Monday, 9 December 2013

Prog Metal!

Three weeks ago I went to Portsmouth to for another gig.
I went to see Karnivool and TesseracT, both progressive metal bands. In the world of prog metal, they are both very popular, which is totally understandable, they have very good, uncommon qualities to them.

I brought two tickets for this about five months ago, around the same time that I brought tickets for Fuck Buttons and The Haxan Cloak. This was mostly due to a combintion of two factors: the price of the tickets, and the lineup. They cost £10.50 per ticket, which in terms of gigs in general is pretty cheap. I did not know of Karnivool at this point however I had been a fan of TesseracT for quite a while by this time. The idea of seeing TesseracT for such a low price made me consider the idea, which led me to give the headliners, Karnivool a listen. I was quite impressed by them at first, and that was a deal breaker; I couldn't miss out on this opportunity.
This was the first gig of the UK tour, which is no bad thing.
Before every gig I go to, I try to prepare myself by listening to the bands' albums, so I had quite a few months to learn more of TesseracT's material and also accustom myself to Karnivool. I found that as time progressed, my admiration for bands grew and by the time the gig came around, I liked one band just as much as the other.

TesseracT are from the UK, and have only been going for 6 years, releasing two albums (one in 2011, another in 2013) and two EPs in that time. they've come quite far now and have been touring for many years. However they have experimented with various different sounds and have had four different singers in this time. At first they had a heavier sound and in their first album 'One' incorporated harsh vocals. Since then, that singer departed, they got a new singer for a year until he left, which leads us to their current lineup.
They now have Ashe O'hara, who is an amazing vocalist and in my opinion have taken the band into a great new direction. They now purely use clean vocals, which in my mind is a great move, as it adds a lot more precision to the music, which is quite key their sound.

I went there after college had finished, with a friend I made in my music class. We headed off at 4.30, and took a train for an hour. Once we arrived at portsmouth we got some food at a supermarket, and then started to walk to the venue. We got a little lost, so the journey took around half an hour, when it should have taken half that time. It was an odd walk, as it seemed troughout that space of time, there was a persistent smell of marujana in air. I for one, was not bothered as I find it a fairly pleasant smell.
We arrived at the venue around 6:30, which was very early, considering that the doors opened at 8. While we waited at the front of the queue, we obvserved people slowly arriving. One man asked us to take a picture of him in front of the poster outside the venue. He then confessed to us that he had come all the way from Greece just to go to this gig, which we were obviously astounded by! While I am on the subject of the poster, I saw it and thought 'they won't be needing that after tonight, it'll make a nice poster and souvenir of the gig' and mentioned to my friend my intentions. Unbeknown to me, nearby was the woman who was working at the box office that night who chimed in 'No you won't'. I was very disappointed by this, and a little irritated at myself for screwing up. When I came out once the gig had finished, it was nowhere to be seen. The next day, I saw a picture of it on Karnivool's facebook page, which is fair that they, the performers should claim it.

We went in, and I deposited my bag in the cloakroom, while my friend kept his on. TesseracT started playing after around half an hour of waiting around.
I was a little skeptical about them, not because they are bad players at all, but they may not be able to reproduce their studio work in a live environment too well. I needed not worry. They managed to recreate their sound very well, with one or two minor faults that would be expected, even from the best performers and gear. One was the bass was a little much at times, but this also had benefits, as their music is very bass orientated and most frequencies they play with are in the low end. The second fault was the singing, which was pretty much impossible to avoid, even with their amazing vocalist. At points he altered the pitches of some of his highest notes, which was good as it kept the quality of singing, and also is understandable, given that most likely, 9/10 people wouldn't even be able get anywhere as high as his mid-high range.
They played through quite a lot of their new album, but also played one or two songs from their EP Concealing Fate, which is a 36 minute EP which is essentially made up of one song, split up into 6 tracks. The tracks they decided to play were ones that involved harsh vocals, which Ashe managed to pull off very well, at one point swapping from harsh vocals to his perfect clean voice mid sentence. This ease with which he managed this left me momentarily gobsmacked.

Here are a few shoddy pictures I took during their set:

We waited for around 20 minutes before Karnivool's started their set. They mostly played songs from their new album, and the one before that. This was good in my mind, as I think their second album is the best they have produced to date. Their set was a little different to TesseracT's, as they had a mix of a heavier and softer songs, whereas TesseracT mostly played their heavy songs. The fact that Karnivool are closer to rock than TesseracT probably contributes to this difference.
Int their lineup they had two guitarists. In some songs, often the softer ones, the rhythm guitarist would switch roles and play a small synth off to the side of the stage. Their frontman, Ian, was also an interesting character, as during parts where he was not singing, he would dance oddly. However not in the way that you would look at him and think "well he has a bit of an ego", but instead livening the stage up without embarassing himself and looking like a tool. Their drummer was very energetic in his playing. This was not noticable by the sound as it was obviously mastered by the sound engineer, but you could visually see it in his playing.
One thing irritated me during their set; a single member of the crowd who for the entire time jumped about and generally got in the way of people. This would have been fine, had it been a moshing type gig, but the crowd was generally static, so he was pretty much being an annoying prick. The fact that he was tall did not help either..
There was this, but also inbetween songs he would also yell out things like "We love you Karnivool". Over all, he just seemed like an over the top fan of Karnivool, and could be considered a poser.

Here are a few photos I took during their set:

After the gig finished, I had a brief look at the merch stand. There were some nice shirts there, but I decided that it wasn't worth spending £15 on. This was a lucky decision as I didn't have £15; a ten pound note had fallen out of my pocket when I took my phone out.
Despite losing this money, the gig was well worth the £30 it cost me, including travel and a lost £10 note.
I got a lift back home with my dad, and as there weren't any trains running, I gave my friend a lift. We took him to Southampton, and he got a bus service that replaced the train. I arrived home at around one in the morning, which wasn't too late as I usually go to sleep around that time. It was pretty much a standard college day the next morning. Not so much for my friend who skipped the day because he was so tired.

This was a brilliant gig and i'd happily see either of them again live.
Next, (and sadly last!) on my gig list is Lamb of God and Decapitated in January.

TesseracT setlist: Of Matter - Proxy/Of Matter - Retrospect/Concealing Fate Part 2: Deception/Concealing Fate Part 3: The Impossible/Of Energy - Singularity/Of Mind - Nocturne/April/Concealing Fate Part 1: Acceptance

Karnivool setlist:
The Last Few/A.M. War/Themata/Goliath/Simple Boy/Eidolon/All I Know/Sky Machine/We Are/The Refusal/Set Fire to the Hive/Aeons

To counter the lack of planned gigs in 2014, I am planning on grabbing a bunch of friends and going to Bloodstock, a UK based 3 day metal festival in August! Which is also ridiculously cheap (£122 early bird ticket, including camping!).