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Friday, 15 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Karnivool & Tesseract

Karnivool & Tesseract, Anson Rooms Bristol

A night of progressive djent style metal was the order of the day in Bristol's little known (to me anyway) Anson rooms. This is part of the University and was essentially a sports hall that can be converted to be a venue when needed. There was no support so we headed to a local pub for food and 'refreshment' and then walked in about 10 minutes after the doors had opened, after a minor debacle with the tickets we finally made our way in to the rectangular room with a hard wood floor and walls. The room looked either to be very new (confirmed by the sign outside as we left) or temporary. Anyway another slight wait so to the bar for some amazing Bristolian beer (something my brothers in ale Nick and Paul missed out on). Then finally it was time:


I've wanted to see this British modern prog crew for a while now but fate has always intervened. However here they were and opened with two tracks from their superb most recent album Altered State. First out of the gate was Of Matter-Proxy and then Of Matter-Retrospect both of which showed off the bands chops with the dual technical guitar play of Acle Kahney and James Monteith who played some intricate but heavy rhythms and leads full of palm muted riffage which is the major style of the genre. They were aided by the thumping 5-string bass of Amos Williams who has the nimblest fingers I've ever seen and when in a groove or breakdown with drummer Jay Postones they are hard to beat. The reason I've wanted to see them though is to see how well new vocalist Ashe O' Hara does in place of Dan Tompkins (one of the best vocalists in this genre), well he holds his own very well especially on the Tompkins songs, with much of the Concealing Fate suite being played. Williams has a great voice very clean and soaring and yes he is a match for Tompkins but he excels on the songs that he has recorded with the band. As far as performance wise the band do very little in terms of movement but with music such as this doesn't need to be visually arresting. The set was well structured and most importantly brilliantly played, technical, heavy and ethereal and as the final chords of Concealing Fate Part 1: Acceptance the already partisan crowd were giving a rapturous applause. 9/10

After that there was a break for many to catch their breath before Australians Karnivool took to the stage and as the crowd filed back into the venue after more 'refreshment'.


So the lights went down again and the band hit the stage. Karnivool I've always heard are an interesting prospect live so it was with lofty expectations that I watched. First round knockout from the Perth based band with The Last Few and A.M War coming right out of the gate with melodic, intricate guitar playing from guitarists Andrew Goddard and Mark Hosking who also adds the keys, samples and xylophone (!) to proceedings. Again like Tesseract the band work as perfect unit with the guitars at the fore providing heaviness and melody, then the bass providing the rhythms and drums leading the complex song structures, drummer Steve Judd is a monster behind the kit! The band went into Themata their biggest hit very early but it roused the crowd after their post break malaise with its chunky nu-metal riffs. With that out of the way the band were free to experiment with the set list and worm their way through all kinds of sounds that encompassed prog, pop, rock, some jazz, electronica, all with intensely agile musicianship and supreme dexterity. They mixed up the set drawing heavily from their latest album Asymmetry and their previous effort Sound Awake. Again visuals are not important as the music is the star but special mention to vocalist Ian Kenny who not only has one of the most keenly honed voices I've heard he also slithers around the stage like Bez from the Happy Monday's if he was being shocked by electricity. The set peaked and troughed and by the time they had finished the two song encore the crowd were mesmerised exploding into applause when the band finished. Despite the odd venue the bands did everything they could with the sound available this was night of incredibly modern and progressive music. Whether you call it djent or not both of these bands are at the top of the pile in terms of performance and song craft. 9/10 

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