Saturday 11 April 2015

Live Review: Karnivool / Monuments @ The Ritz, Manchester, UK. 24th March 2015

With no album to support, Karnivool arrive on these shores for their biggest UK dates of their career based on the sheer weight of their prowess. In prog rock circles, the respect they have garnished over the years is palpable, with 2013’s ‘Asymmetry’s’ stomping a heavy boot on the accelerator of their momentum. In more out-and-out rock circles too, the band’s infectious melodicism and musical craftsmanship has won them yet more adoring fans. If that wasn’t clear before ‘New Day’ was belted out tonight by the crowd and band in symphonic unison, literally electrifying the room, ripples waving on top of your pint, then it’s abundantly clear now.   

The band, Monuments lead the charge, the British progressive band the epitome of what modern, technologically pristine metal has become. They’re set is all 7 string djent riffs that spit out from John Browne and Olly Steele’s fretboards like gunfire, underpinned by manic, jittery drums. A cool and collected figure, bassist Adam Swan locks tightly into Mike Maylan’s scattershot drum work, coiling around polyrhythms like a snake around a tree and consequently ramping up the band’s groove tenfold. It all gives vocalist Chris Barretto the perfectly eccentric canvas for his empowered vocals and lyrics to bleed right on to. ‘I, The Creator’ is a highlight, with contorting riffs and rhythms resting comfortably alongside low, more soulful dynamic passages. But the defining moments in the band’s set come when Barretto flexes his impressive saxophone skills, providing an additional and wholly more unique texture to their already flavoursome sound.

Karnivool follow, oozing class and sweat in balanced amounts. What separates these two bands here is simply a matter of Karnivool, a much more experienced and established act, having that something special. Monuments threw themselves around the stage, they went at it hammer and tong and while that certainly helped their performance, by contrast, the Australians go on with an almost effortless beginning, yet it ensnares you all the same. ‘C.O.T.E’ demolishes the opening few minutes of their set, eyes watching on fixedly above agape mouths, it’s like they don’t even have to try to melt the hearts of the crowd tonight, but they do and do it so damn well.

Ian Kenny is almost statuesque at points throughout, towering from centre stage with little movement, but you struggle to take your eyes off him regardless. Like a cross between Mike Patton and Maynard James Keenan, he gushes and gurns through a shivering ‘Shutterspeed’ and a grandiose ‘Themata,’ almost coming across like a sermon for the awestruck followers that stand before him.   

Things move chronologically, much to the delight of the crowd. ‘Sound Awake,’ understandably then, makes up the main body, with the powerful, spine-tingling ‘New Day’ the glittering ruby in their crown. ‘Goliath’ steamrolls out of the PA, an emphatic collaboration between snarling guitars and sweet tooth vocals before ‘Set Fire To The Hive’ enthrals with an incendiary passion.

It all flies by so quickly but you just can’t fault all that has unfolded on this chilly Tuesday evening. Karnivool are progressive rock masters and deserve the greatest of honours, the gravity to their presence is crushing. You leave the venue still feeling it and it follows you home; if that’s not the sign of a good band then I don’t know what is.

Words: Phil Weller