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Live Review: The Contortionist, Sikth, Alithia, Transience

4 May 2018 | 12:43 pm | Rod Whitfield

"The one and only slight disappointment of their set is the absence of this scribe's favourite track by The Contortionist: 'Relapse'."

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Melbourne's Transience are one of the 'go-to' bands when a big-time international progressive-rock or metal act comes to town and needs a support. And, why not? They're a hard-hitting, modern-prog-rock act with a big sound who write epic songs. The sound of the drums alone fill the big venue this night and, when the guitars and bass kick in, the sonic tsunami is in full effect. And howling over the top of it all is the huge voice of frontman Robert Cuzens. He certainly has a blood-curdling wail. This band isn't just a one-dimensional bunch of heavy hitters, they know how to create dynamics and atmosphere as well, and there is no monotony and no weak moments in their blistering, 30-minute set. It's like they are saying, 'To hell with the 7pm start on a school night, we're going to rip it up anyway.'

A sharp turn and an enormous step out into leftfield brings us to the idiosyncratic juggernaut that is AlithiA. This band never fail to blow audience minds with their enigmatic and chaotic stage performance, and the energy flowing from them for their 'leave nothing behind' 30-minute set is like a wash of electricity rolling over the crowd. There is always so much going on during an AlithiA set, musically and visually, that it's difficult to know where to look or what to listen out for. It's a symphony of chaos, although it somehow always manages to hold itself together.

While both bands fall into the broad progressive-music subgenre, the contrast between the two local supports could not be greater, which is enjoyable. And now it's time for the international co-headliners.

One of Britain's finest-ever, heavy-progressive exports Sikth formed way back in 1999, but have never made it out to our shores. Until now. As if in celebration, the three-piece with twin-barrelled vocals veritably explode onto the stage with an energy that is both palpable and unique.

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That said, the Max Watt's crowd is possibly just a smidgeon tentative for the first few tunes of their set, possibly not knowing quite what to expect from this band during their maiden journey here. However, the band slowly but surely win us over completely, and by mid-set they have 800-odd people eating out of their hands. Their career-spanning set is about as intense a musical experience as can be imagined, to the point where it almost becomes too much. An hour of Sikth is just about perfect, any more and people's flesh may just start peeling from their bones.

Again, contrast is the MO for this evening's festivities. The Contortionist's more ambient approach is a very welcome respite from the insanity that preceded them, although the band is no less powerful. The band lean heavily on their most recent album Clairvoyant since, you guessed it, it is such a marked contrast from their previous, more brutal, works. In fact, it's almost a whole new band and the more open, atmospheric sounds featured on Clairvoyant work an absolute treat in a live setting. And the crowd respond with a hero's welcome.

An hour-long set proper, plus a lengthy encore of part one and two of the title track from 2014's Language album (Language I: Intuition and Language II: Conspire), and the one and only slight disappointment of their set is the absence of this scribe's favourite track, Relapse. You can't please all the people all of the time, however, and tonight's show is still immensely satisfying.

Please let these two Northern Hemisphere progressive-music leviathans return to our shores!