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Living State - Gig Review: Living State @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 3/03/2023

04 Mar 2023 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back down to Central Auckland on a Friday night for Living State’s single launch so this promised to be fun, especially as they had Altaea playing (who I had not seen since they had a change in singer and direction, so changed the name from States) plus Lost Vessels who were fresh from recording with Dave Rhodes as part of their prize for winning last year’s Ding Dong Battle of the Bands. I bumped into Red from Finger Tight who is just buzzing about supporting Coridian on their forthcoming North Island tour, which promises to be a great gig.

Lost Vessels improve each time I see them – tonight I think was the fourth time – kicking straight into their 90’s pop punk vibe which got people moving right from the off. They started with Echoes, which always reminds me somewhat of classic Blink 182, with Eileen totally in control and having a load of fun. Cameron provides harmony vocals which adds to that pop punk style. But they have more to offer than many, with 742 allowing them to turn it up a little more and drift more strongly into the punk arena without losing any of that melody. The band are built strongly on the rhythm section of Ethan, who is constantly driving while changing the attack and throwing in loads of fills, and John who stays right in the pocket. This allows Cameron and Kyle to crunch the riffs or throw in leads as the need arises. Then there is Eileen, who has so much confidence in what she is doing, and rightly so. She is not only a good singer, able to belt when she needs to, but so into the music that one cannot help but enjoy what is going on. All This Time is made up of multiple sections, all of which combine to create quite an epic piece. They have yet to choose the first single from the tracks they have recorded, but it really would not surprise me if it was this one.

Mind you, I Don’t Owe You, is one of those songs where the verse, with its tribal beat and staccato riff, in no way prepares anyone for the anthemlike chorus. The guys have been playing a lot recently, and it shows in the way they are just so tight, throwing in intricacies when the time is right, with a great deal more going on underneath than one might expect from a band in this genre. F*** My Brain starts off somewhat quietly with picked guitar from Kyle and gentle vocals from Eileen, which continues in the same manner until we get to the bridge when it becomes somewhat harder. The second verse has more bite than the first, but there is still a real contrast between that and the chorus, yet while there are manic sections there are also quiet ones which means the dynamics are really clear. Music needs dark and light, loud and quiet, to really shine and although these guys have not been around as long as many, they really have that sorted. Having a second singer in Cameron allows Eileen to bounce her vocals off someone else, and by only using the technique sparingly it works well. Kyle got everyone clapping along to closer Nostalgia, which took us back into Blink 182 territory and there was no doubt the crowd were all having a blast. Lost Vessels are turning into a stunning live act who are enjoying themselves and bringing everyone else in for the ride. In fact, they were so good the crowd demanded another song, which had them looking to see if they were allowed, the riff kicked in, and Cameron was leading us into Voice, swapping lead vocals with Eileen throughout. Such a blast, I am already looking forward to seeing them again. I was asked to point out by someone seeing them for the first time they were “f***ing awesome”.

Next up were Altaea, a band I had not previously seen, although I had caught them when they were States. It was a tough call to change the name which has so much history, but they felt with a new singer and change in direction it was the right one. The line-up is Josh Parbery (vocals), Reuben Parlane (guitar, backing vocals), Nik Dobbin (lead guitar), Rob Woodman (bass) and Chris E. Birch (drums). They commenced with a load of feedback, Chris set up a pattern, Reuben got the crowd going and we were off into Relentless. Their music is complex, with a lot going on (Nik’s lead lines being an important element), and over the top of all this multi-threaded approach is Josh, who may be the new boy in the band, but looks like he has been there forever. He never stops moving, even though he was restricted in space, constantly throwing shapes and was very much the focal point, allowing the rest of the guys to concentrate on providing the wall of sound which has so very much going on inside. They blasted into Never Enough, and even though the band were playing at a high volume, Chris is one of those drummers who believes the only way to play is by trying to drive through the kit, meaning we never had any issue hearing the work he was putting in. Watching Josh was interesting as while there are times when he is throwing fairly standard metal shapes there are others where he is far more 80’s in approach, quite David Byrne in fact.

Favourite Kind started with a far more electronic feel to it, with drums sounds which would not have been out of place with Gary Numan, mixing it up with a melodic complex metal wall of sound which provides contrast and ensures the ears do not get overpowered. No Disguise started as a jumpy up and down song, yet they also managed to keep the multiple threads and styles going, with Rob holding this one together while so many other things were taking place. They say their sound is best described as an aural smackdown, yet they never lose the melody all the time they are hitting hard, and they certainly had the crowd pumped by now. When they launched into Linkin Park’s Papercut Reuben took on the main vocal role, and the crowd certainly reacted, singing along and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Envy started with a drum solo, which was probably to allow for re-tuning (although Chris did keep punching hard after the rest of the guys came in) and will be released as a single in a few weeks’ time.  This number uses a drum fill as main element of the sound, with the guitars and bass providing the wall of sound and the drums breaking it up with Josh over the top. Modern Age had them throw in a filthy groove which demanded everyone move, so needless to say we obliged as Rob and Chris kept it tight, Nik ensured he maintained a melodic lead throughout while Reuben kept the riffs going. Altaea ended the night with Sunrise, showing they can slow it down and be melodic (some lovely basslines) where they want to, but can also blast it out as well. Very different indeed to Lost Vessels, but a blast, nonetheless.

Now it was time for Living State, who today were celebrating the release of their second single, Black White Man, a considerable period of time on from their first, the epic One Sided. They are a band I have seen quite a few times, they never fail to impress, and there was a good crowd staying to see them. Their version of melodic hard rock is quite different to everything else around, and I am so glad Marissa no longer plays guitar on stage as it allows her to really express herself as a dynamic frontwoman and she is also singing better. Cam is the driving force from the back, Lex keeps it tight on bass, often providing a second melody line, while Krupek not only provides the riffs but is also throwing some interesting shapes. One can always tell when a band has been paying their dues as there is something about the performance which only comes from spending many hours playing together, both in rehearsal and in front of an audience and they are incredibly tight. They blasted through Alter Ego and Pandering, and then it was time for One Sided, still one of my favourite ever NZ songs. It was in my Top 10 for 2021, and in the live environment it has even more bite, while Marissa nails the vocals with ease. Their use of melody combined with powerful rhythms are a heady mix, and this song was obviously known by everyone here who gave it a huge cheer.

Stalker has a quite different vibe, with Cam, Krupek and Lex at times appearing to all be playing a different song, yet the diverse threads came together in the chorus before moving out again. Tonight they were trialling backing tracks and there were a few moments where it meant songs did not start quite as easily as they may have, but this is something which will come. Vantage has a complex time signature, and it contrasts nicely with what had gone before. That Thing I Mentioned had a more straightforward approach in some ways, yet Cam and Lex were still driving the sound with complexity while Krupek followed with the riffs and Marissa was over the top of everything. All the band have changed in the time I have been seeing them, but it is the change in Marissa which is the most obvious as she knows she has the chops and is full of confidence, no matter what the song demands of her. Snake Pit had her living the words with plenty of hand actions, yet while this song does have some quick lyrical moments, there are also others where she is holding lengthy notes, yet she nailed them with ease. Lex’s creepy contacts certainly added to the air of menace (see the new video to see why he was wearing them), although I am sure they did nothing at all for his vision, but he never seemed to have an issue, keeping the bottom line nailed while Krupek threw the moods

Pseudo Halo starts with a dirty riff, but the song becomes quite sweet in the verse before speeding up for the bridge, and then pulling it back again. There is always plenty of space within their material, much of which could well be played on rock radio, yet there is a hard drive within all they do which means they can play alongside many different bands. There was an issue with the introduction of You Do You but they soon recovered, showing no sign at all of slowing down even though it was coming to the end of the set. They ended the night with the new single, Black White Man, a tale of a boss so mean that even though the office worker dies of a heart attack he returns as a zombie to finish the report. It has a slow tempo, with a nice drum pattern, relying very much on the vocals in the verse to provide the edge, lifting in the chorus where Krupek amps it up and the vocals are lifted to new levels, with the contrast being what makes this such a powerful song.

Three great bands, yet another wonderful time at Dead Witch.

Photo Credit: Joe Photography
View the full galleries here:
Living State
Lost Vessels


About Living State

A four-piece band heavy rock band based in Auckland. Formed in 2018, their sound is a heady mix of Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, System of a Down & Tool juxtaposed with vocals influenced by Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Evanescence. Expect the unexpected.

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