15 Jun 2021
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  • Beastwars - Gig Review: Beastwars with Earth Tongue and Demons of Noon @ Powerstation, Auckland - 08/05/2021

Beastwars - Gig Review: Beastwars with Earth Tongue and Demons of Noon @ Powerstation, Auckland - 08/05/2021

09 May 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

I was a little concerned when I made my way to the Powerstation just 15 minutes before the doors were due to open, as there was no-one else there! A quick check of the billboard confirmed I was in the right place on the right date, but possibly this was somewhat indicative of the poor weather combined with so many great gigs on tonight. Anyway, it did mean I was front of the queue when the doors did open, and in we went only to discover that upstairs was shut down. As a reviewer that means I had to find somewhere to perch to write notes, so decided the safest place was probably in one of the seating areas as being in the mosh would make my writing even more indecipherable than normal.

Up first were Demons of Noon, who made their way onstage to no announcement, and the night started with bassist Jonathan Burgess plucking some deep sonorous notes, and then they were into Venting Plasma. Right from the off it was obvious everyone in the band was deeply into the music, living and breathing every power chord as their sludge-driven doom spread through the venue. There were times when the sheer striking of a riff meant the guitarist in question was doubled over, such was the power they were generating. All four of the guys sing, sometimes together and sometimes individually, but the vocals are all very close to the riffs, all low in register and adding to the overall impact and often following the same melody line, with just the feedback really cutting through.

There was a real dark and foreboding presence on the stage, and though they did speed up somewhat at times, which created some change in the dynamics, they never lost any of the power which made them seem like a force of nature. There was no room for guitar solos, it was all about unrestrained raw doom power, dark and nasty with any lightness not staying for long. We only had six songs from them, but this included the whole of last year’s EP The Summoning, and I felt there were times when they almost toyed with black metal, but the doom kept piling through. There was a change in approach when  Aria Jones and Sophie Jackson came onstage for the last two songs as their high vocals were a different dynamic and provided a totally different element to the band, especially on closer The Tsar which was highly effective, and then they were off. This was the second consecutive week when I have seen bands play that have not even told anyone their name, let alone what any of the songs are, and while that may be cool when people know you and your material, it is not exactly the same when many people are seeing you for the first time. Even saying there was an EP for sale might have been good.

Next up were Earth Tongue, similar in some ways but in others totally different. They are touring NZ with Beastwars and if you are planning to catch those guys then make sure you are there early enough for these as you will not want to miss it. What we have here is a band who comprise just two members, Gussie Larkin (guitar, vocals) and Ezra Simons (drums, solo), and together they create a grungy early Seventies psych rock monster which is simply incredible to behold. Gussie is using an effects board which allows her to switch her guitar into a many headed beast, so much so that she manages to combine bass and guitar into something feral and nasty with a real edge. Her vocals provide a relief to the deepness of the sound, yet there are times when on her own she was creating nearly as much passionate sound as the guitarists and bassist who had gone before.

Gussie has a filthy rich tone, but her and Ezra were creating something which had more variation than Demons of Noon. The two of them have been playing together for some years and it shows in the way they are linked together incredibly tightly, even when undertaking syncopation. I bumped into a very sweaty producer/label head honcho TeMatera Smith who promptly told me “these guys are great; they are my new favourite band!”. High praise indeed. I kept trying to think who they reminded me of, but in the end the closest I could come was Black Widow, but more in feel as opposed to sound. Their experimental distortion-driven grunge rock is highly effective, and I know I was not the only one to come away mightily impressed, even though they again did not announce the songs.

What can you say about Beastwars which has not been said already? This was my first time of seeing them play but leading up to this event I told mates I was going and they each said that it would be absolutely awesome, and it was. Matt Hyde, Nathan Hickey, James Woods, and Clayton Anderson create something special together, and everyone knew tonight was going to be a real event, coming as it did virtually ten years to the day from when their debut album actually hit the streets. Given this was an anniversary tour to celebrate, one may have expected them to play the album in its entirety with a few additional songs at the end, but of course Beastwars decided to do it the other way round and kicked the evening off with Call To The Mountain from The Death of All Things, the last album they released before they broke up.

Immediately there was the feeling of a real presence on stage, as while the guys create absolute mayhem and slaughter with an unholy sound inspired by the likes of Kyuss and Neurosis, in the middle of it all stands Matt Hyde. Simply put, he is one of the most compelling and dynamic frontmen I have ever been fortunate enough to witness. Years ago, they were accused by a record executive of looking really old, and it must be said that none of us are getting any younger, but don’t let the grey hair and beards fool you, these guys have more passion and vitality than bands half their age. Matt can sing like a demon or angel, yet whatever he is doing he is the focal point while Nathan keeps everything tight, James switches between melodic lines and chords, and Clayton does his best to ensure everyone goes home deaf (note to self – earplugs next time I catch Beastwars).

Every song felt like a melodic sledgehammer to the cranium, and when it was announced they were going to play a brand-new song in Levitate, everyone cheered as we all had the same thought, maybe there is a new album coming? Many of the audience were attempting to protect the precious vinyl edition of Beastwars they had purchased at the merch desk (possibly it might have been an idea to buy it at the end?), but nothing was going to stop the mosh, with everyone in the crowd physically reacting to what was happening on the stage. I thought everyone was as worked up as they could be, but when they crunched into Damn The Sky everything shifted to another level as the band started playing their seminal album. Highlight for me was probably Red God, but to be honest it was hard to pick as there was just so much passion and power that every song was a revelation. The crowd never stopped reacting, and the band never stopped giving, pushing all the way through to the end. Eventually we were let out into a cold Auckland evening, with every one of us in one state of shock or another, and I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if there was any way I could get to any of the other dates on the tour. When are you coming back guys? Awesome.


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Beastwars

New Zealand sludge metal four-piece Beastwars abide by one steadfast maxim: Obey the Riff. Described as "a mongrel mix of Kyuss, Neurosis, and the mighty Godflesh..." (NZ Herald) and playing "heavy tunes for heavy times" (ALARM), the Wellington-based sonic soothsayers utilize the chaos that engulfs our world as ammunition for their defiant howls into the abyss.

Two years on from their internationally acclaimed, self-titled debut, Beastwars return on 20 April 2013 with Blood Becomes Fire. The new album serves witness to the end of days, told through the eyes of a dying traveler from another time. It is a work inspired by eternal themes. "It's a reflection on mortality, death and disease. Sooner or later they come for all of us and we've all screamed to the gods for answers, not that they've ever come."

On Blood Becomes Fire Beastwars hammer the story home with concussive force. "It’s a heavy album, both sonically and lyrically, but what solidifies it are the really triumphant 'fuck yeah' riffs. To us, this music is like getting psyched up to go into battle. You could be at war with someone else or yourself.”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Beastwars

Releases

IV
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Death Of All Things
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Blood Becomes Fire
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Beastwars
Year: 2011
Type: Album

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