The reigning kings of Australian progressive metal, Karnivool, are out on the road for the next few weeks with their friends and rivals Dead Letter Circus on their Polymorphism tour. They kicked it all off with the first of two shows at The Palace on Wednesday night and their ever growing Melbourne fan base flooded in for a night of heavy guitars, melodic vocals, and shirtless men.

Treating the show as basically a double headliner (despite a 30 minute difference in set times) meant that Dead Letter Circus got to bring a lot to The Palace, much to the pleasure of the burgeoning crowd. While I’ve heard them compared to Karnivool in the past (and often harshly), their performance certainly shuttered that opinion out of my mind. Filled with a mix of tracks off both their albums, Dead Letter Circus’ set delivered everything a headline set should, and everything possible that a support slot could. Kicking the crowd into gear early by opening with ‘The Space on the Wall’ was just the beginning, the fans getting crazy as they delivered nothing but brilliance. Guitarist Clint Vincent was celebrating his birthday and so the crowd broke out into a thundering rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, one of very few breaks in their tightly plotted set. Lead Singer Kim Benzie commanded the audience well but while his falsetto lyrics were mostly on note, they sounded somewhat flat without the harmonies provided by drummer Luke Williams. That didn’t matter whatsoever in set closer ‘Lodestar’, and the crowd were excited to finally hear the brilliant lead single off their latest album.

At the time Karnivool were slated to go on stage, Ezekiel Ox jumped on the mic and gave a rousing speech about The Palace, hopefully igniting some Vool fans to take action in the campaign to Save the Palace Theatre. As Zeke called the entire crowd to arms he warned Planning Minister Matthew Guy to keep his “hands off our cultural heritage”, demanding that in 100 years our grandchildren should still be seeing shows at the wonderful venue.

The house lights dimmed and a sustained and swelling note rang out as each silhouetted member walked on separately, with Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking adding a new layer on their guitars and increasing the tension before they kicked into the opening riff of ‘Goliath’. Straight away the crowd were banging their heads and singing along and it continued through second track ‘A M War’. Ian Kenny’s vocals were on point from line one but it was hardly worth him singing ‘Themata’, the third song in the set, as the audience totally overpowered the lead singer. The rabid Vool fans didn’t let up throughout the whole set, so many of them singing every word from every song – all the more impressive during the songs off 2013’s Asymmetry – but to hear a large portion of the crowd sing along to ‘Deadman’ for 12 minutes was quite an experience.

As their songs duck and dive through countless changes and time signatures it’s spectacular that Karnivool stay so tight especially in sections where they are playing to no discernible time signature. Almost as spectacular is watching the crowd try and dance and despite knowing the songs back to front, still getting thrown by every change. Even though the band are still obviously touring the latest album, the crowd were very keen to hear the older songs and a group of fans had started to raucously sing the opening of ‘Fade’ off the second EP between every track in the hopes that it would get played. It was annoying at first but as they persisted it became quite endearing and I was actually disappointed that it didn’t pay off, the setlist remaining quite devoid of older songs with only ‘Themata’ and ‘C.O.T.E.’ appearing quite early on the setlist.

Bassist Jon Stockman took the spotlight towards the end of the set with his vocals on ‘The Refusal’, a song that quickly became a live favourite before Asymmetry was even released and they took that straight into ‘Set Fire To The Hive’ before Ian Kenny asked the crowd “Are you OK, chickens?” and they rounded out the set with ‘New Day’. After a brief break they returned to play an encore of two songs off the latest album and while they were great, it was an odd choice to finish with ‘Aeons’ in a set with no ‘Roquefort’.

Every time Karnivool visit our fair city they have to play in a bigger venue than their previous tour and they consistently sell out the venues. The reasons are quite clear when you see them perform, they pull no punches and routinely deliver spectacular performances of their incredible songs.

Wes Fahey


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