Photos – Ben Gunzburg
Words – Richard Grimm

This week’s offering to Melbourne’s heavy music scene was a strong contender for gig of the year. Botch embarked on their first Australian Tour after their recent reformation, which happened to coincide with a tour by UK experimental doom metal act Conjurer. The two bands joined forces in Melbourne for a one-off belter of a show. Entering the venue, I was pleased to see a good number of friends and acquaintances scattered through the audience. Always a good sign before a show.

Chatting to some strangers and friends alike, the sentiment seemed to be that very few people in the room knew who Conjurer were. But those who did could barely contain their excitement, and for good reason as it would soon be revealed. Eerie soundscapes blanketed the air and a striking amber light display dominated the aesthetic as the four sauce-men of the impending riffocalypse embraced the stage to a few cheers of a just over half filled room. A clean guitar riff by Brady Deeprose opens their set starter “It Dwells” for just long enough to set a haunting mood before we hear a big snare hit from Noah See and the heavy riffs begin. Front and center stood bassist Conor Marshall who is coming for Corpsegrinder to take away his “Windmill King” title. Every member was giving their all to a crowd who honestly took a while to show them much love in return. As the set continued, their songs would flow between ugly, heavy riffing into serene and gentle arrangements and the crowd would grow in appreciation. The second song of the set (Choke) was sinister from the opening note, with each member’s instrumentation slowly adding lumber for the house of doom that they combined to construct. Only to disintegrate into some of the heaviest riffs you’ll likely hear, the distortion from those growling guitars creating a sonic friction that seemed to vendetta the venues foundations. By now the UK lads had managed to get the audience (which had filled out considerably by now) to headbang with their whole chest.

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Speaking of using their whole chest. During their performance of Hollow, guitarist/vocalist Dan Nightingale treated the crowd to an impressive performance where he ditched his mic and screamed a verse that could be heard in the back of the room over the miced drums. I think it was after that I really noticed the crowd had been won over. The apex of Conjurer’s set for me was their performance of Those years, condemned. The music was incredibly well arranged. The drums and bass worked together to create a level of rhythm section cohesion I haven’t witnessed since the last time I saw Opeth. Shoutout to Noah for being able to play with dynamics even while blast beating. Amazing performance, heavy as lead, sinister as whatever your grandparents have to say after a few too many whiskeys, ethereal as the recent aurora australis. I highly encourage you to attend their next gig. Now for the headline of this dual act bill.

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Prior to walking out, Botch had the crowd warmed up with some Latin grooves over the speakers and the resident disco ball illuminating the room with red light. The grooves dissipated and were replaced by reversed guitars. We were ready.

The crowd didn’t really mosh all that much for Conjurer and I think Botch took that personally. Because they had that pit ignited immediately. Botch are everything you could want in a mathcore performance. From the very outset the music was intense, chaotic and intricate with a lightshow synced to every pulse, stab and chug. To our friends in the great white north opened the set with visceral fervour. Vocalist Dave Verellen, rocking a mighty moustache, managed to exist for about 30 seconds before he was on the barrier. Then he was in the crowd. Then he was on top of the crowd. Brian Cook managed his bass duties with ease while also blasting out some great backing vocals.

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Mondrian was a liar was when the pit really started going off. I loved the juxtaposition between the moments of fun bass grooves with poly-metered guitar skanks on top and the chaos of all their riff jank. When the song finished, Dave commented on a sign held up on the venue wall. “Are you guys moshing at your own risk?” he says. The crowd cheers in approval with one voice being heard above the others “keep mosh alive”. I whole heartedly agree with this man in the crowd. “Moshing is worth the risk” states Dave and the band whips into their next song. Within the first 3 bars, an attendee gets their face smashed in the pit and blood drips all over the floor. I took a moment to make sure he was okay but true to form of the heavy music community, he gave 0 fucks. Because Botch, myself and this man agree: moshing is worth the risk. Not to be outdone, about halfway through the set was the first attempt I’ve seen of a stage dive at Max Watts. Unfortunately, it failed, and the would-be stage diver was flung back into the audience by security to the jeers of an increasingly boisterous crowd.

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Throughout the set we were treated to energy that outpaces a lot of bands half the American quartet’s age. Dave was an engaging vocalist and had great banter between songs. At one point the crowd yelled “We love you Botch!”, which prompted him to instigate a heckle off from the audience.  Bassist Brian Cook had some monster tones all night and his backing vocals were fantastic too. Tim Latona missed exactly zero beats all night as well as showcasing his impressive keyboard skills on a few songs. Lets not forget Dave Knudson, who not only played with energy and precision but also got experimental. In one song (I didn’t catch which one sorry readers) he effectively played the delay pedal as an instrument. Chopping and stretching his riffs mid song to make sounds a lesser band would likely put into their backing tracks.

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Botch’s performance was a showcase of what truly creative and passionate musicians look like. Every song was played with enthusiasm, the musicianship was a step above the norm and, the banter between songs had laughs across the crowd regularly. I said it at the beginning and I’ll say it again, this show is a high contender for gig of the year so far!

Thanks to the Max Watts Crew for having us and Greg from United Front for arranging media access.