What does one do on Saturday night when the insipid performance of your footy team is making you upset, depressed and angry? Head down to the local for some brutally heavy sludge bands of course, that will get you uplifted in no time!
I was enticed out of the house and down the street to see a bill made up of some local acts in ‘Ourobonic Plague’, ‘Greif Contest’ and ‘Drowning Horse’ headed up by Melbourne band ‘Whitehorse’ with the promise of “some slow heavy shit”.
We arrived late due to my inability to get anywhere in a timely fashion and by the time we entered ‘Grief Contest’ were in full flight. I had never heard or even heard of these guys (I really need to get out more) so was blissfully unaware of the pummelling I was about to receive.
Even for someone who likes this particular sound walking in on a band like this mid set can be a little like walking in on your parents doing the horizontal folk dance – full of unexpected and disturbing noises and more than a little bit of a shock to the system. So without the opportunity to prepare for them I was initially a little taken aback by the discordant wall of noise that the room was awash with.
That said these guys were pretty good, playing slow, repetitive heavy riffs interspersed with layers of feedback that was so tight and dirty it could give you a yeast infection.
Their stage presence consisted of standing pretty much stock still with backs to the audience letting the abrasive assault spreading forth from the dimly lit stage do the work. I liked what I heard, but for me ‘Grief Contest’ would be “a sometimes band”. With the level of feedback and repetition meaning I would have to be in the mood to sit down and listen to them.
If they sound like your kind of thing then head to their bandcamp and show some support :
The gap between bands was filled by ‘Ourobonic Plague’ which is apparently a genre-pushing project from the vocalist of Drowning Horse playing stuff from his computer, I think the kids might call it “DJing”
The highlight of this intense ambient intermission was his (presumably) ironic, poignant and completely fucked up mix of Darrell Braithwaite adult contemporary hit “The Horses” Get it?
We soon made the call to head outside and get some cool fresh air and left the dude to tweak music and minds with messed up mixes. There is only so much of that I can take.
Next were local heroes ‘Drowning Horse’. These guys are the local flag bearers for heavy sludge and rightfully so. They have an ardent following and the room was at it’s fullest when they began their set.
I have seen these guys a few times now and this was the most I have enjoyed one of their performances. The fact they used some awesome and perfectly placed black & white visuals projected onto the back of the stage worked a treat. Whilst not a new idea it was carried off here with aplomb and I was truly impressed by the way it accompanied and enhanced the somewhat hypnotic atmosphere and performance.
The other pleasant surprise was that they resisted the urge to again test the fortitude of the audience with another incredibly slow, heavy and repetitive set as I have seen them do before. It was basically the musical equivalent of tantric sex, call me shallow but I do like a climax eventually. On that occasion they seemed to play what seemed like one riff for nearly an hour, and whilst I respect the ‘fuckyouishness’ of that I prefer a release at some point.
The crowd was packed with ardent ‘Drowning Horse’ fans who swayed in maudlin unison and lapped up the dark vibes put forth by the members as they hammered through an impressive set. There was enough variety within each song and the set as a whole to ensure the waves of sheer brutal heaviness didn’t descend into a dirge.
This is not music that is likely to appeal to most people but that is exactly how ‘Drowning Horse’ like it. They play music that is dense and at times difficult and that is exactly how I like it.
If you don’t mind being slowly but surely being beaten to broken pulp then I strongly urge to check out these guys here:
The final act was the Victorian export who describe themselves in their bio thus:
“For the past nine plus years Whitehorse has gathered together members of Melbourne’s underground music community to create crushingly heavy, sludge-metal layered with electronics” And they sure nailed their description there.
They were indeed crushingly heavy with thundering chug upon chug from the bass & guitars aided by an electronic element provided by a dude using a desk to provide all manner of dissonant noise. He wailed into a mic and contorted and distorted his voice and other sounds to provide a backing to veritable tsunami of sound that crashed against us. It was a cool touch if a little too low in the mix for my liking.
The highlight of ‘Whitehorse’ for me was the vocalist, he bellowed and screamed with no regard for the future of his vocal chords and his sacrifice was not without merit. He tore all in attendance a new one with his guttural roar that could smash concrete and a scream that could cut glass. And he did it with a presence and ease that belied the power bursting out all over us.
‘Whitehorse’ carried on the theme of the evening by slamming powerful sledgehammer like riff after sledgehammer like riff. They were as heavy as a granite jockstrap and as abrasive as a brillo pad g-string. And I really enjoyed it. The band was super tight and locked in all set and built the atmosphere expertly throughout.
The definite highlight for me was the last track with its break from the slow building formula with some awesome tempo changes and beautifully chaotic middle and outro sections that whilst boarding on wonderful sensory overload brought a welcome and well placed change of pace from the slow burning aural assault that the previous few hours had brought.
I recommend having look at their gear on bandcamp:
So I left for home with further hearing damage, a couple CD’s and hip that very well may be vibrated right out of its socket, having been completely battered by some excellent muso’s making some boundary pushing art.
And the added bonus is that I didn’t think about the fucking West Coast Eagles for a few hours.