[LIVE REVIEW] Karnivool @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 06/06/2019

Karnivool equals sonic perfection.  Listening to their music, you can hear evolution in progress.  Their songs are experiments.  How many different time signatures can be thrown into one song for it to still make sense?  I don’t claim to know a 4, 4 from a 6, 8 beat, but I do know that in Karnivool’s skilful hands, you can chuck them in the same song and it works.

Supported on this tour by Southeast Desert Metal, a 4-piece dubbed as the most isolated metal band in the world, coming from a small community in the Simpson Desert near Alice Springs and proving that Kyuss are not necessarily the best thing to have come from the desert.  These guys play a bass heavy brand of metal, a bit like Metallica meets Deep Purple.  And for me, it was the bass player that stole the show.  With arms like tree trunks but a deft touch on the strings, his sound was front and centre.  The subject matter of their songs would appear to be inspired by their aboriginal culture with titles like Healer, Spirit Woman and the Giant which featured a guest singer who was clearly brought on to contribute his impressive screaming and hair circle head banging skills.  I liked them.

As the roadies do things with wires and gaffer tape, the crowd is thickening up down the front.  I am guessing this is going to be an energetic show.  Karnivool are another guy band.  There are girl fans there, for sure, but it seems to me that for guys of a certain age, Karnivool are the kind of band that provided the soundtrack to their teenage years, and the music that supported them through those difficult times.  Every kid needs one of those bands (for me, it was U2. Yeah, I know but I am old).

The boys come on to a huge cheer.  Lead singer Ian Kenny, tall and lanky, is going to have to watch his head clearance on the Croxtons’ low stage.  I’ve always had trouble attributing his voice with Karnivool one minute, and Birds of Tokyo the next.  He has a “pleasant” voice which seems at odds with the atmospheric prog rock that is Karnivool’s bread and butter.

They open with Change, filling the room with the sound of guitars and drums seemingly at odds with one another, but coming together in a perfect wall of sound.   Australia seems to produce so many of these moody rock bands.  Sleepmakeswaves, Dead Letter Circus, The Butterfly Effect but Karnivool are definitely the Alpha in this space.

The room is filled with the surprising sound of the xylophone, played live, before the heavy heavy bass of the opening notes of Simple Boy.  Kenny sings falsetto “I’m high above the world”.  And the boys down the front lose their shit. 

Set Fire to the Hive is a song of pure anarchy.  It’s impossible to find a beat to bang your head to until a couple of minutes in, when it settles into a more conventional rhythm.  I was expecting a full on mosh fest, but the pit seems content with energetic jumping and singing – every word to every song with such passion and feeling. 

During Goliath, I see a girl standing by the bass speaker stack with her hand in the air to feel the movement in the air that the bass in this song is producing.  The mood of the heavy bass is accentuated with moody blue and pink lighting.  “This is entertainment.  I hope you all enjoy the view”.  You betchya we are.

Deadman sounds to me like Pink Floyd for the new millennia.  A song of 9.55 minutes in recorded form, this is a song for a concept album of the 70’s.  Taking the listener through many moods and changes, I love this sort of musical journey and Karnivool brought this to the stage on Wednesday and took their fans along for the ride.  The climax of the song brought the first surfer of the night.  The climax of the main set was the symphonic Themata.  “In the sensory, serenity.” That lines sums up this gig. 

After a short break, the band are back for a 2-song encore.  The bass heavy intro to Roquefort brings the pit to life and now the boys are up for a full pit surf.  The arms are extended high and the surfers look like they are touching the low ceiling.  Everyone is involved and from the side lines, it looks amazing.  The set finishes with the almost radio friendly New Day.  This song from 2009’s Sound Awake, sounds fresh and current.  The climax of the song brings Ian Kenny up onto the rail to lay on hands to the faithful who have spent the night drinking in the Karnivool Koolaid. 

I love a band who’s fans love them and this was never more obvious than the worshippers at this gig.  I have no doubt they all went home happy and ready for another round in the next sold out show on Thursday.  Karnivool have always been part of my general Aussie rock appreciation (which has been part of my being since the 80’s), but I am going home with a new excitement for what is to come for this band, and all other young muso’s who are influenced by them.  Let’s hope some new music is on the way soon.

Review Contributed by Wendy Smith

Gallery by Jose Sanchez