14 Aug 2022
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Pale Flag - Gig Review: Pale Flag @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 01/07/2022

02 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight, I was supposed to be at The Tuning Fork for Ekko Park and Jordan Luck but the dreaded Covid had cast its spell and the gig was cancelled earlier in the week. I did a quick check to see what was on at Dead Witch and discovered there was a four-band bill and knowing three of them I could see it was going to be a good night so decided to head that way. It was only later that I realised that Downfall of Humanity were fronting a bill at The Thirsty as well – the live scene is certainly back and kicking and there is no excuse whatsoever not to be seeing some great acts.

First up was Parasitic Infestation the one band I have not seen play before, but I know lead singer Liam Hand from his other outfit Silent Torture, with the line-up completed by Aidan McGorry (guitar), Grady Gottler (lead guitar), Jacob Raffaelli (bass) and Blake Plester (drums). Kicking off with Digested they immediately got the mosh going (if it was not a sell-out crowd here tonight it was pretty close, and it took a lot of effort to get to the stage and back!) with a style of music which is a mix between doom, death metal and hardcore. Always brutally heavy they have an aggression and attack which is more death than anything else, but they don’t always play as quick as the genre normally demands but instead can slow it right down. So, we get the massive slab-like riffs but with way more edge. They were blasting through the set with Kobayashi getting a huge response as they mixed it up before going into the more hardcore DDT. Although the music is incredibly heavy there is also a groove within it which means the whole crowd was moving – great to see so many metalheads having fun as their eardrums melted. Liam tends to sing in a gruff growl, but he can also drop into Corpsegrinder territory when the time is right, adding another additional facet to the sound. Whatever song Liam announced was next got a huge response, as their uncompromising approach and attack was gaining them a lot of friends, with Intergalactic Harvest being another comprised of different sections with time signatures and approach changing all over the place. They finished their too short a set with Extraterrestrial Gastropod, ripping up the place again and then they were done, and it wasn’t even 9:15!

The last time I saw Head Lock Grave they were a quartet with singer Gabriel also providing guitar, but now they have gained an additional guitarist so he can concentrate on vocals, with the rest of the line-up being Max (bass), Liam (guitar), Ethan (guitar) and Josiah (drums). Gabriel has always relished in the role of frontman and now not having to play guitar has allowed him to really step it up, taking it to the next level, with opener Slither really kicking hard. I was mightily impressed by the time that song had finished as there has been a significant change in the band since I saw them last, with everything just more. More aggression, more power, way more professional in every way. It is almost as if they had been playing at it when I had previously seen them, but now they really mean it. Max has always been an impressive musician, but he no longer stands out like he used to as everyone has stepped up, with every aspect of the band a massive improvement. Twin melodic solos when the time is right, or double kick drums, Max all over the neck, with Gabriel screaming and shouting and putting his very soul into everything. Their metal is heavy yet melodic, happily moving in and out of thrash idioms, always packing in the energy and there is never any doubt that here is a band who have matured. The mosh was even more frantic than it had been for Parasitic, with everyone having a blast, especially when the boys really hit the throttle and opened it up. There are times when one can hear Megadeth influences, especially when they mix the tempos within songs to create different sections, so much so that one is never quite sure what is going to come next. The introduction for Paralyzer is quite long, so Gabriel jumped into the mosh to join in with the fun while the band created mayhem onstage, relishing in the pure frontman role. They ended with Take Control, and everyone was going crazy – I am not the only one looking forward to seeing them again as they are now very much a band to look out for.

The crowd had certainly warmed up and there were still two bands to go! Next up was The First Child who always put everything into their shows and are guaranteed to be a great time. Lily Mou (vocals), Georgi Dobrev (lead guitar), Sam Murray (rhythm guitar), Jacob Levesque Baird (bass) and Liam Walker (drums) know just how to kick up a storm. One thing which can always be said for this band is that they are always up for it with their incredibly melodic hardcore which brings in intertwined melody from the linked guitars and a rhythm section which is always driving hard, while at the front is Lily, a guy who never stops pushing and is always the centre of attention while the rest of the band concentrate on the music. They kicked off with a number so new that it currently only has a working title, Stiffies in my Bum, but apparently that is likely to stay. Seven Eyes is interesting as it sees the band moving into mathcore territory at times, not a style you often hear in Auckland, with very strong guitar harmonics. Then they follow that with Blood and Bloom which finds the band much more in everyone’s face and straight down the line with aggressive punk hardcore. It is easy to get lost in the vocals and guitars and not pay close attention to the bass and drums but that is a real oversight as Jacob and Liam really provide a huge level of complexity, always changing the approach and attack, which really allows the guitars to also be off the wall and then somehow, they meet in the middle. The vocals may be simple in the attack, but the underlying music and arrangements are massively complex, yet the combination most definitely works and the mosh responded. Melodic, aggressive, hardcore and over the top, they have some of the best titles around, and they ended with the insane Don't Care, Didn't Ask, Plus You're Dead To Me. I am sure I will be catching them on the circuit again soon.

Pale Flag have been incredibly active in the last few months, and only recently returned from Melbourne where they were in the finals of the Metal Battles yet have somehow found time to play in both Wellington and Tauranga as well, all in June. This is a band who are working incredibly hard, and bassist Matt Hammond has had an induction of fire since his first gig with the boys at The Thirsty a few months back. The line-up is of course completed by guitarists Jack Queenin and Liam Donald, drummer Cody Johnson and singer Isaac Drakeley. They kicked off with Demise, and the groove was full on, with the pit manic, and the band kicking up a storm. These guys are just so immensely heavy, yet they understand the way to really pull it off is by having lots of contrast within the arrangements, so they mix up the tempo, bring space in then drive it out, hit the crowd with a wall of sound and then back off, all with Isaac being the ringmaster. Matt has long been recognized as being one of the top bassists on the circuit, with his five-string approach coming to the fore in bands like Black Sands, yet here has really found his voice by linking in with Cody yet also locked solid with Jack and Liam, making for a heck of a sound. With the large amount of gigs they have been playing, it is no surprise they are incredibly tight, fully in tune with the audience and with each other.

Songs like Breaking the Cage has everyone hitting the riffs in perfect sync, with Isaac somehow rising above an incredibly dynamic groove which has everyone in the crowd moving as one. Their approach to death metal is to mix in other influences and ensure the contrast is aways there to accentuate all they are doing as they take it to the next level. Human Error is one of their newer and most complex numbers, with multiple sections which allow the band to bring in just so much space, with Cody even standing up a few times as he was only being delicate at those moments as opposed to hitting and kicking everything in sight. They ended with The Summit, with Max from Head Lock Grave launching himself with a massive stage dive and then another night of metal madness at Dead Witch was over. Get out there, support your local venue, support the bands. Tonight was just $10 for a heck of an event.


Photo credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Pale Flag

Pale Flag is a heavy band from Auckland, New Zealand formed in 2018.

Known for their high energy live show, Pale Flag plays hard hitting music aimed to get the crowd moshing.

In the band's short history they've already toured throughout the country with several notable local and international acts such as Rings of Saturn, Alpha Wolf, Vulvodynia, Antagonist A.D., Organectomy, Depths, Xile, and many others.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Pale Flag

Releases

Emergence
Year: 2019
Type: EP

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