3 Feb 2023
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Achilles Complex - Gig Review: Achilles Complex @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 23/09/2022

24 Sep 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

I cannot believe I have not been at Dead Witch since the beginning of July, but there has been so much music going on that I kept having clashes. Luckily, Harley asked if I could come and see Achilles Complex quite some time back so this date was locked in.

The first band on tonight were Static from Hamilton, but unfortunately their drummer was delayed which meant they would be playing a shortened set, while they lost their bassist a few weeks back and have yet to find a suitable replacement. The line-up is Sinaea Hull-Hobman on lead Vocals, Josh Greger on guitar and backing vocals, Cailum Halsey-Collier on guitar and Ryan Mikkelsen on drums, and they started off with picked guitars which led into I See You. With one guitar being picked and the other providing lead noodles it allowed Sinaea to be both emotional and refined, until it was time for the pretence to end and they suddenly moved into a belter. Sinaea has a great voice, and with the band providing the foundation she lets rip, both gruff and clean, but there is no doubt they were losing impact by not having a strong bottom end. The positive is that there was far more space in the arrangement, and one was able to really hear what was going on, and Ryan is a beast behind the kit

Tired started in a gentle picked manner in a similar fashion to I See You, but with an emotional scream from Sinaea which was full of pain and sorrow, the riffs were off again. The band are full of energy, which comes through in their sound, and with a singer who is a real force to be reckoned with, there is no doubt they were making loads of friends tonight. Just two songs on and I was already looking forward to the next time I see them play when hopefully they will be back with a full line-up. Josh was also providing some vocals now, and at times was swapping leads with Sinaea which gave the band another factor, and the song finished strongly on another scream. The last number of their heavily truncated set was Pulling The Trigger which again started slowly before becoming a powering rock number with more than a hint of Avenged Sevenfold. This became their most violent and frantic song of the night, but the vocals still rose above, full of anguish and sorrow. It ended emotionally wrought, with the guitars providing the perfect backdrop 

Now it was time for Venom Dolls, who continue to play as a four-piece with Jessica Frank (vocals, bass) in Europe until the end of next year. They have been gigging a great deal recently, and already have a lot more arranged for before Christmas, so there really is no excuse for not catching them. This was the third time I have seen them as a quartet and was pleased they opened with Fucked Up, as it is such a fun bouncy number which gets people into their punk attitude right from the off. They followed this with Don’t Wanna Be which is in total contrast with gentle vocals and guitar up until the first chorus when it just explodes out of the blocks and Bridie Campbell (vocals) goes from singing sweetly to providing vocals with an edge: it ends as gently as it begins. No One Likes Mary Sue was one of my favourites from the last time I saw them play, so I was pleased to see it in the set tonight, a commercial punk blaster with a real hook.

The more gigs they play the more confident they are becoming as a unit, with Arlo Frances (bass) far more in the groove than the last time I saw them, leading Obsessed with a filthy dirty bass riff which provides the perfect grounding for guitarist Carawei Gao to provide chainsaw riffs while Summah Auvae continues to be the happiest punk drummer on the circuit, so into everything that is taking place and always with a huge smile on her face. A.L.A.B. was the shouty venomous nasty punk thing it is meant to be, which is in total contrast to Woemans Lullaby which contains different sections, twisting and turning. The last time I saw them they opened with Electric Wizard’s Funeralopalis, and now they had put it at the end of the set, showing yet again that if the girls want to move from punk to doom then they definitely have the chops, with more filthy distorted and fuzzed bass leading the way. There is loads of drama and passion in this, and when they go into the bridge and crank it up it is immensely powerful with Bridie passionately rising above the maelstrom.

Next up was Living State which meant we were in the very strange situation of having three female singers on stage after each other. From looking at Marissa and hearing her, no-one would have any idea that she had been ill in bed for the last three days but had decided she was going to come and sing her heart out. They kicked off with Snake Pit, immediately we were into their melodic hard rock with Marissa at the pinnacle. One can tell these guys have been playing together for some time as they are incredibly tight, all powering from the bottom end with the vocals over the top. They have just filmed three videos (which is why tonight they were all dressed in corporate attire) and next up was Alter Ego, which is one of those, and with Lex (bass) and Peter (guitar) both throwing shapes either side of the stage while keeping it all locked down, and Cam providing additional support from the back there was plenty of room for Marissa to do her thing. 

Pseudo Halo saw the first serious pogoing of the night and plenty of others moving as the groove took control as there is something about this band which really captures the imagination with music which is powerful and heavy yet also commercial with plenty of pop elements, strong melodies, and great hooks. This is the third time I have seen them play this year, and there is no doubt this was the strongest performance to date, with the music locked down tight and Marissa on fire and they just seemed to keep getting better as they shifted into You Do You. This was more aggressive and had separation between Lex and Peter as the former played his most basic line of the night to keep it punching as he tied in with Cam and Peter kept the riffing tight. Vantage was announced as their Tool rip off song, and certainly there is far more complexity in the guitar with the vocals quite at odds with what is going on beneath. As it became more of a headbanger it was interesting see all the crowd doing just that.

Last year I put One Sided in my Top Ten singles, and I still often play the video as it is a monster song, and tonight they just nailed it. If you have not heard this then seek it out on YouTube and take it from me, tonight it was better! They finished the set with their new video, Black White Man, which features them dressed as corporate slaves. A song of contrasts, with both quiet and manic sections, Marissa was still going as if she was in full health, and her vocals had been spot on all night. Incredibly heavy yet also designed for radio, tonight Living State were immense. 

Achilles Complex are a very different beast to what had come before, as not only do they have two guitarists, but their music is far more complicated as befits their name. To be honest, I have not heard much of their material and last reviewed a single of theirs as the beginning of last year, but I had really enjoyed what I heard in the soundcheck so was looking forward to this. They kicked off with the recent single Jack In, and immediately they had cranked up the intensity which only got even more intense as they moved into Kaboom. Here not only was Harley swapping riffs and complex runs with Reece Gielen but vocals as well with them swapping lines. This is prog metal/tech metal with continuous interplay between the guitars while the rhythm section of Zak Cole (drums) and Jordan Carpenter (5-striing bass) are also adding their own touches and driving this all to a whole new level. 

The note density within the arrangements is immense, and one never knows where the music is going to go as there are so many threads being woven into each song. That they have played together for many, many hours is obvious as they can be blasting along at full pelt and can all hit a spot a turn in a whole different direction. I also realised at this point that I was having one of the potential issues of reviewing “live in the moment” in that I was having so much fun that I had not been writing enough and they were already on Vice, the song I reviewed last year, which meant we were more than halfway through the set. There is a monstrous groove underlying this, alongside massive complexity, a drummer how doesn’t quit, a bassist throwing in loads of different styles, and two singers giving it their all while also blasting out runs and riffs like there was no tomorrow. I recall only giving the single 4 *’s when I heard it, but if I had come across it in this environment it would have been 5*’s all the way. 

All bands had suffered with time tonight, with some changeovers being delayed, but I was devastated when they announced the next song would be the last one. It was only then that I realised it was nearly midnight, which obviously was the reason. At least they went out on another banger, Shut It, which had the audience moving as if it were the beginning of the night and not the end. These guys are insane, producing massively complex and complicated music which grooves, moves, and gets everyone involved. 

This was yet another huge night at Dead Witch with some great bands – immense.


Photo Credit: Ginelle Cocks / Ginny C Photography
Achilles Complex Gallery
Living State Gallery
Venom Dolls Gallery
Static Gallery

 

About Achilles Complex

Achilles Complex is a four-piece prog rock powerhouse from Hamilton which formed in 2019. Priding themselves on their tight and energetic sound, the band specialize in mixing hard-hitting riffs with those enormous soaring choruses that audiences can’t get enough of.

The band consists of front man Harley Flynn, whose mesmerizing rhythm guitar playing and animated vocal delivery captivates crowds and draws them into the performance. Their thunder god Zak Cole looms behind the drum kit, combining intricate rhythms with a fundamental groove, interspersed with blistering fills to keep the audience on their toes. He can also be seen on stage as fill-in drummer for Checaine on their 2022 Black River Tour. Reece Gielen (Rogue John Doe) boasts an intimidating vocal range and dominates the stage with fiery guitar leads. On bass they have Jordan Carpenter, providing the menacing rumble from down under, contrasted by his melodic lead lines and ambient textures.

Achilles Complex have played many shows throughout Hamilton and Auckland, sharing stages with high profile NZ acts such as Villainy, Pull Down The Sun, Living State, FYVEYES, Claemus, Elidi, Pencarrow, Pale Flag and more.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Achilles Complex

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