Live Review: Mammal, Rifleman, Figures

24 December 2017 | 4:12 pm | Rod Whitfield

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Christmas is nigh, what a great time to celebrate Aussie rock and the comeback of a much-loved Melbourne favourite. Mammal have some wonderful Christmassy delights in their Santa sack coming for us tonight, but first up is the enormous wall of sound that is local five-piece Figures.

The kick drum is punchier than punchy, the guitars are blazing like a roaring Aussie bushfire in mid-summer and soaring and howling over the top of this cohesive din is the wondrous voice of singer Mark Tronson. His voice is so fine, it even rates an admiring mention from the illustrious DW Norton, frontman of the next band, Rifleman.

Figures’ sound is equal parts pounding alt-rock heaviness, nuclear-strength groove and soaring, cathartic melody, and their 30-minute set is a (Christmas) gift, opening the night in celebratory style. Highlights are their hammering cover of Bjork’s Army Of Me (which they pull off with aplomb), newer, heavier track Recoil and their best song, Emoticonic, which juxtaposes their heavy and melodic selves to its most devastating effect.

Rifleman is the solo project for the aforementioned DW Norton, main man for the legendary Melbourne heavy act Superheist, and this is among this project’s first ever live shows. You wouldn’t know it though. Norton, on lead guitar and vocals, is a wily, street-swaggering veteran of the scene to whom playing live is as natural as breathing, and the band he has put around himself are highly skilled and creative operators. Don’t be expecting anything even resembling his main act, however, he has stepped way out into left-field for this project. The sound is more straight-ahead rock, with a slightly melancholy tone to it and more than a few hints of classic Aussie rock from the '80s.

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Rifleman’s set this night consists of a bunch of excellent tracks from their recently released debut album Silver And Gold, some sarcastic jibes about flat-earthers and a superb, uplifting cover of INXS’s Don’t Change, which rounds out the set beautifully.

The members of Mammal, and particularly frontman Ezekiel Ox, are in an even more festive mood than usual tonight, and they absolutely set the Corner alight with a blistering set of their classic tunes, plus a teasing glimpse of the new material they are working on. The Real Thing sounds like stomping, thumping Mammalian goodness, and anticipation for their new album, hopefully dropping sometime next year, rises to yet another level.

It’s quite amazing how a band like this can go on hiatus for seven to eight years, come back, snap their fingers and fill venues like Max Watt's and the Corner. Fill them with ravenous Mammal fans who know every word to every iconic song and are only too willing howl their appreciation for Ox’s completely over the top and highly entertaining histrionics and the band’s scintillating live performance.

Their 80-minute set this night is chock-full of iconic Mammal tunes, a burst into a very Mammal-fied version of Jingle Bells, blistering guitar work from six-stringer Pete Williamson and the freight-train propulsiveness of the rhythm section, made up of bassist Nick Adams and drumming dynamo Zane Rosanoski, who is resembling a compact version of The Rock more every day.

This band embodies the revolutionary and extroverted spirit of rock'n'roll, and we are so are so lucky to have them back. What a stupendous way to bring in the silly season!