Easily making my way to the Corner Hotel, the footy fan-less ghost town that was Richmond on this Saturday night was less in my mind than the fact that I was about to review a full show of progressive metal. Words (and emotions through words) are my thing and my forte, and here I was deliberately throwing myself into unknown territory like an idiot. I blame Polyphia for this, and the genre line crossing infectiousness of “G.O.A.T.” and a subsequent unrelenting desire to see this go down live. Getting to see Intervals and I Built The Sky was icing on this tasty cake.
All of the above is my disclaimer of newbieness as well as a summary of my state of nervousness going into this evening of music. Instead of my usual approach of writing down song lyrics to look up later if I didn’t know a song, I was equipped with Shazam and ready to go. No worries, man. She’ll be right!
Though the first band presented as a Melbourne three piece, I later learned that I Built The Sky is the solo project of Rohan Stevenson who brings his music to life on stage with the help of friends. After an ethereal introduction, I Built The Sky launched into a punching opening track. This flowed into a piercing and provoking second track with slick pace, a vibe of determination, and slamming choruses (are they still called ‘choruses’?). A sweet build-up courtesy of handclapping and Rohan’s work on guitar was an impressive tease leading into something. The ‘something’ turned out to be an expansive sense of openness and height easily sweeping us away.
By the time we were at the third song and its kaleidoscopic riffs sweeping over a thick Corner Hotel bandroom crowd, we’d not heard a word spoken by I Built The Sky. I wondered if this was a thing for this genre, because I couldn’t see a microphone. With plunging and angular riff features and amped up intensity from all on stage, the crowd were really getting into it, including one comedian who shouted out “I love the vocalist!” (hahaha).
Shazam was basically useless and returned no results at all (the entire night!). I resigned myself to not knowing what was going on, song wise, and just soaked up this feast of rhythmic experimentation bolstered by assertive stuttering riffs, all combining to create something far fuller than what I’d expect of three people. The effect was both gorgeous as well as piercing, and rich with hope-filled moments of satisfaction that felt warm and celebratory.
We did get to hear Rohan speak; expressing thanks and also sharing with us that Jerome Lematua (of The Omnific) was filling in for them on drums. As the set came to a close, there were drops into heaviness, with spiraling riffs and plunging complexity that came across as rainbow coloured mosh intentions. All of us let out ‘wow’s or ‘woo!’s when the breadth of sound was narrowed down to focus on hot riffs, reinforcing how songs can still pack an emotive punch that’s collectively felt without needing to rely on words.
Polyphia were next on stage, and kicked off with instant hype courtesy of a “G.O.A.T.” teaser, before playing the song in full. As stunning as I had hoped it would be, “G.O.A.T.” was a huge tone-setter for what the Texas four piece were about to bring, despite it all unfolding on a gloomily lit stage. Bassist Clay Gober was Polyphia’s frontman, asking for more lights (“because I can’t see shit”) and easily working the crowd to bring more of an entertainment vibe than the previous set.
Invited into their music, we watched Polyphia sway between fierce focus upon their individual instruments (due to their dreamy complexity) and offering up a relaxed stage presence including Clay headbanging; all but demanding us to get into it too. In between songs we were asked by Clay to “turn it up from 4 to 7”. There was no shyness here.
“Someone crowd surf up here and give me a kiss on the mouth, I’m fuckin’ begging you.” – Clay Gober, Polyphia
At times bouncing and more colourfully funky, strong guitar lines led Polyphia’s sonic flight, with trips up and down scales that were full of life. This is energising and grooving music that was fascinating to take in. Though we were being asked to mosh, many of Polyphia’s songs suited more of a contemplative approach, feeling pensive and circular; riffs going round and round like a cyclone featuring Clay Aeschliman’s rhythmic experimentation on drums, before more delicate riffage was offered up.
We may not have instantly moshed, but we bounced, jumped, and danced. A black bra was thrown onto the stage, which was hung from Tim Henson’s guitar. Polyphia make beautifully painted instrumentation, and their sasstastic frontman was a pro at drawing our attention to song sections that kick. If Shazam wasn’t a piece of shit, I could tell you which specific song it was that I wrote about in my notes, saying “This song is nuts. A spiraling whirlwind of awesomeness.”
For a band whose members were often head down and focused upon their complex instrumentation, there was a LOT of crowd engagement offered up, with good vibes all round. I’d love to see some metalcore bands I know emulate this same connection with their audiences, instead of an impression that we could be there or not there and it would make no difference. For Polyphia, it was clear that it was as good of a time for them as well as us, and Clay’s “fuck yeah!” verbalisations summed up how we were all feeling.
While the set started with punchy hype vibes, it rounded out nicely into feelgood warmth. Flowing from end to end courtesy of backing tracks and drumming, the set shone a light upon tight rhythms of a band that work impeccably well together. As well as insane climbing riffs that felt sharp and compounding, there were magic moments of unison between Tim and Scott LePage. Our love for Polyphia was well and truly received, with Clay affectionately referring to it as “some fucked up shit” that they were 24 hours away from home, on their first tour of Australia, and being received so well.
As with I Built The Sky, Intervals are presently the solo project of Canadian guitarist Aaron Marshall, with touring musicians making up the four piece that we see on stage. Sounding far more traditional than the previous set, Intervals offered a strong start but not necessarily a crowd grabbing one. Yet. It was when their first song tumbled into a light and floaty downward suspension that they really hit their stride. This carefully crafted moment was emotionally striking.
With a far more easy vibe to their stage presence and banter (as opposed to the assertive hype of Polyphia), Aaron shared that it had been two years since the last Intervals show in Australia, with the project just having come off a tour in Asia. We were then pulled into the bouncing grooves interspersed with moments of tight rhythms, delicate noodling, mixed in with bass grooves and slamming riff repetition. It all made for an intricate and engaging sound along with chime/synth on the backing.
Despite the challenging technical guitar work, Intervals made it look easy, and that same chilled vibe persisted through the entire set. Crashing drum intensity bolstered the rhythmic sonic painting, and my feeling was that the music is unapologetically standing alone in drawing our enthusiasm. Though I found Polyphia more engaging because of their drive and excitement, I could recognise the Intervals set as a showcase in professional majesty in contrast to Polyphia’s hot serving of X factor and confidence with their music.
Getting into fiercer territory, we heard a darker and heavier take on Intervals’ sound that soon dropped into a ride of aggressive complexity and plunging unison, with an emotional vibe of ‘what’s going on?’. Throwing out more addictive riffs and lightning fast melodic lines, we then surrendered into something more reflective and gorgeously smooth and warm.
“Melbourne, you’re just as I remember you: The most fun city in this fucking country.” – Aaron Marshall, Intervals
Though Intervals had some technical issues, it didn’t detract from their set. I fell for the magical key changes and time changes, the tension created with dense complexity, and what Aaron referred to as “OG shit”; it went hard and was driving and slick.
To my ears it felt like Intervals did the far ends of the spectrum best, where the middle range is more like the sweeping painting of landscapes compared to the intricate focus of gentle detail or boldness of intense heaviness. Harmonic pinches, drum intensity, and distorted guitar were really crowd pleasing, and felt like a more erratic take on their sound with a ‘clean chorus’ bursting through foggy darkness. We all seemed to come more alive with this specifically, even though the bouncing grooves were infectious.
With the chilled and easy vibe Intervals shared otherwise, it was a combination of people closing their eyes and losing themselves in it, or jumping along with each cymbal crash. It was also a pleasure to watch the musicians’ facial expressions and movements, showing how happy they were to be here, as well as how much they were into their music. “Feeling way too comfortable”, Aaron talked up the food, coffee, and “attractive people” of Melbourne, before saying that they had one last song; inspiring groans of disappointment, but then cheers of joy when we were told it was “Libra”.
Though I went into this show relatively blind and unfamiliar, I walked away feeling very ‘full’ from these impressive bands and what they brought to the stage. If you can catch the tour before it ends on Monday night, do it! More details: http://www.destroyalllines.com/tour/intervals-polyphia/