"Its too hot for this shit," laments Matt, drummer of Cafe Medula as he wipes sweat from his brow. Lugging his many drums down two flights of stairs and across the vast floor at Melbourne's legendary Hi-Fi Bar and Ballroom in thirty-five degree heat was taking its toll. But does he love it, I asked? "Absolutely!" He replies. It was a hot day. Bands across all styles and genres gathered to perform at the Hi-Fi Bar and Ballroom to celebrate the launch of blues/metal/rock combo Elemental Burn's latest EP, Prologue. As we decended into the cavernous bar, climbing atop the black-clad stage was exciting -
the venue that has held the likes of The Haunted, Dark Tranquillity and Devin Townsend.
All the performers couldn't contain their joy, especially Cafe guitarist Xavier: "I can't believe I'm standing where Devy once stood. It's amazing."
EB vocalist and manager Sarah was making sure everything was running smoothly. Playing the Hi-Fi was a prestige and a privilege - they do not tolerate slackers. "If everything runs well, they'll have you back," she explains. "otherwise it's a struggle. Still, it's a great place." Her bear-like husband, lead guitarist Andrew cheekily added; "Yeah, too bad they don't spring for a couple of beers." (Read more about Elemental Burn in our exclusive interview here.) We both grinned. This night would hold one hell of a show, a veritable showcase of local talent ranging from blues, funk, jazz fusion, hardcore and most importantly, heavy metal music.
Although billed as a metal act, curtain raisers Bad Karma strutted out on stage offering their Metallica inspired heavy groove rock with the occasional Pearl Jam-ism thrown in for effect. Their early 90s rock revivalist atmosphere was recieved well, especially the 80s quasi-prog metal styled Raisin', their commanding basslines making the guitars seemed washed out in comparison.
Screamo act Tread followed, injecting a more modern sound into the evening with fast-paced screamo/hardcore buzzsaw riffing and manic chugging. Despite suffering from some terrible sound issues, they overcame most of their technical limitations to provide a high-energy, American flavored performance.
Elemental Burn took the stage, opening with Society's Snare. Bounding with a celtic inspired ditty, their organic yet thick-edge sound unmistakeably thrust forward with unbridled momentum. Their spirited bluesy tracks delighting more so than others, especially Taxman; pure power blues with a raucous, scrappy and groovin' melody abundant with feelgood licks and groovy tunes. Such is a band that steadfastly refuses to be chained to formula, they even mix up their sound with Open Wound, a 90s alt-rock inspired track that showcases the rhythm section's palpable synergy. Andrew's gravelly tone compliments Sarah's sometimes all too feather-light voice for a rocking, intense, tattered and knockabout Burn. They play surf rock, they play alt, punk (a great old school headbanger in the form of Arm Breaker) blues and the lackadaisical but by no means lazy Queens of the Stone Age "desert rock" style - they love to rock and won't stop until everyone knows it.
Template, the veteran prog metal act took vice-like hold of the stage, expressing themselves with wanton flourishes of dazzling and sprawling guitarwork, influenced by the European scene and the old greats - Fates Warning, Rush and Dream Theater. Jazzy strokes and oblique exotic textures were their staple, Michael Mills using a Hendrix-style left-handed (read: upside-down) Strat. The band excelled at evoking long-winded yet techincal fugues that germinated from simple, raw melodies that blossomed into dense, volatile and sometimes bludgeoningly heavy passages. Thankfully taking the road less travelled in this style of progressive hard rock, they built walls of compassionless, impenetrable sound amid blazing flights of rhythmic chaos.
Strutting out confidently, Cafe Medula prepared another sumptuous spread, rounding out the evening as dessert for the mouthwatering smorgasbord of talent on offer. Their set locked-on with funky grooves that would keep modern funksters and prog fans with gaped jaws, drooling into their beers. Their Patton inspired number Bitchslap in D Minor was loaded until breaking point with voluminous bass, running tar-thick with acidic vocals all the while weaving a rich tapestry of sharp and to the point rhythms. Their proggy harmonies and melodies ala Pain of Salvation kept the sizeable audience captivated as they worked the way to the top of their own monstrous concoction of fuzzy bass, punishing melodies, airy keyboard leads and thunderous beats. In their meditteranean hued Ethnic, Zorba-like marches had the entire crowd moving their feet and waving their hands in the air.
Once the buzz of performing faded and the lights shone brightly upon the once intimate, cozy atmosphere of the Bar revealing its worn features the bands were still thrilled at what they had accomplished that night. "That was a great night, and if anyone didn't like it...fuck 'em!" one reveller said as he exited the show. And I couldn't have agreed more.