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Checaine - Gig Review: Checaine & After Forever @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 22/01/2022

23 Jan 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

As normal I got in early to the venue, then soon left again to have a beer up the road with the guys from Checaine. I was mightily impressed as they had brought a bus up from Hamilton with a load of fans onboard – one way of guaranteeing playing in a strange town in front of a friendly crowd. This meant that even before they started playing there was a real buzz as there was a lot of people in Dead Witch – which was great to see after the success of BALTTW the previous Saturday. Live metal shows are back in Auckland, people.

The band came on to an introductory track, gradually joining in as Fraser made his way to the stage, then Regan kicked in with the riff to Set Us Free and they were off. This is a metal act combining doom with early Seventies metal riffs: there is a real intensity in what they are doing from a group of guys who are incredibly tight. One thing which sets them apart are the melodic vocals of Fraser which are often sung in a more baritone manner than many metal singers, only lifting it when the need is right, and his diction is incredibly clear. On songs like Alchemy, he really stands out as he holds long notes with ease, never losing pitch. Behind him is a busy rhythm section, with plenty going on with some nice drum fills and rolls from Zak while Chris provides the melodic foundation which means that Regan can either settle into some strong complimentary riffs or move off at a tangent. Solos are kept to a minimum; this is all about keeping it tight and full of power.

Chris and Regan are constantly in a groove with the music, with the former not even letting an amp malfunction from wiping the smile from his face, but the attention is always drawn to Fraser who lives everything he is doing, with his arms always moving and his facial expressions showing just how much he is into his performance. By the time we were just a few songs into the hour-long set I was already incredibly impressed as here is a band with the chops and material to really make a difference. They had a full backdrop so there was no chance of anyone not knowing who they were, had merch for sale, and were incredibly well organised. There was a small, taped introduction to Asleep At The Wheel and again I just felt how professional this all felt, much more like a bigger act in a larger venue. Although their music is always incredibly heavy with a thick bottom end and incredibly powerful drumming (Zak was very quickly a very sweaty mess), there is actually a considerable variety in the songs, with Fraser using falsetto at one place and throwing in some higher screams in others. There is a real groove to their music, and it is no surprise that the guys don’t stop bouncing throughout the whole set, and the same is true for the crowd.

Remedy saw them lift the pace somewhat, but still with the groove and real sense of control, and they switch it with a slower singalong with Waters Edge. Although they are always mightily heavy there is a strong understanding of the need for contrast within the set, as Fraser showed again with some nice screams near the end. They closed with Bring Me Down which contained as much energy as they had at the beginning of the night, epic. I much prefer this idea of only having two bands on in the night, as opposed to the usual four, as it allows the good bands to really show what they can do, and I am already looking forward to catching Checaine again in the future.

After Forever style themselves as New Zealand’s top Black Sabbath covers band and was something I was really looking forward to. More than 45 years ago I was around a mate’s house, and we ransacked his brother’s record collection, looking for something to play. We chose an album just by its cover as we didn’t know any of the bands – that album was Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and my musical outlook changed that day. I have been a Sabbath fan ever since, was blown away when I saw them play in Auckland, and also managed to catch both Ozzy and Dio in the Eighties, so tonight was either going to be really good, or not.

Mind you, seeing that Sharne Scarborough is the guitarist I knew I had nothing to worry about, as he is incredible, as anyone who follows the mighty Just One Fix will know, and although bassist Nathan Waters was wearing a JOF shirt, he can’t complete with Ant in the full beard stakes. It was the first time I had seen drummer Rene Black play onstage, but he is a regular here at DD and then at the front is John Richardson (or John “Beelzebub” Richardson III as he is known to Nathan, at least for tonight) who has the unenviable job of pulling off Ozzy style vocals. Many bands play the odd Sabbath song, but being a Sabbath covers band takes it to a whole new level. What was also really interesting tonight for me was the setlist, as the guys had chosen to play a set which is representative of early Sabbath as opposed to a greatest hits collection, which for the true Sabbath fan was way more interesting.

They started with Children of the Grave, and immediately they showed why they have such a reputation and why the place was heaving (it was easily the hottest I have ever known in Dead Witch). Rene is a powerhouse, who hits the kit really hard, driving through while Nathan has a very similar plucking style to Geezer, providing the melodic bottom end. Sharne is in his element laying down the doom, and then at the front there is John. Here is someone who not only has a great voice but has spent many hours studying the originals, ensuring that everyone feels as if they are in the presence of true metal gods. Into The Void was great, just powering through, but on Snowblind they lifted it to a totally different level with everything perfectly on point. It was a powering almighty number which reminded everyone there that even though the song is now 50 years old there is plenty of life in it yet.

They followed this with Hand of Doom, an interesting choice as not many Sabbath fans, would pick that to be included in an hour long set, but I felt it was perfect as it shows the variety of material produced by the Sabs back in the day, and I cannot imagine when they last included it in their own set. After Forever are real fans of the music and want to not only play the songs but do real justice to them and even those who may not be too familiar with this song were well into the performance, as this was just nailed. This somewhat slower number was followed by Fairies Wear Boots and from here on it really was classic song after classic as they steamed into the second half of the set. I am sure there are many non-metal heads, and even some longhairs, who do not realise just how complex this song is with multiple time signatures changes and sections, even before the vocals start. John didn’t really need to sing this as the audience were with him every step of the way and shouting the lyrics as loud as they could.

By now this was turning into a real party with everyone in Dead Witch having a real blast and enjoying themselves. Evil Woman had just the right amount of bounce and swagger and (dare one say it?) poppiness, with spot on harmony vocals. It was the perfect time to put this into the set as there is a lighter feeling to it, in contrast to what had gone before and what was to follow. Nato led us into NIB with a wonderful wah-wah bass introduction, and then the crowd tried to lift off the roof with shouts of “Oh Yeah.” If that wasn’t enough, when that was finished Sharne launched into the hugely atmospheric introduction to Black Sabbath. Not only is this a full-on classic, but the guys absolutely nailed all elements of it and the pit was certainly intense in the latter sections of the song. There was only one way to finish the night, and War Pigs commenced with the air raid sirens and then we were off with riffs so forceful that one felt it was possible to use them as stairs to reach into the night sky.

Yet another incredible night at Dead Witch and Ding Dong, with two wonderful bands – if you get the opportunity to catch either of them in the future you really need to do so. I have never had a bad night here, my favourite dive and venue in Auckland, and there really is no excuse for fans of great music  not to come here and join in the fun.

Photo credit: Kev Rowland


About Checaine

Checaine are a melodic/progressive hard rock band from Hamilton. They bring powerful hooks to their songs and a progressive style that keeps the music evolving and exciting.

Formed in 2011 by Fraser Coombes (vocals) and Regan Aspden (guitar), they are now accompanied by an exciting line-up of talented members that add to the sound and live show performance Checaine have become known for.

The band have enjoyed great exposure through their new dynamic single Bring Me Down as heard on New Zealand's The Rock FM.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Checaine


Year: 2017
Type: EP
Turn The Stone
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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