The sun makes mockery of all the black shirts as the most devoted punters beat the shadows to catch the local bands on early – at Progfest’s third and final instalment of 2019 – at Brisbane's The Valley Drive In (28 January).
Sum Of Us keep it tight in the bright sunlight adjacent to The Brightside as Mass Sky Raid, from the Gold Coast, in the milder but stifling conditions indoors are smashing through the air toward the sound barrier, leaving their drummer almost liquefied.
Local lads Opus Of A Machine show us how they’re put together, a degustation of melodic pop morsels amid a prog-rock main course. Dale (bass) wants it noted that he’s really good at falling over, too. “This is a new banger, it’s the last track off the new album… and it’s got some f...ing riffs.” 'Riffs' softly echoes the only-partly shaded carpark of punters.
Flynn Effect (formerly Brisbane now Melbourne based) are inside to demonstrate genetic intelligence advancement through the ages and technology of see-through guitars. Tomina’s voice is on-point today, especially during their single ‘Believer’, from their 2018 album ‘Monument’.
Kodiak Empire - image © Ophelia Symons
Kodiak Empire milk the progressive as much as they can from the metal, while Aerials are graceful in their craft of beat interspersion.
James Norbert Ivanyi’s trio lay out a divine landscape of unassuming, vast canyons of purposely meandering metal, a roadmap for introspection and revelation. Ivanyi’s touring drummer, Liam, looks like he’s fresh out of school but it’s him giving the lessons this afternoon, holding the syllabus together.
Meanwhile the ferocious beast of a bass player (also called Liam) and most sun-burnable of the three is almost spontaneously combusting with both blistering licks and UV exposure at once, but survived the sun hell. He and James are heading into seclusion to construct their new offering soon.
Chaos Divine tear through their set, including a cover of Toto’s everlasting nugget ‘Africa’. The screaming from beneath David Anderton’s mane is epic. When the clean singing starts, I look up to see who’s on the mic and it’s the SAME DUDE... divine diversity, from crisp to chaotic. Please sir, can I have some more?
Circles - image © Ophelia Symons
Circles, you fabulous lads you. Watching this Melbourne crew is like watching Gang Of Youths while listening to The Getaway Plan’s lovechild with Disturbed.
Five guys on the concrete below try to be a circle pit, then before the next song the bass player/ screamer Nguyen (who likes potatoes btw) silently but firmly gestures for us to part and build the pit properly. Ted's (lead guitar) harmonies with Ben are spectacular, vocally and on the strings.
Skyharbor’s hardcore flavour mixes up the line-up nicely, splicing smooth and digestible cosmic crumbs with crushing rhythms.
UK stalwarts Monuments are, well, monolithic. Even having to perform without their singer they bring us Stonehenge in an ancient and timeless interpretative dance of thick riffs and dreadlocks. A gentle rain sporadically falls, as if the very heavens endorse the moment when Ben and Nguyen from Circles guest on vocals in fine form.
Monuments - image © Ophelia Symons
Sometime late in their set, Adam, the dragon on bass, asks “are you ready for something heavy?” Forgive us father, we thought that was your heavy end already… :-o
Then they roll out 'Empty Vessels Make The Most Noise' and the whole universe is vibrating like the belly of the whale.
Staggering back into The Brightside, looking at the programme one might ask “who the proggy hell are Toehider?” Three guys you’d expect to see at any BBQ, anywhere in the country, adorn the stage as the absolute surprise jewels of the evening.
Operatic, three-part harmonies caress the earplugs, the progressions and mixups and orchestral movements done live with just Michael and his two minions. Though looking at them you may expect to hear something like 'meaty baked beans come out of these cans', but it’s a gourmet terrine with rosemary jus, as if three Howard Jones’ are there and fourteen other players.
Toehider - image © Ophelia Symons
There was a delicateness here as well as the thrashing. Liam, bass player and co-writer with Ivanyi, turns sideways and says: “I actually can’t believe how good these guys are. There is not a weak link in this band.” Indeed, one cannot judge a progger by his flanno or band shirt. Move over The Darkness, you’ve been outshone.
Adding further intrigue to this, the music of Mike Mills (which incorporates the illustrations of Andrew Saltmarsh), is a track called ‘How Do Ghosts Work?’, which is appropriately cryptic. “Oh,” it said, “I’m not anything, I’m not even here, it’s all you in there. It’s on you…” (Guys, is that a helicopter in the recording?).
Then came The Ocean, all the way from Germany, storming through the carpark outside. They perfectly summarised the events of the day, touching on the weighted depths and crystalline breezes of prog metal.
Loic Rossetti, out front on the mic, embodied the groaning of the Phanerozoic era that lends its name to their current release, while he surfed the crowd in the softly falling rain.
The Ocean - image © Ophelia Symons
It’s the tenth year since Progfest started and the second time in Brisbane since its reinvention. Organiser Eli Chamravi (Wild Thing Presents) is stoked about the turnout at what is now an internationally recognised event with Caligula’s Horse, Dead Letter Circus and Karnivool’s producer among the attendees.
What began as a super-underground project is now an important weekend on the calendar that serves to introduce people to local talent and helps big bands connect with those up and coming bands too.
We couldn’t agree more – it was a spectacular day, the crowd was incredibly well-behaved as you expect from the metal scene, and we can’t wait for 2020.