Live Review: Karnivool, Sleep Talk @ Northcote Theatre, Melbourne

30 May 2024 | 11:41 am | Rod Whitfield

The crowd is full of vim and vigour this night, ravenous for Karnivool’s music and presence.


Karnivool (Credit: Kane Hibberd)

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It’s somewhat surprising to see Karnivool choose such a heavy band to support them on their ‘Tri-Continental Drift’ tour. But Adelaide heavy hitters Sleep Talk bravely take the stage dead on 8:15 pm and proceed to bludgeon the already packed house for the next 45 minutes, no doubt picking up quite a few new fans in the process. This five-piece has been around for a while, but this tour presents them with a wonderful opportunity to strut their stuff in front of some excellent crowds in some great venues across the nation. 

And strut their stuff they do, starting out slow, dredgy, and doomy and building momentum nicely. Their sound could best be described as groove-based hardcore/post-hardcore, with warped rhythms and dissonant riffage punctuated by the occasional thrashier element. Aside from the odd moment of pull-back dynamics and more intricate playing, the music is relentless, joyously unsubtle, and possessed of a real heft. Walls of gritty guitars assault the audience while Jacob Clement’s throat-ripping voice screams like a demonic banshee over the top. Again, it’s a minor surprise but a very welcome one. 

After 45 minutes of this onslaught, 1200-odd people are more than ready for the main event. 

Perth’s almighty Karnivool formed the best part of a quarter of a century ago. Their all-time classic debut album, Themata, came out 20 years ago next year. They are more than a decade out from their last studio album. Have they still got ‘it’? Let’s examine that question in the context of their 2024 tour, shall we?

Opening with virtually the only piece of new music we’ve had from them in the last decade, 2021’s (thus far) standalone single All It Takes, the ‘Vool explode onto the Northcote Theatre stage for the next 90+ minutes. They scintillate the capacity crowd with a set that pulls tracks from all three of their studio albums, including monumental crowd-pleasers such as the complex powerhouse Goliath, C.O.T.E (which some notate as ‘G.O.A.T), the cathartic Themata, the swoon of Simple Boy, the dark brood of We Are, and closing with a rousing version of the beautiful, subtly powerful New Day

The crowd is full of vim and vigour this night, ravenous for Karnivool’s music and presence, howling virtually every lyric of every song and growing increasingly rowdy across the course of the band’s set. 

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And the band members react and feed off the crowd’s energy in kind: the two guitars and bass intertwine beautifully as they do in this band’s music, drummer Steve Judd is ever the muscular ball of perpetual motion, and vocalist Ian Kenny does vocalist Ian Kenny stuff, that is, swagger good-naturedly around the stage as one of the most enigmatic, effervescent and ethereal frontmen in rock music. 

The only minor disappointment is the absence of All I Know and Shutterspeed. But when a band has so damn many quality tunes, some favourites will always have to be left out. 

So, have they still got it? They’ve still absolutely got it and then some. And then some more. In fact, they are ageing like a magnificent Margaret River red. 

It is a heavy testament to this band’s quality, aura and appeal that, even after such sparse output, they can still sell out two nights in a big room in Melbourne and, more importantly, be loved, admired and worshipped in this way by a room choc-full of rock-loving punters. 

It’s fantastic that this band bobs their head up on occasion to let us all know they’re still alive. Hopefully, some new music isn’t too far away…