REVIEW: MONSTER MAGNET live @ Metro Theatre, Sydney (06/09/09)


Sunday night is always a hard night to ‘rock’ with the thought of work the next day or just the previous 48 hours catching up with you. Sometimes though it can be a refreshing blast of sound that clears out the cobwebs and reconfirms how truly invigorating rock n roll can be. Monster Magnet was all of these things in a near two hour set with Dave Wyndorf commanding the stage.

Supports were Grand Fatal and Regular John and both impressed with their aggression and  stage presence. I suppose when you are supporting one of the legends of stoner/space rock then you a fool if you don’t step up to the plate and give it your best shot.

Grand Fatal play a US-style punk hardcore sound that is similar to other locals like Talons. They infuse it with indie melodicism and just enough intelligence to give them a foothold in both camps. Fugazi are increasingly becoming a legendary touchstone for so many bands these days and Grand Fatal are obviously big fans. Their twin guitar/lead vocal setup works well for them as it allows the audience attention some variety and gives them some nice dynamic interplay.

Regular John have been scoring some great gigs recently (plus the upcoming Shihad shows) and they proved they are deserved of the larger stages. Cocksure but not arrogant they too mix their sound up. The obvious reference is their name, a Queens Of The Stone Age song and their were some definite desert rock sounds, most specifically in the heavier riffs and distorted wah guitar. Regular John at times also revert to some classic rock riffing a la The Datsuns and dabble in dark punk frequencies. Theirs was damn tight set with one of the highlights being the huge sounding single We Spell Love.

Monster Magnet are one of those bands that never tried to hide their metal tendencies behind a facade of indie cred. They always took everything to its cartoon crazy limit. Their artwork, song titles image and attitude screamed ROCK and it proved to be a reality when singer Dave Wyndorf ended up OD’ing on prescription drugs two years ago.

It seemed a little strange that they are touring Australia without an album to promote but from the moment they stepped on stage, the comments I’d read about Wyndorf in good mental health and needing to get back in shape made sense. From the once muscular template of a rocker he was now looking more like a heavy metal Meatloaf. The shock of his physical appearance was soon relegated to a non issue once they started playing and he proved to be in fine vocal form.

The entire show felt like he was conjuring up some dark spirits and with the fairly standard psych images behind them it all felt like a trippy space rock journey. Monster Magnet are effectively a bunch of younger men laying the foundation for Wyndorf and at times they sounded brutally hard with dense bass and a concrete sound giving the songs a tougher feel than many of the recordings.

The biggest cheers came for the songs from 95s Dopes To Infinity and 98s Powertrip albums. Negasonic Teenage Warhead still rocked like a glam metal version of Smells Like Teen Spirit while Powertrip and Spacelord showed why they were such massive anthems a decade ago. No one else other than Soundgarden really dialed into the essence of Black Sabbath like Monster Magnet.

It was when they came back for the encore that the Sunday night factor kicked in. Stretching to around 40 minutes and even featuring snippets of American Pie, it was an indulgence that perhaps strayed too far from the essence of what Monster Magnet are.

On the upside it was a pleasant surprise to see Wyndorf singing, screaming and howling with not an ounce less conviction than he did in the band’s heyday. With Alice In Chains also reigniting their flame it seems that the survivors of the 90s are keen to reassert themselves and at The Metro Monster Magnet did just that.

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