Words and Pics: Ben Hosking – www.hoskingindustries.com.au
This reviewer hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing the mighty Karnivool live since 2012 and 2013 on the Asymmetry tour. Both of those gigs were held at Sydney’s Metro and the Big Top respectively – much larger venues than Newcastle’s Cambridge Hotel.
What I would witness tonight would only reinforce an already firmly held belief that the best shows take place in intimate venues. Although, thanks to the Cambridge posting incorrect set times online once again, I’m sure there would have been a few nonplussed punters who either missed opening act Southeast Desert Metal altogether or only caught the last few minutes of their tight, albeit reserved performance (posted start time was 9pm, but the band started at around 8.30 and was finished at 9.15pm). While the band were pretty static on stage, their driving, propulsive mix of hard rock and classic metal sees the half-full room enthusiastic and supportive.
After about 40mins of set up time, Western Australia’s Karnivool took to the stage in what was to be a more pared back production – more visceral perhaps – than what I’d previously seen the band offer. Most importantly however, is the fact that the band was no less powerful for it. In fact, being up so close, with only the Cambo’s small security pit between Ian Kenny’s Zen-like stage moves and the sweaty sold-out Newcastle crowd, you could argue that the limited lighting and production only added to the intensity.
Tonight’s set list covers the spectrum of the band’s output thus far, including what I think were a few new or unreleased tracks like ‘Animation’, ‘Reanimation’ and ‘All It Takes’. Crowd response to them is good, but it’s obviously the known and loved tracks from the band’s three albums that get the most response.
Karnivool are a national treasure. They’re often cited as influences and hit ‘fave band’ lists from notable musos around the world and for good reason: their recorded output is impossible to fault and their live performance – as witnessed here tonight at the Cambridge – is just as strong. With a solid, clear mix, all the guys’ parts are perfectly audible, which is a feat unto itself with the beautiful subtlety that flows beneath all of Karnivool’s music. Add to that the strong, engaging stage presence and you’ve got the ingredients for a perfect night of intense, involving and damned catchy modern progressive metal.