GIG REVIEW: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Hybrid Nightmares, Earth Rot & Hollow World Live at Max Watts, Melbourne
Being a Brisbanite, you’re always told that weekend international shows in Melbourne are crazy and sell really well. Italian maestros Fleshgod Apocalypse are no strangers to pulling decent crowds, and with a line spanning a decent distance down the road before doors opened attendance was not going to be an issue, it was merely going to be a question of whether or not the band’s performance would heat up the crowd on this cold winters evening.
Opening the night were Hollow World, a band regularly labeled as Australia’s response to The Black Dahlia Murder and having not seen the band live for well over two years I can now attest that this particular description is accurate. The band looked like a formidable force up on stage with every moment they were onstage commanding the attention of everyone in the venue. Apart from a minor issue where the microphone lead detached from the microphone (which was promptly inserted back into the microphone only causing a few words being missed), their set was flawless and is definitely one I would watch again in a heartbeat.
Earth Rot followed and were pretty suitable as support but I couldn’t help but feeling that perhaps the three days straight of touring across the country might have taken its toll on the Perth based squad, because I don’t feel like they captured the energy that their predecessors did for the night. Musically it was pretty tight – a solid, gritty, and almost sludgy take on extreme metal, but I feel like where any major criticisms could come in was what seemed like a tired vocal delivery (which after doing this three days straight across different climates I don’t blame it myself). It was still pretty good, just lacking in the punch that I know is possible from this group. Special mention does go out to the drummer who absolutely captivated from the first beat.
Hybrid Nightmares rounded out the support acts and put on a show that was audibly and viscerally grim. Adorning the stage in corpse paint, fluorescent paint streaks and matching garb, the band hit that sweet mark between extreme and melodic, pulling off a very Australian sounding Scandinavian attempt at black metal. Their sound was intriguing enough in the Australian landscape to make me want to explore it further, as it definitely seems that this is one of only a handful of bands doing this in Australia. It definitely sounded the cream of the crop for the support acts of the night, and is definitely a band I want to explore further.
As Fleshgod Apocalypse took the stage the crowd sweltered towards the front and quick glances revealed that the venue was pretty damn full now; and just like the ‘on my command, unleash hell’ quote from the film Gladiator, the moment the opening notes of their set rang out the crowd lost absolutely all of their inhibitions.
Having seen Fleshgod on their first tour here in 2014, the first thing that stood out was just how thunderous frontman Tommaso Riccardi’s vocals have become; and how that improvement on his vocals, and their layering and contrast on top of and against Veronica Bordacchini’s operatic delivery really raise the performance. This also helped tie in really well with some of the visual interplay between the two during certain songs with an almost Romeo and Juliet style chemistry going on.
Audibly it was always going to be a difficult show to convey accurately as the band’s sound canvasses so many levels and difficulties, but everything seemed to sit at levels that were seemingly perfect for the show. The guitars weren’t overpowering, vocals were coming across clear, bass line wasn’t too obtrusive on the rest of the mix, and Francessco Paoli’s drumming was crisp, clear and unforgettable as always.
The crowd was relentless the entire night, with a large contingent going crazy over songs from the band’s last album ‘King’, and the remainder enjoying material of the band’s earlier albums. Luckily enough the band hit an appropriate mix of their discography over the 80 minute set that meant there was something there for everyone.
Probably the only negative points from the set would be that the guitar tone sounded slightly hollow. It didn’t make a difference in the live spectrum, but in the context of perfection that could be something for future review for the band. The only other detrimental note would be the song structuring for this setlist with In Honour of Reason being the first song of the encore. Now hear me out on this one, because after obliterating a drum kit for an hour straight before walking off stage for a three minute break to then return and play one of the more intense songs in the band’s catalogue definitely looked like it was wreaking havoc on Paoli’s muscles with some pained looks coming from behind the kit during the encore. These are both really minor issues and are more nitpicks than anything, with neither really going to impact on the brilliance that was Fleshgod’s live performance.
All in all it was an extremely brutal night that proved that there is an exuberant love for the Italian masters that hopefully sees them return soon.