LIVE REVIEW: Beastwars @ Crowbar, Sydney

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Beastwars with Witchskull, Potion
Crowbar, Sydney
July 11th, 2019

Crowbar is quickly establishing itself as the home of Sydney’s metal and hard rock scene and tonight it hosted New Zealand’s finest metal band, Beastwars. They’ve just chalked up their first number one album, in the wake of breaking up, singer Matthew Hyde’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer, a reformation and the recording the devastating new album IV. In our review we described it as “a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record,” and the expectations were for a similarly brutal live performance.

Potion are a psych/stoner metal trio that know their way around mystical bedrock heavy riffing grooves. Song titles like ‘Dead Mountain’ give you an idea of the territory they inhabit. They do heavy and slow, fast and chugging with equal aplomb, getting the heads a shakin’ early.

Witchskull dialled back the clock to a more classic rock and metal sound. Sonically it was Ozzy fronting Motorhead with many of the songs pulled from their album of last year, Coven’s Will. A bassist that looked like a lumbering, menacing Rick Rubin and a guitarist/singer with the stature of Ronnie Dio owned the front of the stage, laying down tight, paint-peeling solos and rolling, monolithic bass lines. It was an impressive set that balanced and progressed old and newer styles as one.

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Beastwars are now four albums deep so they’ve got plenty to choose from when it comes to an hour-long setlist. They drew from all of their albums, giving a holistic overview of their churning, emotive and visceral metal and hard rock. What they do so well is channel everyone from The Melvins and Soundgarden through Kyuss and Neurosis and onto contemporaries such as Pallbearer. There’s an industrial sheen to their sound but at its core there’s a primitive and primal human howl.

C9F7B23D-7FB0-49AD-9350-E067D63C03ACFrontman Matthew Hyde is hard to take your eyes off. He’s in slow motion as he sways, conducts and conjures up spirits and demons with raised hands. He’s essentially in the eye of a sonic storm, that calm spot at the core, as the fury rages around him. All his energy, no doubt dented and damaged from everything he’s been through in recent times, is channeled through his lungs and larynx. Meditative, brooding, tension-building verses invariably open up like an arriving hurricane into choruses of lacerating, throat-shredding howls that scream desperation and vindication in equal amounts. Highlights of the set included ‘Mihi’, ‘Raise The Sword’, ‘Rivermen’ and more. At times some songs blended into a morass of sludge riffing and dense rhythms but the peaks were more plentiful than the valleys across their set. When the dynamics fell into place with the rock solid rhythm section and Clayton Anderson’s clinical yet full-blooded guitar playing, Hyde seemed to channel something otherworldly and intensely personal – and the power and impact was immense. 

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Beastwars proved they’re a band who know how to convert emotion into music with intensity and gravity, hitting the hearts and bodies of the generous crowd who bowed down before them.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: PCM – Ma

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Some hypnotic ambient composition to round out the week on Doubtful Sounds. PCM is an Italian ambient trio comprised of musicians Francesco Perra (P), Matteo Cantaluppi (C), Matteo Milea (M). They’ve come together to record this non-album single ‘Ma’, ahead of a full-length release. It shimmers and drifts, it’s aqueous and cloud-like in the way it moves and transitions gently across nearly eight hypnotic minutes.

Matteo Cantaluppi probably most known for his independent pop production duties has released, as a musician, a symphonic-ambient album with Baffo Banfi (“Biglietto per l’Inferno” founding member and Klaus Schulze’s collaborator) called “Frontera.” Francesco Perra is an ambient musician who often utilizes the guitar for his rich soundscapes. He’s published 3 albums, Music to Disappear (Idealmusik), The Neptune Sessions (Clubland Records), and Soundscape Box 1 (Tranquillo Records) under the name of Perry Frank. Matteo Milea is a sound engineer and sound designer who is also responsible for the trio’s art direction, giving visual representation to PCM’s liquid sounds.

 

NEW MUSIC: The Laurels – Sound System

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The Laurels are back with a new single/video, ‘Sound System’, their first with new member Kat Harley (Mezko) on bass and vocals.

As usual they’re working that hazy and fascinating space between genres that they’ve always navigated so well. Indie rock with art-pop melodies filtered through shoegaze and psych. This time round the song has a distinctly futuristic sheen to it, in keeping with its subject matter.

“High rise apartments and rent prices loom large over this paean to a future dystopian city, the inhabitants of which are doomed to a lifetime of evenings spent in queues waiting to eat at fine dining restaurants after a round of putt putt golf.” He continues “Sound System finds this group of part-time disc jockeys loading up their van with generators and loud speakers as they seek to reignite the street party.”
– Luke O’Farrell

The Laurels have Sydney and Melbourne shows happening soon:

The Lansdowne, Sydney
Saturday, July 20th
TICKETS

The Gasometer, Melbourne
Saturday, July 27th
TICKETS

ALBUM REVIEW: Beastwars – IV

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Beastwars
IV
Destroy Records

Sometimes it takes monumental life events to galvanise a band, or any creative endeavour for that matter. In the case of New Zealand band Beastwars it was the diagnosis singer Matt Hyde received, confirming Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the weeks following his chemotherapy treatment the band hit the studio and recorded their fourth album – a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record.

“You can never get away from your mortal decay,” Hyde howls on ‘Mortal Decay’. This is an album that addresses mortality and the brutal reality of our time on this earth and the fragility of life. Out of that there is a sense of immense strength and resolution from both singer and band. There are winding, ruminative passages in some songs that add a reflective quality to the heavier, more visceral sound that dominates the album, but don’t start thinking this is a metal band going soft, their essence of heavy swinging and paint-peeling riffage is still firmly intact, made even more powerful with the quality of the songwriting and ideas on IV. 

As musicians, the band sound freer and more inventive than they ever have before. There is colour and shade on a song such as ‘Omens’ which combines the moodiness of Tool with lumbering doom metal density, while on ‘Mortal Decay’ the song straightens into pure metal chug and gallop at the three quarter mark to brilliant effect. On ‘The Traveller’, Hyde stands exposed, delivering an affecting primal scream  before the band join him and carry the song forward on a comforting melodic bed of heavy bass and avant garde guitar squalls. ‘Wolves And Prey’ tumbles and churns like a spinning vortex and ‘Like Dried Blood’ combines a piano and Hyde’s ghoulish vocal to great effect as the thunder grows and the riffs thicken and fill the air like heavy smoke.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity” said Benjamin Franklin and Beastwars have taken that mantra and bled a visceral, life-affirming album into existence. You’d be hard pressed to find many better metal albums than this in 2019. 

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Japanese Television – Crocodile Dentist

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A couple of months back we shared the Japanese Television track ‘Bloodworm’. Now their back with the new single ‘Crocodile Dentist’, a swirling, disorientating headlong plunge down the psychedelic rabbit hole. Like a lost 60s relic of a bad trip, the song has a wild and fevered feeling to it. Urgent and spiralling, a kaleidoscopic heady mix of garage rock and b-grade horror that buries itself oh so deep in your synapses. Dig it.

The song was recorded in one take in a village hall in Yaxley by Kristian Bell of The Wytches and the band say of the record; ‘’Crocodile Dentist is probably the most garage rock thing we’ve recorded, somewhere between the Monks and the Munsters. Recorded at Yaxley Village hall, no overdubs, one take, to 8 track tape. Tim claims never to have performed dentistry on a crocodile but he has had a fingertip sewn back on.’’

The track is taken from the band’s new EP Japanese Television 2 which is out on Tip Top Recordings.

NEW MUSIC: Champ Major – Enjoy

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Madison Major of Brooklyn, New York is Champ Major, an experimental folk artist who’s aesthetic is one of creating a sonic environment to match her songs and stories. In the case of ‘Enjoy’ from her EP Receipe For Baking Two Humans Together, it’s a thick and foggy sound, akin to a radio transmission from a distant time and place. Acoustic guitar and a yearning voice is all Champ Major needs to convey her imagery and emotions.

NEW MUSIC: Childmind – Island Of Lambs

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Psychedelic explorations of the electric kind are the order of the day on this new single from Childmind – Sweden’s Hannes Glans. ‘Island Of Lambs’, a dark story about the Swedish island of Gotland, excels in its constantly changing vistas. One second it’s pulsing kosmiche electronica and the next it ramps up into a heady rock mantra worthy of comparison to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. It bodes well for his upcoming album, set for release on limited vinyl on September 25th via Black Hair Records.

NEW MUSIC: Obstacle – Unknown Number

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Obstacle are a USA trio comprised of Annie Murnighan (Found Object), Elias Jarzombek, and Amos Damroth (AJE). They’ve only been around for a year and a half but they already have three digital releases under their belt, including this latest one ‘Unknown Number’. It’s a track that runs its sounds through murky ominous filters with heavily treated and unrecognisable vocals and really interesting rhythms and hyperactive percussive programming. It’s electronic music for the headphones and the feet, conveying a sense of playfulness while still lurking in the shadows of the dance floor.