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THE OCEAN, CAVE IN, LLNN: Factory Theatre, Sydney 08/06/24

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Words by Matt New

Pix by Angie New Photography

2024 has been an amazing year for international tours, with a large number of bands making the trip to reconnect after Covid, or to celebrate a key milestone or anniversary for a particular album. The announcement of German post-metal outfit The Ocean returning just 12 months after their last tour of Australia was a very welcome surprise. Even more special was the fact that they were to be supported by American rock outfit Cave In and LLNN from Denmark, two bands touring Australia for the very first time. As Cave In is one of my most beloved bands, you can imagine how excited I am to finally see them after patiently waiting for over two decades.

Opening for the evening was LLNN from Copenhagen, Denmark, an avant-garde metal band with a reputation for being one of the heaviest and most dynamic metal bands emerging from Europe at the moment. Frontman Victor Kaas emerged on stage alone, accompanied by the haunting drones of thundering bass synth pads of their opening track, The Horror. Kaas screamed with agonizing conviction as he convulsed on stage, appearing as if he were either possessed by a demon or an alien entity was trying to escape his body. The influence of horror movie soundtracks was clearly evident in LLNN’s dense sound, with an element of performance art that was equally visceral and confronting.

The rest of the band arrived on stage, waving to their fans with enthusiasm before launching into songs like Imperial and Desecrator, which were incredibly brutal tracks. Their heavily detuned guitar riffs, combined with eerie cinematic synths, created a unique sonic soundscape. For those unfamiliar with LLNN, imagine a mix of the unhinged attitude of Code Orange, the industrial elements of Author and Punisher, and the horror music soundtracks from a John Carpenter film. Their performance was flawless, though at times uncomfortable due to the intense nature of their music. During a brief pause mid-set, a heckler shouted out to the band asking how to pronounce their name. Kaas bluntly replied, “it’s literally just spelled L L N N.” The Danish four-piece were humble and grateful to be performing in Australia, leaving a lasting impression on the large Factory Theatre audience.

Cave In is a band that has always flown under the radar throughout their thirty-year career. From their humble beginnings as part of the Boston post-hardcore and metalcore scene, they have continued to evolve, incorporating elements of progressive rock, post-rock, and doom metal. They are a true rock and roll chameleon that has maintained a cult-like status with their fanbase all over the world. Visiting Australia for the first time to tour for their critically acclaimed 2023 album Heavy Pendulum, the Factory Theatre was packed with people eager to experience their live show.

Opening with New Reality, the first track off Heavy Pendulum, Cave In immediately showcased how incredibly talented they are as a live act. With the same core line-up for over 25 years, with the exception of their late bassist Caleb Schofield, who tragically passed away back in 2018. Cave In is incredibly tight, and it’s evident that they have a deep understanding of each of their bandmates musically. The doomy riffs, powerful drum beats, and carefully choreographed vocals shared between frontman Steven Brodsky and bassist Nate Newton, who people will also recognize from fellow Boston-based band Converge, were flawless. Brodsky, in particular, delivered his vocals with pitch-perfect precision that cut through the band’s massive sound. Guitarist Adam McGrath’s guitar sounds were immense, with his unique combination of effects pedals that sounded otherworldly. Finally, drummer John-Robert Collins was captivating, as he demonstrated how meticulous he is on his kit. The first half of the set consisted of tracks from their latest release, with the standout being Careless Offering, which showcased a broad range of progressive vision and dynamic perfection.

The band took their loyal fans back to their very first album Until Your Heart Stops with Halo Of Flies that perfectly showcased the origins of their heavy and sludgy sound. Big Riff was another standout track which features on their second full-length record Jupiter from 2000. A more melodic song that highlights the band’s vast sonic abilities and contrast. Cave In gave one hell of a show that was well worth the wait for many Aussie fans. Concluding with Sing My Loves from 2011’s White Silence, the Sydney audience were left wanting more, and Cave In appreciated every moment. An amazing and memorable live experience with all three string players holding their instruments high in the air to the droning feedback of their amplifiers.

The Ocean are an enigmatic band that always challenges their audience with intellectually profound musical themes and concepts. The German band has had a respectable career within the heavy music landscape, and they have always been seen as innovative and at the forefront of the post-metal and progressive metal genres for many years now. The album Holocene, released in 2023, showcased a more electronic minimalist side of The Ocean, and I was eager to see how the new material would translate live. Opening with Preboreal and Boreal, the Nine Inch Nails influenced electronic drum patterns and synths melodically cut through dark and sombre overtones. Frontman Loïc Rossetti is a dynamic and unassuming vocalist. He emotes with amazing control and possesses many tones within his vocals that perfectly complement The Ocean’s dense music. He even took the opportunity to crowd surf and get amongst his fans on a few occasions.

The Ocean continued to showcase material from Holocene, playing Sea of Reeds, Atlantic, and “Subboreal” in the track order from the album. Subboreal was the first of the heavy tracks to emerge from the gloomy depths of an ambient electronic soundscape, and it was refreshing to hear the contrasts between the two dimensions of this song. Adding to the atmosphere was the excessive amount of smoke on the stage that immersed the band in visual obscurity. Combined with a carefully choreographed lighting show, the visual element felt claustrophobic, as if you were suffocating in the depths of a dark abyss. The next album to feature heavily with songs in this set would be 2020’s Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic/Cenozoic. Pleistocene was the highlight track, as it characterizes everything that makes The Ocean unique. Beautifully woven dark and heartfelt melodies progress into densely heavy riffs and guttural fry vocals, before blast beats and death metal-like double-time riffs add intensity.

Their set, which lasted for a duration of 90 minutes, seemed to race by even though each song flowed seamlessly into the next. Given it was hard to see each band member amidst the amount of smoke on stage, their silhouettes were evidently moving along with power and conviction. Robin Staps and David Ramis Åhfeldt’s carefully interwoven guitar parts were sonically magical, as both explored light and shade, as well as some complex melodic modes that at times added some jarring harmonic dissonance.

Drummer Paul Seidel was flawless as he navigated the band through the mosaic of time signature changes and dynamic shifts. Supported by Mattias Hägerstrand’s thundering yet carefully melodic bass playing, the rhythm section of this band is always captivating and inspiring.

Finishing the set with an encore that included Triassic and Jurassic/Cretaceous from Phanerzoic II, The Ocean cemented their place as one of the most dynamic and emotive heavy bands of recent memory. Every time I get to witness this band, it is an experience that transcends your consciousness. Their music always takes you on a journey that is both existential and reflective, and you cannot help but walk away feeling in awe of the magic this band possesses. The combination of these three bands is nothing short of perfect, and the variety within was completely engaging. For the cities yet to experience this tour, all I can say is buy a ticket and get ready for a show that will absolutely deliver!

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