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Crooked Royals - Gig Review: Crooked Royals @ Valhalla, Wellington - 28/04/2023

30 Apr 2023 // A review by Nicholas Clark

Valhalla was surely over their capacity on Friday night when Auckland metalcore juggernauts Crooked Royals headlined a very quickly sold out show. It was standing room only within the small club, but there was a palpable, even friendly excitement in the cramped conditions. I personally feel as if metalcore is often misunderstood as a subgenre of the metal family tree, as the emotions that inspire the musicians of the style range beyond mere anger. Many metalcore artists take a similarly wide range of musical influences into their sound.

Crooked Royals are an excellent example of this, combining the technical virtuosity of metal, but the soaring melodies of alternative rock and R&B, even some rapping from hip-hop or trap, often leaning heavily into prog and mathrock. It’s a strange and new sort of music belonging very much to this millennium, and the young crowd demonstrated this with their uncharacteristic haircuts and (relatively) bright clothing. Tattoos remained a common theme throughout the patrons. Crooked Royals have been touring the country to support their long awaited and incredibly heavy first full-length recording, Quarter Life Daydream after having signed to 3DOT Recordings (a record label owned and curated by the members of the band Periphery, an American progressive metal, ‘djent’ band from Washington, D.C.). This album contains the insanely heavy single Glass Hands which is gaining traction overseas.

The two-vocal attack of Lee Mackley (heavy vocals) and Christian Carstensen (clean vocals) provides a constant focal point to their songs, interrupted only by the jaw-dropping technical riffs of Jake Andrews (guitar). The band is rounded out by the very able Keane Gilles (drums) and Conor Lawson (bass). Below the onslaught of riffs, screams and melodic singing, electronic samples burble and swirl to introduce songs. Altogether it is a thoroughly modern, occasionally abrasive, occasionally tender and sophisticated sound.

Valhalla had the monitors on relatively low, and I was surprised at how quiet opening 5 piece band All I Seek was when the night began. The progressive metal band played with energy and passion, alternating between heavy riffs and effected clean sections, but it was clear the audience was hungry for their heroes. Next, Claemus took to the stage, a progressive metal band utilising ambient textural sounds and synths. Like the headliner, there was an element of hopeful melody in their music contrasting with the heavy parts. I detect an influence from death metal in this band.

Australian band, Patient Sixty-Seven came next, offering melodic, emo-inspired singing interspersed with technical breakdowns. However, something was off with the bands delivery and they failed to whip the crowd into the hysteria they may have wanted. After five or so songs, the band was introducing Crooked Royals and the audience brayed and screamed.

However, technical issues slowed the band changeover. High-hat clutches were unable to be removed, cables were being unplugged and plugged back into vocal processing units on stage, people were calling others on stage to return... This only caused more anticipation, so that when Christian and Lee finally did come to the stage, the crowd was desperate. The band played amazingly, performing a few songs from their 2019 EP Rumination but sticking heavily to Quarter Life Daydream. The dual frontmen were able to banter a little between one another (Praying Mantis jokes, heartfelt dedications to partners, hydration reminders), which contrasted with the brutality the band was capable of. The breakdowns created swirling vortexes of bodies in the pit, creating a dangerous workplace for photographers. The audience fed off the energy on stage and reciprocated with headbanging, jumping, dancing or yelling the sing-a-long choruses right back.

When the dust settled, the band joked about leaving the stage for an encore but admitted they couldn’t in Valhalla and rewarded their fans with one more for the road. Without ringing ears, despite standing next to a monitor for most of the night, I heard the band welcome anyone to come meet them after the show or pose for photographs. The stage was promptly swamped with eager fans and the band remained signing and posing for quite some time.

A band to watch as they continue their well begun journey.

Photo Credit: Nicholas E. Clark
Crooked Royals Photo Gallery


About Crooked Royals

Crooked Royals unearth harmony from unpredictability. The quintet is Christian Carstensen (clean vocals), Lee Mackley (heavy vocals), Jake Andrews (guitar), Keane Gilles (drums), and Conor Lawson (bass). Infusing metalcore with moments of head-spinning off-kilter prog, alternative melodies, and even nocturnal trap R&B, the band switch lanes seamlessly and smoothly.

They bob and weave past boundaries with a deft and dynamic approach. After racking up millions of streams independently and touring with various genre heavyweights, they perfect this vision on their full-length debut album, Quarter Life Daydream out through esteemed label 3DOT Recordings.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Crooked Royals


Quarter Life Day Dream
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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