Progfest returned to Brisbane this year, having passed it by last year. A showcase of Australia’s progressive music scene, this time round it featured a few interstate names but mainly drew together some of Brisbane’s finest on one bill. Taking place place at the Beetle Bar, I soon felt at home with the brick interior, garden themed interior design, pricy drinks and anime playing behind the bar. Also included in the entry price was the Progfest compilation CD set, two discs featuring the bands that played in the mini-festival’s various bills across the country. It’s a great way of exposing artists and rewarding those that do turn up to support.
Feed started off the night with a frenzied assault on the ears. The melodic hardcore from the five-piece drew even the most dedicated drinkers from the bar and rewarded the earlycomers. Their furious sound was tempered with wandering into other genre’s territories and mugging them for ideas. It was these little instrumental flourishes, the strength of the vocalist at both types of delivery and general song lengths that set them apart from normal hard rock. The only bad point was that the transitions between these styles weren’t quite smooth. But as a young band, this small songwriting problem will more than likely be smoothed over with experience.
The crowd began building nicely as Caligula's Horse got ready, with their guitarist dancing to the piped music. This was only the start of the band’s showmanship, with plenty of theatrical gestures throughout their set consisting of pure technical prog-metal. The confident soloing of both guitars was the highlight, as well as the facial expressions pulled throughout them. Unfortunately, it was marred slightly by a piercing sound issue that managed to persist through the majority of their songs. The band’s tight technicality can’t be doubted but they didn’t stray at all from their tight prog-metal sound, compared to some of the genre-bending that the rest of the bill’s bands did. Nevertheless, the great rhythm section and powerful voice combined with the twin guitars to deliver a strong set.
Echotide were using this event as their album launch and the local music community had come out to support them, with the crowd swelling hugely. The trio’s members’ various experience in Arcane and Caligula’s Horse showed through with their utter confidence throughout their set. The mood was set by a very nice sample informing the audience that life is just like Monopoly, a game that will end someday. Under and around this, the band started with chiming piano and guitar wash that gradually builds into full song until an explosion of sound. The band’s sound of cheerful yet longing minimalistic post-rock was extremely well received. The guitar and piano’s tones and textures proved extremely strong, while the drummer seemed to enjoy the freedom from the structures of Caligula’s Horse’s prog-metal, including absolutely monstering his kit in the last song after a short spell on a bonga drum. The band departed to applause, with more than likely quite a few more fans made.
Then the four members of Tangled Thoughts of Leaving began setting up. More than a few people seemed to know what was coming, as the crowd clustered around the stage in front of the thicket of keyboards rather than the guitarist. In no time at all, they began their juggernaut of a set with the audience swept up in their sound. It’s like jazz meets hardcore and starts screwing it in post-rock’s bedroom while Beethoven experiments with electronica on the bedside table. With breathtaking, virtuosic piano leading the flowing melody lines from nothing to wall of sound assaults, the bass and guitar provided support before roaring into their own. And the unique jazzy drumming conducted and shapes this headlong dash, rather than confining it with structure. The unique sound, stunning song development (even across the set!) and superb musicianship proved the highlight of the night for me and also for many others, judging by the crowd’s reaction.
Arcane led into their set with a pure vocal passage, showing off the frontman’s (also lead singer for Caligula’s Horse) powerful delivery and range before launching into their normal hard progressive rock tone. Fast, aggressive bass and judicious use of the evening’s biggest drum kit yet set the foundation for the guitar’s effortless tone with the keyboard adding in another layer of sound. The band’s evolution of rhythm and melody across a song was masterful, dropping from metal-inspired passages into a swing section and back completely naturally. The cherry on top of this was the emotive lyrics from the awesome voice of lead singer, perfectly completing the genre-skipping prog-rock band’s efforts. The band’s adeptness at blending other genres into their prog-rock sound is truly amazing.
The crowd had almost halved by the time Ne Obliviscaris were ready to rip into their set. Undeterred, the six members let loose their elegantly brutal brand of melodic black metal onto the remaining core of metalheads. Maybe I’m not metal enough but the drums’ doublekicks’ domination of the sound mix meant that no other instrument could be heard during the heavier sections. However, when they could be heard they were excellent with surprising groovy bass lines for a metal band, throat-destroying growls, pounding guitars and skittering violin. The moments of dual clean-heavy vocal delivery and when the violin had free reign in the (relatively) quieter, more melodic segments were what stood out most to me. The guitars also showed another side to their chugging riffs, with varied soloing and supported by the deep rhythm of the drum playing. The variation in sound across their set was Ne Obliciscaris’ greatest strength, as well as some truly ear-destroying passages of black metal. It was with regret that I missed their last song, due to having to run for my last bus but I left, utterly satisfied with the night’s showing and that Australia’s progressive scene is still achieving great music.