not only locally but on a global scale. Sunk Loto was one of the most defining bands of the era, and flew the flag high for Australia, reminding many of the amazing music this country produces. Between Birth & Death, which was released on November 17, 2003, was one of the most revered albums of this period. Since the band’s reformation, the anticipation of hearing the album live and, in its entirety, seemed like a mouth-watering prospect.

From the very first galloping drum fills of 5 Minutes of Silence to the schizophrenically paced guitar riffs of Empty and Alone, the Sunk Loto boys have refined their craft so finely that they have become so much tighter as an ensemble than I remember. Lead singer Jason Brown effortlessly navigates between tormented and passionate heavy vocals to incredibly powerful clean vocals with ease and precision. The tracks from Between Birth & Death show influences from early Deftones and Mudvayne, with softer moments in tracks like Starved channelling some post-grunge vibes.

New guitarist Rohan Stevenson, from Melbourne-based prog instrumental outfit I Built the Sky, seemed like a surprising addition to the band. Given his reputation as one of Australia’s finest modern electric guitar players, it’s understandable why he was selected. His precision and fluidity complement the aggression and emotion of Sunk Loto’s music perfectly. At times, he even seemed overwhelmed by the occasion as he pounded out riff after riff for a raucous audience. Vocalist Jason Brown took a heartfelt moment to acknowledge all the bands that supported them on this show, with a special mention to the young lads of Immortal Within. They shared a very similar path and were honoured to help another talented young band.

After completing the masterpiece of Between Birth & Death from start to finish, we were treated to a couple of even older tracks like Vinegar Stroke and Sunken Eyes.

Additionally, we witnessed the live premiere of their new single The Gallows Wait from their upcoming release. This is their first track in over 20 years, and we are excited for what awaits in the very near future from this amazingly humble and powerful ensemble. Their reformation has reinvigorated so many Aussie metal fans who were craving more amazing music from the bands that helped them through their youth.

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