Live Review: The Mark Of Cain & Black Level Embassy

19 March 2013 | 1:17 pm | James O’Toole

Tonight’s show is a triumphant and long overdue return.

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Local openers Blacklevel Embassy warm up the sparse early crowd with their angular, spartan riffs and do a good job, deserving a bigger audience. As usual they put on a lively, aggressive performance and their sound definitely fits the bill.

It's been a long time since The Mark Of Cain have played in Melbourne, and half an hour before their set the Hi-Fi is surprisingly only half full. Fortunately the crowd swells dramatically moments before they start, and by the time the Scott brothers take the stage with drummer Eli Green the place is packed and they receive a fanatical reception. Before they open with First Time, John Scott sincerely thanks us all for coming, as there aren't many bands that can get away with such a long layoff and expect to pick up right where they left off.

The mix is thunderous and clear right off the mark, John Scott's guitar slicing through like razor wire. Kim Scott is a rock, bass slung low and feet planted wide in his usual stance, unmoving and impassive as he churns out basslines that anchor the songs with steely definition. Eli Green soon proves himself a worthy stand-in for John Stanier, and even plays with a very similar posture and action. The trio lock in well together and we're treated to killer performances of many old favourites including Sleep, The Contender, Interloper and Tell Me, interspersed with new material like the powerful Separatist and '80s-influenced Heart Of Stone.

There's not a dull moment in the 80-minute set and every song is delivered with raw, no bullshit intensity and power. During the encore, The Mark Of Cain really ram home just how good they are with a trio of their strongest songs. Battlesick is amazing, the repetitive and hypnotic droning bass propelling the song as John Scott spits out the lyrics and Green smacks the hell out of his kit. LMA is both compelling and melancholy, and a scorching rendition of Point Man provides an awesome end to the show. The claustrophobic feel, pulverising bass, pure aggression and tortured lyrics make it a high point and an unbeatable way to finish. When John Scott belts out a heartfelt “Alone is the only way to be!” everyone screams it with him, and you get the sense the words carry significant weight after the chaos and upheaval in his personal life.

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Tonight's show is a triumphant and long overdue return. According to recent interviews, John Scott is now devoting himself more fully to music, and when The Mark Of Cain still sound this good, hopefully that means we'll be seeing a lot more of them.