19 Sep 2021
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Gig Review: White Nøise Mafia @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 02/07/2021

03 Jul 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

So, it was back down to my favourite venue for another night of great music as it was the launch gig for White Nøise Mafia’s debut single, The Divide. Last year they won the battle of the bands competition, and the prize was a recording session with Dave Rhodes and a video shoot with Francis Wheeler, who was there in the audience tonight. I made my way down the stairs, and Nikolas Petrovic was obviously keeping an eye out for me as by the time I made it to the bar he had poured me a glass of Cassels Milk Stout which they now have on tap! Definitely a good start to the evening. I made my way upstairs to be rude to the Café Fistfight guys who were sound checking, and given they were not playing King Hit Quiche tonight in the set I suggested they run through that, and they happily obliged. As soon as the doors opened the place started to fill up, as all three bands were finalists in the competition the year before (the other act being Chanelled), with Cafe Fistfight pulling out at the last minute due to illness.

As people were constantly coming in it was agreed to start the evening later than planned to ensure punters did not  miss out, but when things kicked off it did so with gentle bass and soloing, a hi-hat, before they soon moved into Free Wifi, with superb syncopation. As with many of their songs this features the classic stop/go technique which only comes from a band which is incredibly tight and relaxed with each other. As they got into the song itself, the music yet again changed totally, becoming far more fluid before it became more complex. There is always so much going on in their music, with the solid rock being Dan and Jesse. It is driven from the back, with the drums rarely providing a standard pattern and being incredibly musical as opposed to just setting a beat. Jesse plays his bass as if it is a second guitar, with massively complex runs and fills (as well as providing backing vocals), often in counterpoint with Chris. Josh is on his seven-string electric, always threating to do something massively complicated and to lock in the hammer, and then at the front is Chris who is one of the finest singers on the circuit, as well as being a wonderful acoustic guitarist. These four guys combine to provide some of the most interesting and complex truly progressive and dynamic music around.

Take Two features a metallic solo from Josh, but even when being played against the acoustic guitar it feels exactly right in the context, with Dan hitting the hell out of the kit and again they stop on a dime. The guys always have a blast onstage and tonight they were full of smiles as they played in front of a hugely appreciative audience. The last time I saw the guys, Chris was sick, and it was a wonder that they made it through that shortened set, but tonight he was back to full strength, and everyone was having fun. Feel A Little starts almost in singer-songwriter mode, with Chris accompanying himself with the rest of the band gradually making their presence felt. Here is a band who fully understand the meaning of dynamics and contrast, with songs constantly changing in their tempo and attack, so it is really of little surprise that we get another shred solo as Chris keeps building the passion. At one point Dan released the snare and was playing a pattern on the drum under the acoustic guitar, while the delicate cymbal counterpoint was sublime. We even had rimshots during a delicate guitar interlude later in what must be one of their longest songs. These guys really rock, much more than anyone should with an acoustic guitar at the front. Tonight, they finished with Toxic, yet again dedicated to me, and it must be said their arrangement is simply stunning and must be heard to be believed. Café Fistfight are one of the tightest and most exciting bands out there on the Auckland scene, and are definitely one not to miss. They really don’t sound like anyone else, and while one can mention genres they are influenced by, it is impossible to think of any other band who are quite like them but instead of coming across as a damp blancmange they are instead exciting and vibrant, constantly moving and seeking new directions. I must also make mention of a wonderful piece of merchandise they have had made; a Café Fistfight coffee keep cup. We all know the band is New Zealand's leading Cafe-themed Acoustic hard rock band (who also have a rich sense of humour) and I love it.

I had not seen Glass Throne since the battle of the bands competition last year, and they were one of the bands I personally rated in the heats so I was looking forward to this. They are a three-piece comprising Justin Robinson (lead vocals, bass), Owen McKibbin (guitar, backing vocals) and Daniel Cutfield (drums, backing vocals), and they are unusual in that Owen also plays organ and tonight it was with the Hammond sounds that they launched into Living Dying. Whereas Café Fistfight are rock based, these guys are far more from a metallic background, but coming to it from a Seventies direction. However, like tonight’s opener they always keep switching around and moving the music in different directions, with the trio working hard at providing plenty of contrast. In the middle of Glass Throne there is a syncopated section of drum and bass which is massively complex and so very different indeed to the blasting guitar which follows. This is a band who again are incredibly confident in their abilities on stage and always want to put on a show, so we get plenty of stick twirling and complex runs on the bass to offset the powering solos.

Abyss commenced with a drum pattern, which allowed the guys to reset as Justin switched onto guitar and Owen moved the keyboards to the front of the stage. It may have started quite modern in its approach, but soon it felt as if we were back into the time of Black Widow and Atomic Rooster with very dated keyboards indeed. The use of keyboards provides an additional layer to the music, and they switch it up with multiple themes, even bringing in some oriental stylings at one point. Freak was being performed for the first time ever night, and shows the band continuing to progress, with multiple sections, bringing together the dated keyboards with modern shred to create something which is incredibly compelling. One of my few complaints last time was that when they switched to keyboards they lost some of the bottom end, but that has now been rectified and the sound is well rounded and full. As with the previous few times I saw them they ended with Cage, a really heavy number with a large use of keyboards, Tonight, there was far more emphasis on songs with keyboards than the last time I saw them, and it will be interesting to see if they continue in that direction as their combination is different to anything else around. The way the bands were set to play tonight was to build that attack and sound until it was time for the main event, and that time was now.

Neo started on the drums, Matt and Chris generated some feedback, Chris asked if the crowd were ready and then they were off. Within a few bars of Medicate and one of the most violent mosh pits I have ever seen at Dead Witch just erupted (I was trying to get back to my place having taken some photos and I was taking my life in my hands) . Neo is an animal behind the kit, all over the place and trying to damage his cymbals and skins, Matt S attempts to keep at least some sense of decorum and the music grounded, while Matt H and Chris rip into the riffs, then to top it all there is Chris as a frontman. The guy is only 20 years old, and there is no way he should know how to keep the crowd energised but the guy never stops and is prepared to do whatever it takes. During War he was having to stay behind the microphone but that was not an issue for the rest of the guys who generated so much energy and passion that the crowd just had to follow in a sweaty heaving mess. Lewis de Jong (Alien Weaponry) was right at the front, lapping it all up and showing support to the guys and having an absolute blast (BTW – the cast should be off his hand in the next few weeks). White Nøise Mafia are one of the most exciting and powerful metal bands around, somehow mixing commercial sounds with massive hooks and mighty riffs so that all those who are there listening just enjoy themselves, there really is no choice.

It is hard to think that the first time I saw them play was at the end of October last year, when it was only their second gig. At the time I said, “if that is what they are like after two gigs, what are they going to be doing after two years?” That question is still valid, but it feels like they have been on a rocket ride since then, as they have played larger venues and tonight was the launch for their debut single. They often play The Divide as the opener, but tonight they were saving that for last and were building up to it. The crowd was theirs from the opening notes to the very last, singing along to the songs, throwing their arms into the air, and their bodies into the pit. How Neo manages to keep it all together I have no idea as his head and hair is all over the place as he lives and breathes the music. The boys did slow it down somewhat during Memory of You, but that did not stop Neo from hitting the drums as loud as possible, although it was interesting to hear the boys doing proper harmony vocals, and I would not be surprised if this is a future single as it has that anthemic hook all the way through.

Bleed It Out started with the crowd setting the pace with handclaps. Needless to say, everyone joined in the chorus, and somehow the place started picking up the energy even though it had never dropped. Chris had put his guitar to one side and was ramping it up, driving the crowd into a frenzy. From there it was time for the one song which the evening was all about, The Divide, a monstrous crowd-pleasing groove-laden belter guaranteed to get everyone moving. They were called back for an encore and the night ended with My Mind Sedate, which got the crowd going yet again. It was the perfect end to a great evening, and there is no doubt in my mind that White Nøise Mafia are going to keep growing their fanbase and are going to be huge. What a night.


Photo credit: Kev Rowland

 

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