Periphery w/ Crossfaith at The Esplanade Hotel Gershwin Room, Melbourne - 25/02/13

On the first day of Soundwave Mr. AJ gave to me, djents at a thousand dB...

Melbourne trudged along to Monday, feet grudgingly shuffling toward metal’s coveted prize, the Soundwave Festival four more working days hence. The skies were painted grey, rendering them unfilterable via Instagram, the image capture device of choice for inhabitants of St. Kilda, one of Melbourne’s semi-autonomous hipster regions. Ideally resting on the pristine foreshore, its usually picturesque vista of sun shimmering upon water, leisurely uni students wearing fedoras and peter-pan collar dresses threatened ads for cider or reasonably priced compact cars to be shot there virtually any second and without warning. Fortunately for us, the annual descent of the metalheads kept any coke-bottle bespectacled “creatives” with clunky dSLR necklaces at bay.

For most local bands, the Esplanade Hotel’s Gershwin Room signifies success. Decorated like a palatial drawing room in the gilded age of European kings and princes abandoned to rock n’ roll hounds, its stage is reserved for punters who pay good money to see the act. Bands no longer fight boozy conversation and belly laughs for attention. If you’re set upon the stage at the Gershwin, you can see the whites of eyes being trained on your every move.  Lucky there’s a bar adorned with horns of mutated elks to take the edge off…

Fatigue aided by a stymieing humidity sapped our energy quicker than playing 3D games over 4G with your iPhone. (I’m down with the lingo, son.) So enter our effortlessly hip cyber-metallers from Japan, Crossfaith. If the survival horror torture-porn film Battle Royale had  an electronically augmented heavy metal band to live score a competition in which school children blew themselves up for the amusement of a savage populace, Crossfaith would probably be it. Sprinting on to stage, they immediately let slip the hounds of war; vocalist Koie Kenta seen moshing violently as he towered above us in Jesus Christ pose, mounted atop stage monitors while dubstep wubbly ends free fell around him. It was like a robot revolt turned violent. I’m sure this is what it sounds like when the Chinese try to hack into the Pentagon and they’re routed by invulnerable legions of CIA turbonerds. Along their mere 45 minute set Crossfaith fired off a perfect fission of junglist rhythms and serrated metal riffs, cutting its way through the densely packed Gershwin.

Though most of us dripped with sweat simply looking at them, none of their faces glistened with even a light varnish of perspiration. Koie invited us to come a little closer, the language barrier giving us numerous pauses for clarity, the forces called for a digital retreat – 1s reverted to 0s. Koie politely bid us “arigato kudesai.” Lights cut out. Round Two – FIGHT! Music for underground fight clubbing is what we got, brutalized with a cover of The Prodigy’s Omen, the raison d’etre of Crossfaith performed with intimate precision. The air rained thick with unsubtle double kick slams, so tightly the excitement had grabbed hold of us.

When Koie screamed for us to scream along with him, we obliged. The band was only immobile for nanoseconds at a time. Keyboardist Tamano, dressed in red biker jacket enlisted himself as on-point hype man for Koie, leapt onto his electronic assault factory and screamed into the lighting rig flanked Koie tearing strips from his larynx in unison. Bassist Ikegawa Hiroki snapped his mop-shaggy head to their re-interpreted cyborg anthem, awash in brassy synths crashed down from outer space.

Launching the Leviathan, Koie had us kneel down only to explode skyward – giant white balloons bopping over swelling moshers’ heads.  Koie appropriated every pre-fab mayhem inducer in the book – walls of death, circle pits, commands to “scream for me” and crowd surfing which would tear lesser bands limb from limb. Greenhorns in both stagecraft and musicianship could never hope to get away with it – Crossfaith’s almost scientifically formulated crowd pleasing left indelible impressions on the minds of punters thinking they were simply there for Periphery. Word from Sydney and Brisbane indeed spread. “They sound like…like…” one transfixed onlooker absently asked himself, at a loss for words. Inhumane fusillades of sounds salvaged from the beige innards of 80s game consoles singed dirty grooves, surging choruses heralding their final battle charge. With a shout of gratitude and hands cupped in the shape of a heart, Crossfaith departed to a hail of cheers and upthrust horns.

Periphery, much like Crossfaith, left little to chance. Their sound man was imported along with much of their own sonic equipment. Probes and wires branded with their concentric P logo could be found on light fixtures and archways. As drums and amps were wheeled into position, everyone heralded the silhouette of Misha Mansoor, chanting for him as he separated an armful of leads. He stopped for a quick chat, blowing kisses to the squashed fans out of earshot. A few fans approached some Asian gentlemen who politely informed them no, they weren’t in Crossfaith. A friend did little to bandage up his faux pas. “The guy was Korean, anyway…” as facepalms fell on cue.

Heat rose from the necks of fans packed tightly and it could be felt with each drawn breath. More Periphery djentlemen and djladies jostled for position, shunting through those who just didn’t want their prime view bad enough. But that didn’t much matter. They piled in even as Baltimore’s finest grunting, headcracking new/old sound space invaded everything down to the molecular level.

Usually, I fucking hate bands which pride themselves on technicality and little else. Not in a “how dare you play better than I” sea-green way. More a “fuck me dead I paid a billion dollars to see this soporific bullshit” irritating kind of way. I can understand it’s difficult to realize a presence on stage when one is performing complex, knotty tracks such as these. But the hype is justified. They can! Praise Dio above, they actually can!

Quiff-hawk bedecked vocalist Spencer Sotelo hit tenor notes clear out of the room, presumably hitting the end of the corridor and sliding down to their deaths. The fingers of a mortal would cramp up and self-amputate by the end of belter Ragnarok – Misha’s digits raced across the fretboard. Now, later, always. Misha was bathed in the cool alabaster light of mobile phone flash bulbs when he djented it up a notch. The attention was duly warranted. He could crash straight into fellow guitarist Mark, flip him off, kiss his profane blessing and not miss a note. The entire love affair was interrupted by crowd surfers toppling over a molten moshpit. Those who had enough stumbled back toward the bar, their T-shirts sodden with other people’s sweat. I almost felt bassist Adam glared at them with sinister intent as they slinked off.

Jazz fusion’s telescopic gaze set squarely at Planet Navel was smacked out of alignment by these djents, playfully tearing up decades old rulebooks and hurling them back at a fast fading clutch of fedora clad wankers, taunting them with flair, faculty and record deals. Only the US of A could market to both callus-fingered guitar geeks and bros with anonymous metalcore band of the month singlets to show off their real meaningful tattoos. If Portnoy left Dream Theater for the cash, he ought to have sent Periphery a Twitter direct message from minute one. If this is the birth of new prog, then consider this my hearty “mazel tov.” I’ll barely shed a tear as we wheel the old guard into the retirement home.

Quoth Spencer: “For the first time in history the crowd is clapping in fucking time!” along with Scarlette, which gave some aspirant air drummers a brief false confidence until Matt Halpern worked himself up into a frenzy. Spencer’s flow effortlessly between clean and death vocals contrasted with the band’s dime-tight turns on dreamy, smooth rhythms as backdrop for sublime riff constructions and passionate guitar lovemaking. Grins were plastered on faces as Spence, Misha and co. carried the faithful away on their soundscapes. Whoops and hollers were almost involuntary, unconscious. Misha played on as if to awaken his third eye, so immersed by a state of blissful union with axe in hand. Then coming out of the trance, Spence reminded us of Crossfaith. “The most energy I’ve seen on stage since Motley Crue (a scattering of approval.) Shit was intense.”

Palm Mute shook the floor beneath, and saw Spencer breaking into some Red Hot Chili Peppers amid the sonic devastation. A fiddly little Icarus Lives! and boom – they were thanking us and waving goodbye. After what, 45 minutes? Surely they were taking the piss.
Well, obviously they were taking the piss.

Ripped from the sublime playbook of Pain of Salvation in minute quantities and buried under giant iron-wrought riffs Spence commanded us to “tear some shit up,” which was met with hoarse approval. Finale Race Car felt so solid it probably had its own gravity. As giant slabs of guitar crashed to the ground, claps of hands. Plinking guitar leads heralded mere chaos. A plunge back into the quicksilver of jazz fusion, sultry grooves. Down the rabbit hole we fell again, peevishly slithering guitar lines foisting notes upon impossible notes stacked Jenga like on one another. The entire set blasted apart almost every tricky style imaginable to reconstruct it into their tentacled freak baby. “These be no men,” a certain peg-leg sea dog would crabbily remark, “These be some metal makin’ machines.”

Aye, no arguments there, Cap’n.