w/ Captain Sergeant Major & Opiate Sleeper
Friday 19 January 2018
Photos by Joseph James
Photos by Joseph James
w/ Hiboux and Into Orbit
San Fran, Wellington
Sunday 23 April 2017
When I was 18 I lived with the guitarist of Wellington hardcore band Declaration AD. Always up for adventures, I jumped at the chance when the band offered me the opportunity to come along with them on their first tour. I took a few days off work and we all drove up to Auckland and Hamilton in a hired van. The first night they played in Auckland at Zeal West. The following night they played a venue called Void in Hamilton.
I contacted a girl I used to work with who was then living in the nearby town of Cambridge. Turns out she was also going to be in Hamilton that night, and she wanted me to come watch some other bands with her and have a catch up.It was an obvious choice. I seldom saw my friend from Nelson, but could watch my flatmate’s band any weekend.
After helping to carry some speakers and amps into Void, I promptly ditched my mates to head to another venue. I don’t remember the name of the venue, but I do remember that it was below ground level. As I entered I was greeted by mesmerizing primal music of an instrumental trio. I liked them, but was confused to see that they had no singer. I was a fan of 65daysofstatic and maybeshewill at the time, but wasn’t yet aware of what post-rock was. Years later I made the connection that the hypnotic trio was in fact Jakob, who are now one of my favourite bands.
I met up with my friend and her boyfriend and we had a great night. The headliner was an Aussie prog-rock band called Butterfly Effect, which was fitting because my friend and I both shared a love for the similar sounding band Karnivool. That night was the first time I had ever had shots at a bar. Before then we had always sculled spirits at teenage house parties.
For some reason the Alcest show tonight had me thinking back to that night in Hamilton – probably because the lineup consisted of brilliant post-rock acts opening for equally awesome prog-rock.
Having recently reviewed albums from both the opening acts, Hiboux and Into Orbit, I was looking forward to seeing them again in a live setting.
Hiboux were just as great as when I saw them open for Tortoise, and I enjoyed watching them even more now that I knew their songs. As a relatively big band (five members), they know how to do effective layering, and they do it with finesse. Gentle picking, light flourishes on the cymbals, subtle build-ups. But they also know how to give it a nudge, with distortion and washy cymbals and plenty of energy. A great choice for the opening act.
Despite being a mere two-piece, Into Orbit were still able to command the stage as well as Hiboux. Drawing almost entirely from their latest album Unearthing, they performed a monstrous set. Guitarist Paul Stewart was doing a great Cousin It impression, hiding under a long mop of hair. The tones and noises he can elicit from his guitar are other-worldly. And I’ve always loved watching Ian Moir smashing away at the drums with such force and precision.
I found that with both bands, I had a newfound appreciation for the songs that I had reviewed. It was neat to notice how they played with the dials on the effects pedals, or added parts to craft the atmospheric music we had come to experience.
Ironically enough, it seemed that I was one of the few present who hadn’t come to see Alcest. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to see them – but I wasn’t actually familiar with their music. If anything, I came based on the recommendations of the support acts.
I had streamed some songs from Alcest’s latest album, Kodama a few times, but in truth was just hoping to be pleasantly surprised. And I was. In spades.
I had expected post-rock that sits on the heavier end of the spectrum. And that’s what I got… in a way… but the band also sat well within what I consider prog-rock.
For one, they had singing. Not something you often find in post-rock. But the singing was fantastic. Don’t ask me what they were singing about. I don’t speak French. But I do know that the singing and the harmonies were excellent.
And they were heavy like I expected, but at the same time had a sweetness to their sound. Serene picking and great vocals added a balance to their sound. I guess that the terms black metal and blackgaze used in their description had me expecting some unpleasant, but I was simply in love with their sound.
The four Frenchmen all sported long hair, and circulation-restricting skinny jeans. Frontman Neige had a bright white t-shirt and a peacock feather necklace around his neck, while the other three all wore obligatory dark colours. They clearly enjoyed their time performing, shyly offering thanks at times throughout the set with coy smiles. It was great to see their long hair whipping around as they grooved along to their own music.
And I can understand why they danced. It really rocked. It was like an arena metal gig, with brilliant guitar solos and pummeling double kick and infectious beats from the drums. I didn’t know any of the songs but I felt pulled to dance along to many of the songs. It me of some recent shows I’d attended like Caligula’s Horse and Opeth, and the aforementioned Butterfly Effect show from when I was a teenager.
All in all it was a fantastic night. Three incredibly talented bands putting on brilliant shows. I was surprised at how packed the venue was considering that it was late on a Sunday night, but after being blown away by Alcest’s set I can understand why.
w/ His Masters Voice
San Fran, Wellington
Friday 10th of February 2017
I feel guilty, but it has become common practice for me to start a gig off at San Fran standing on the deck outside. Beer in hand and inhaling the second-hand smoke from my fellow concert goers outside. I watch the passers-by and mix ambient sounds of Cuba street with the music coming from inside the venue. This time it was different. As I was conversing with my friend Jon we both suddenly stopped looked at each other with a blank stare. ‘Hey that sounds a bit like Sabbath‘ he says to me. ‘Or Zeppelin’ I replied with a heightened sense of curiosity.
Opening the door we move towards the stage with gusto. We are met by what His Masters Voice have come to dub The Devils Blues. A fitting title for their high-octane brand of music. As we stand in the center of the floor the sound surrounds us. A sound fronted by mournful wails reminiscent of the classic American soul. The crash of cymbals and driving bass with facial hair to match puts a giant smile on my face as the rhythm section are only a pair of cheap sunglasses away from ZZ Top’s legendary back row. Giving the rhythm just enough personal flair to give it a contemporary feel while staying true to the roots that took hold in the American South so long ago.
It is a hard-fought battle, but slowly the crowd is being beaten into submission. More and more pour through the gates. One by one they are summoned to the dance floor by shrieking guitars. Carrying just enough gravel and grit to stand toe to toe with any Metal band that is foolish enough to take the challenge laid out by His Masters Voice.
As the set comes to an end I was feeling a bit too giddy. Obviously, I needed a beer and the bartender is glad to serve us up a couple of pints of the golden nectar. He would soon come to regret his decision for in my overly excited state I felt compelled to convince him of just how good the show was. The look of terror on his face earns a sensible chuckle. I slowly back away and leave him in peace.
Not one to disappoint Into Orbit step onto the stage and get straight to work, introducing us to their new baby, Unearthing. San Fran’s hall is filled with thundering drums and meticulously layered guitar. Into Orbit must be close to the top of the list of loudest bands that I have seen. So much sound is produced by just two musicians. Paul Stewart on the ever looping and layered guitar and Ian Moir manning the battery. Drawing a decent crowd with their virtuosic Prog Metal sound I am taken once again into their world joined by their ever growing fan base here in Wellington. Their story is told by everything from soft-spoken guitar melodies to full on sludgy heavy metal riffs. Always building and releasing tension in the room.
A successful album release show, sadly (or not) overshadowed by a world-class performance by the opening band.
Wellington two-piece Into Orbit have been making waves over the past few years. Since debuting Caverns in 2014, the two have played shows all around the country alongside other brilliant acts, slowly building up their profile as a musical force to be reckoned with.
Unearthing is their second album. We’ve had tastes of what to expect with first two singles “Gilgamesh” and “Dark Matter”, so have known what to expect.
The Into Orbit I’m used to plays crushingly heavy atmospheric music. The sound seems too full to come from just two players, but they pull off these textures by using dense layering.
I see them as post-rock’s answer to Cairo Knife Fight. Paul Stewart lays down layers upon layers of guitar sounds to achieve complex aural textures. It’s hard to believe that waves of ambient wash, extraterrestrial squeals, filthy crunchy chugging riffs, droning distorted passages and sections of exact picking all come from just one man. Ian Moir batters the drums half to death, using his deft skills to pummel the skins into submission. Into Orbit prove that they are greater than the sum of their parts, providing soundscapes I would never thought possible coming from just two players.
‘Dark Matter’ sets the mood for the album. The guitar is played percussively by lightly banging the strings before another layer of swells are added. Repetitive drums comes in. This continues for a few bars THEN BAM! chugging riff-tastic goodness! Part drone, part metal, bordering on djent. It’s what we’ve come for!
Lead single and album closer ‘Gilgamesh‘ follows similar suit, with other-worldly guitar tones setting an ominous vibe before Moir’s busy drums contribute to the act of summoning God-knows-what to the altar of doom. It’s slower than ‘Dark Matter’, but just as heavy.
I’m not doing the music justice with these descriptions. It’s not all doom and gloom. For example, ‘Equilibrium’ offers us a peek at the lighter end of the spectrum. It’s the sound of hope rather than impending oblivion. . .well for the first few minutes anyway. Title track ‘Unearthing’, (which was previewed on the Hemispheres compilation a few weeks ago) starts in a similar way, with more focus on treble than distortion.
Buuuut, the heavy songs are just more fun. Moir is a demon who really knows how to dominate those drums. Stewart can command control over the full spectrum of sound with his six strings and many pedals, but nothing beats a good ol’ moshable breakdown.
Something that surprised me about Unearthing was the variety of emotions explored. I guess that I was just expecting an album’s worth of crushing instrumental metal along the lines of the first two singles. I was mistaken. Yes, Unearthing will generously offer you head banging opportunities, but the duo will also lead you down other aural avenues that are just as interesting.
The hard work, constant playing and hard promotion appears to have paid off. Into Orbit have already made a name for themselves, and Unearthing will only help to cement the two of them as players to take note of.
Into Orbit are raising money to pay for a vinyl pressing of Unearthing. If you would like to help them do this you can visit their Pledgemusic page to preorder the record. There are other options as well, like buying tshirts, and artwork.
Into Orbit are playing their Unearthing release show this Friday at San Fran, with support from His Masters Voice. At only $11 (booked online), you’d be foolish to miss it!
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/998743256935865/