People who read this journal might be inclined to believe that I spend the entirety of my waking life huddled up behind a computer in anxiety. And you know what? 75% of the time, they are right.
However, on August 31 of 2013, I endured multiple hours on the bus, train, and my feet to get to the Marrickville venue known as The Cosmos Rock Lounge. I did not end up taking as many photographs of the event as I believed I was going to. During one set, I began to experience the coughing fits that my windpipes have been going into at random intervals, and attempts to bring that under control with the means I had available to me unfortunately resulted in anxiety attacks, so I am thankful I did get the pictures that I did.
In spite of all of that, what I did get out of it all was a great night out and some photos that I am very happy to have taken. The total photo count was 152 (four and almost a quarter 36-exposure rolls going by old measures). After removing another 16 that my camera’s LCD panel failed to show were over, under, or badly exposed, I am now in the process of sifting through the images and what they mean to me.
(By the way, please do not ask me to name the individual members of bands. Unlike the twenty-one year-old me, I am having a hard time remembering the band names. Time taking its toll (how doomy!) and all.)
Opening act, Milkmaids, I was told, are a “stoner metal” act. That is pretty close to the truth, and of the four acts of the night that were not Cruciform, they ended up being the ones I remember most fondly. They had a rather loose, wasted-sounding, kind of Sabbath-ian groove going that suited the very shaggy and ad-hoc nature of the venue.
Of course, being the opening act, they also ended up playing to the smallest audience. Which is a shame, honestly. I do not mean that everyone has to get there at opening time, sharp, but they do deserve to be discovered a bit more than I suspect was the case on this night.
Second act, Execute, did not go down so well for me. It was a bit like trying to swallow one of those oversized vitamin pills that cannot help triggering a gagging or retching reaction. However, others seemed to get into the spirit of the act, and that is what mattered. It would be a bloody boring world if we all liked the same acts, after all.
The bass player seemed to like to stomp into the crowd, still playing, and nudge around the very small most pit that gathered. Good fun for those into that sort of thing. However, when your vocalist’s statements that “this is a technical death metal song” get more interesting than the actual songs (at least to me), that is never a good sign. It made me long for the more comedic stylings of Sadistik Exekution.
However, things picked up in a big way with Ya̧nomamö, a band that redefines the word sludgy whilst their vocalist adopts a manner not unlike that of a punk. As the band pounds their way through the dramatically-emphasised chords, said vocalist will saunter through the audience, often climbing up on audience members and singing into their faces. Speaking with one fellow audience member about it afterward, I had been told that this vocalist gets all kinds of reactions, including being punched in the head.
By the way, if the woman in the above photo is reading this, I have the following I would like to say: We both have great taste in music and cameras, it appears. Please get in touch. And all that shit. Haha.
I would probably have to listen to Ya̧nomamö in isolation, that is, without the very raw live setup and the vocalist’s antics to distract me from the actual music. But when you come away from a live performance with such a positive impression of the band, that is half the battle won so far as I am concerned.
Fourth act of the evening, Burial Chamber, also put on a good set with a thick, sorta-doomy sound that floated my boat. They did not put on enough of an impression for me to remember much about them as I was making my way home (and boy, what a trip that turned out to be!), but on the same token, they never bored me.
Maybe it was just coming down from the performance-art high of Ya̧nomamö. But Burial Chamber, whilst not making as big a hash of it as I remember Execute doing, did not exactly take the bull by the horns to my memory. I will give them the benefit of the doubt in this case, as I do not think a single show is a sufficient basis on which to just a performing artist’s merits.
Maybe it was just the sequencing. I know that if I had been in charge, Execute would have gone on first, Ya̧nomamö fourth, and the other two supports in whatever order pleased them. But I was just a paying customer like dozens of others. How these decisions get made is something I will never pretend to understand.
One thing that everyone most emphatically understood, however, was that they were there to see Cruciform. For the benefit of those who have no idea, a little background. Cruciform spent the first half of the 1990s tearing up the Sydney scene as a doom metal act. At first, their lineup consisted of the usual drummer, bassist, and two guitarist rotation that we have seen a million times before. But for a demo tape that the band released in 1995, guitarist/keyboard Simon Gruer was added. And musical heaven was born.
Sadly, before Cruciform could capitalise on the growing fame that was getting them calls from overseas, the band split up and went their separate ways. At least, until 2012, when both nostalgia and the sad reality that doom metal has become even more relevant since 1995 brought them back to the stage.
I could sum it all up by saying that of the other four bands that played on this night, all considered it a great honour to be on the same bill as Cruciform. It is sort of like a band from Aston being on the same bill as Black Sabbath. Both a great honour to be chosen, and a great chance to prove one’s mettle.
And they set a bar high enough that it made Milkmaids and Ya̧nomamö stand out all the more compared to the other openers. One of my favourite rules of making a piece of music, film, or literature is deceptively simple. Regardless of all else, start and end with your strongest material. So when I say that Cruciform started their set with Sanctuary and ended it with Paradox, that says it all right there.
Another note that is more about me than the show, just to give some context to these pictures. The Cosmos Rock Lounge is not a big stage venue or even a small pub like the locations of most of the gigs I have attended in Sydney. It defines the very word “underground”. As I believe my words about Execute might have hinted, there is literally no division between the band and the standing-space audience. Whilst this gives the proceedings a very intimate feel, it also makes life hell for a photographer, be he professional, halfway to semi-professional, or just some dickhead with a cameraphone. I was going to go around to the back of the stage area at one point, as was suggested to me, but I thought better of it. This is because I had been inhaling Ventolin at a much higher rate than recommended during the night to try and keep myself from coughing and retching and throwing up, and thus was starting to feel more than just a little bit anxious. Like I said, doom metal is more relevant to both myself and the world than it was when I was seventeen, and that is tragic.
There really is not much more I can say here. Cruciform have plans to release a retrospective collection of all the songs they made before the break-up in 1995. Speaking to drummer/vocalist Michael Lenton first-hand, it seems that the main reason it is still being worked on is being unhappy with a few of the sounds they want to go into the finished mix. The keyboards, if I remember correctly.
This also prompted much joking about the fact that stage shows since the reunion have mostly been sans keyboards. Jokes about Simon Gruer forgetting to bring his keyboards to the show, and so forth. Quite frankly, you cannot blame him given how little stage space there was.
If I had to score the five acts on some sort of scale, let us say five being the most impressed you could be by a band’s music or how they present it, I would probably assign the following scores:
- Milkmaids – 4/5
- Execute – 2.5/5 (I think I would have to see them again to really be sure on this one, too)
- Ya̧nomamö – 5/5
- Burial Chamber – 3.5/5
- Cruciform – 6/5 (like you really needed to ask?)
In any case, in spite of my wheezing and confusion all the way home, I consider it a privilege to have been there. Hopefully I will see one or more of these bands again very soon. Now, to cap this off, a couple of polls for your consideration:
Those who take the time to answer, thank you very much. Those who do not, giffuct.