Northcote – Melbourne’s capital of knot tops, satchels worn ironically, and op shops which cater to those with the fashion sense of Terrence the 87 year-old pensioner. The social club buzzes with excitement for tonight’s proceedings, which has been heralded as showcasing some of the country’s finest progressive metal, all of this coupled with a feeling electricity in the air from the moment you arrive at the venue to the pungent aroma of spliff and cheap beer. The crowd is awash with vintage band merch and guys with the flowing hair you’d expect to see in a Garnier commercial. Everyone looks forward to the creme de la creme headliner – Plini, whom many have regarded as evidence of the immense amount of mastery that can be accomplished with music behind closed doors. Based in Sydney, the guitarist has embarked on a very short tour indeed, with shows in just Sydney and Melbourne. With influences including Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Animals As Leaders, and TesseracT, it’s easy to see Plini has a taste for the experimental to say the least.
Teramaze launched straight into their set, delivering a solid introduction with every member displaying proficiency in their respective crafts, and immediately showing off their strong points, especially through the delivery of their harmonies. I was to some degree at odds in how they utilised the intimate setting. They clearly chose not to rely on showmanship, but rather allow their music to grasp the crowd and let that be the driving force behind the atmosphere created within a setting. While this is a quality I respect, the entire band nevertheless stiffly and awkwardly progressed throughout the majority of their performance, specifically with the vocalist clearly focusing primarily on retaining his high range. Yes that’s a silly nitpick, but you must acknowledge that there is some standard in how you perform in a physical sense – there’s proficiency and then there’s live image and there is a balance which should be addressed. A post-hardcore band could focus on physical performance, but still sound terrible, just like how a prog band will focus on proficiency and sound amazing, but still look like your little brother’s Green Day cover act at the Battle Of The Bands. Despite this one small negative outweighed by positives, they maintained a stellar performance despite some technical issues (“Does anyone have any double kick pedals?”), managing to throw themselves into an interim jam whilst awaiting for said interference to be resolved. Even said, this “interim jam” exhibits their sound – a sound so crisp and rich it’s almost astounding that this group only has the standard four members, where having never checked these guys out, I can assume that studio recordings have undoubtedly translated into their live performance. Their sound begins to almost seen reminiscent of a King Diamond record. Abigail Reborn perhaps. I’m scared. Finishing the set with ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’, wrapping all the best facets of their entire performance into a tight little package – vocal versatility, musical proficiency and those fucking harmonies Jesus Christ. The audience remains stoic but attentive throughout this performance, almost as if the men on stage are snake charmers that have captured them in a trance.
In summary, striking you with haunting melodies and harmonies that demand all of your focus, these guys demonstrate themselves to be a force to be reckoned with.
New Zealand based Heavy Metal Ninjas launched into their set like a forceful punch in the face from the Shaolin warrior himself. Heavy atmospheric synths overladen by guitar solos and breakdowns which both captivate and destroy, the kind that’ll make you shit your dacks and call yourself Susan. Their intensely heavy instrumentals sound almost like Korn and Animals As Leaders combined with a car accident. Their appearance could almost be a cheap gimmick and in some way they are, looking as if Enter The Ninja starred Meshuggah on steroids, but it works – their schtick and sheer presence does nothing but captivate, and we’re being held captive by captivation. There’s no need for them to even speak with, nor address the crowd – their intentions are clear and concise and we are without anything to stop this onslaught …. They shift through time changes with ease, like a surrealist car alarm throughout this half-hour onslaught. The versatility of their set and techniques leaves one gawking with wonder.
In summary these guys go far beyond a simplistic gimmick; they have taken command of this venue by force and have shown everyone something very special that could very well eclipse any other act, I’m still not certain.
Last on the bill is the man of the hour: Plini. I can’t even think of a witty or articulate comparison as I usually would when introducing an act. He simply started playing, signifying his arrival by launching into his set list, whilst clearly demonstrating his signature style which borders somewhere between freakish technicality and smooth easy-listening, a combination that simply bewitches you into enchantment. Accompanied by an especially proficient backing band who complement his jazz-like style, coupled with an incendiary guitar tone – opposites attract, I guess. However, Plini’s backing band is not there to simply provide ambience, but rather work with and bolster his performance whilst he returns the favour to them, to the point you actually forget you’re watching a solo artist. With this, there is no need for any stage personas – he is here simply to display the very best of his abilities with virtuous proficiency, demonstrated most evidently through a flawless performance of his latest single ‘Every Piece Matters’. Seldom spoken, he still finds time to bring humour to the crowd, furthering an attitude that encapsulates the endgame behind Plini, which is that there is no endgame, just a desire to play the music he loves with his closest friends, exemplified through inviting Richie from Heavy Metal Ninjas to jump on stage to jam an “encore” where, might I add, Richie’s fast-paced and aggressive style really complemented Plini’s unique ambience. To really summarise Plini’s performance, it’s the combination of his outlook and mood that further exemplifies the signature stylings he has displayed. He is gentle, seldom spoken, and entertaining, but he just wants the music to speak for him. With an enchanted and adoring crowd, they share his attitude in that they are simply here to listen and appreciate, and that’s just alright with him.