20 Jun 2018

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Gig Review: Metaract with Remote and Descendants of Dinosaurs @ Ding Dong Lounge, Auckland 15/06/2018

19 Jun 2018 // Review by butch181
The night began without any introduction. Jumping straight into a funky number, the four-piece that is Descendants of Dinosaurs put together some interesting sounds for their debut show at the Ding Dong Lounge. Almost coming across as a rock/bluegrass hybrid, the contrasting twang of Steve Abplanalp’s lead guitar with the solid thrust of Bryan Edgar’s rhythm created an audibly unique amalgamation of sound. While Edgar’s principle vocals could have been more prominent in the mix, he displayed steadfast control of the fluctuations in his natural singing style, which worked well with the balanced harmonies being created with the backing vocals.

In place of their attributed bassist Gav Elshaw, who was globetrotting around Japan and Europe, was Ai Dulieu from Sleepwalk Skeleton. Dulieu had an air of confidence, and clearly was revelling in being on stage, ripping out a diverse range of bass riffs that rumble deep into the gut. Scott Cortese had a varying presence on stage on the drums, starting off rather repetitive, but as the set progressed, the complexity and variation in fills, rolls, and set pieces began to increase, even incorporating electronic drum samples.

They exhibit solid, chord-based rhythm, with powerful choruses, but it’s Edgar’s vocals that really gives their sound that extra “oomph”. The mix of falsetto and vibrato, with a lower melodic style that is reminiscent of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. Descendants of Dinosaurs are a fun band to watch, and they were genuinely appreciative of the people that came out to check out the show.

Despite the night’s festivities being in aid of their single release, Metaract were not the headliners of the night, and before they even got to play a note, they were noticeably having issues with their set-up. Due to the addition of some monitor speakers, space on stage was more limited than usual, and with stage power only available in certain places, and all guitar-wielding members of the band requiring a power source for their arrays of guitar pedals, there was some visible tension between bandmates as they tried to determine their positions. Luckily, all was sorted, and all before many of the patrons were any the wiser.

Frontman Chris Yong, clad in his usual black armbands greeted the crowd, with a wide smile and as Metaract began their set, there was an instant improvement in volume and clarity of sound for the evening.

Right from their first song, I was reminded of why I love to watch Metaract live. Recordings cannot compete with watching two guitarists performing synchronised solos (duos?). Sharne Scarborough has an incredible amount of talent on the lead guitar, and shreds at an incredible pace, but when he and Yong simultaneously pull off the fast picking on their respective guitars, the level of harmony, cohesion, and timing reminds me of the NZ/UK power metal band, DragonForce. Yong has a very smooth melodic voice, but a lot of the melody of the tracks is lost in distortion as the volume continues to increase. Regardless, the set is full of energy and maintains a great pace, switching up time signatures mid-song keeping the intrigue.

Scarborough won’t allow a single dull moment adding his embellishments to every track, bringing the vocalist of Remote to the front of the stage to “worship” at his feet. Bassist Victor Pesch plays through most of the set with a look of aggravation on his face, but as the set progresses, the energy in his riffs and the enthusiasm in his backing vocals improve dramatically. Metaract showcase a superb mix of melody, rhythm and technical ability, moving beyond synchronised guitars, to the point of even synchronising strumming with Clayton Gould’s drum rolls. The entire set feels tight and well-practised, which is further established by the fact that they were deciding their setlist on-the-fly; much like if you are in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, you have to be confident in all of your material all of the time, and it shows.

Of course, you can’t play a single release show without playing the single, so after providing the audience with some banter and advice on creating a music video without a budget, they played Never Forget. Best described as a combination of Megadeth and Bullet For My Valentine, Metaract are finding their place as they further merge melody and metal.

Already having made his presence known “worshipping” Scarborough’s sick licks, Andy took to the stage with the rest of the heavy rock, four-piece Remote. Following Yong’s original plan during their set up qualms, Andy positioned himself to the side of the stage, letting bassist Jared take the centre stage. No introductions given; just straight into their set. Remote have a great sound that is heavy, but not over-the-top.

With a mix of gruff, and Bruce Dickinson-style clean vocals, Andy is able to create a multitude of song styles, using his vocal melodies, or allowing silence to take its’ place. While the drumming from Will is not overall on the high pace end of the spectrum, it fits in with the style Remote are going for and has a very consistent ever-present double kick and some great fills.

Performing tracks like A-Team from their latest release Riding A Tiger On Fire ... Fighting A Bear At Same Time, they swing between going as hard and fast as they can, and rocking the calm and melodic styles. This balance makes it really easy to listen to their music without it becoming overbearing (pun not intended), while still providing big meaty hooks to draw in the audience.

Though he doesn’t showcase the speeds of Metaract’s Scarborough, lead guitarist Rob Mei continues to push the boundaries of his guitar and pedals as he flits from one setting to another to get the desired outcome. Following in their usual way of performing an adaptation of another band’s song, they jammed through a rendition of Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls before closing off the set for the night. Remote are nothing if not consistent, and their music is full of messages. Can't wait to see what they release next.

Photos and review courtesy of Alex Moulton

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