Words & Photos – Ben Gunzburg

It’s few and far between Australian Karnivool gigs these days and with these three Melbourne shows selling out in a flash, it’s clear their return has been hotly anticipated.

Nabbing the coveted national support slot, Adelaide’s Sleep Talk wasted no time in hitting the crowd with all they had. With the venue already chock full, the Frankston crowd has come out in spades to bear witness to a barrage of crunchy guitars, melodic leads, pounding bass, thunderous drums, and some of the heavy and intense vocals I’ve witnessed live in a long while. Vocalist Jacob Clement’s expressions are a simultaneous mix of pain and joy, which perfectly sums up this doomy hardcore crossover troupe.

Sleep Talk is a stark contrast from the headliner to follow, but by all means, it is a compatible and welcome crossover of subgenres to keep things interesting and open up some eyes and hearts. It’s great to see a band and promoter taking a chance and keeping things more unexpected and interesting. Long live the mixed bill!

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It’s now Karnivool‘s time to shine, as they gradually emerge through some moody lights and fog, like mythical prog rock creatures.

Kicking things into gear is 2021’s lone single, All It Takes, and the absolutely packed Pier Bandroom is already firmly in the palm of the band’s hand. Singer Ian Kenny takes full advantage of this, commanding his lyrics being screamed back at him in unison during C.O.T.E. and clearly feeding off the energy and sending it right back out there.

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The band mix things up well in the setlist, sure to bust out some expected favourites such as Themata, Simple Boy, Roquefort and New Day, while throwing in some of their more proggy material like Goliath, Mauseum (a personal favourite, so I’m chuffed), and Deadman, the latter often making it hard to hear Ian over the crowd’s overjoyed singing throughout this epic journey of a song (this one and Roquefort definitely win the set).

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New, as yet unreleased songs Aozora and Animation even make appearances, receiving warm welcomes and giving us all hope that a new album may possibly surface at some point before the sun implodes on itself.

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Karnivool have proved time and time again their ability for innovation, experimentalism, while maintaining catchy hooks all at once, and this show is yet another perfect example. Not only that, but their live musicianship is top rate. Powerful, emotive and pitch perfect vocals ebb and flow, backed by super tight and ferocious drumming, foreboding baselines that could melt ice, and an absolutely hypnotic guitar pairing, bringing all the weird and wonderful sounds to life.

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It’s clear how much Karnivool are cherished by the Australian heavy rock scene and this crowd certainly feel the love right back.

Thanks to the Pier Bandroom crew for having us and a special thanks to Amy at Deathproof for arranging media access.