Review: Karnivool

Published

Photo credit: Kate Snowdon

Photo credit: Kate Snowdon

Kate Snowdon
Production Manager

“Yeah I’m through in Glasgow for Karnivool tonight!”

“Shit man, I totally forget! I’ll try get a ticket..”

“Sold out, gutted for you man.”
“Well, I’ll just try contacting their PR just in case…”

Walking into the O2 ABC feeling fairly jammy, I picked up my press pass and sauntered into the smaller upstairs venue and nestled into the barriers. Without a press pit I felt a bit daft with my massive camera in the front of the audience, but as my friends from Edinburgh rocked up and stood with me I got my kit out and waited for the first act to come on.

Centrilia were so close to me the singer literally dripped sweat on me by just standing next to the barrier. For anyone unaware of the ABC 2, if you are at the barrier and lean down a little, you can touch the stage. I had to try desperately the entire time not to touch the performers, made more difficult by the singer continually leaning over the barrier and into the audience, which more than made up for the fact that he thought his patter was terrible. As did their insane double pedalling, their lovely crunchy tones, nice pinch harmonics and their weird similarity to Avenged Sevenfold. As the singer lurched about the stage wearing the microphone around his neck, I could see a fair few people nodding along, appreciating his fair abilities as a frontman and screamer. What set them apart more than their awesome crunch was their use of samples and what I will term “dubby noises”. At one point none of them were playing and it did take me a minute to source the dubby noise back to a small box at the singer’s feet, which was used tastefully to add depth to tracks rather than overpowering their live abilities. For me, they had a nice balance of samples and live, and the crunchy bass came through powerfully over everything.

Monuments took the stage slowly, to say the least. Their set up looked intensely complicated from the beginning, and they spent a significant amount of their set soundchecking, which isn’t to say that that was boring. The drum test was so loud the snare hurt my teeth and the bass genuinely made my feet feel funny. After some very specific tweak, they all disappeared off stage and promise to be back in a minute. Unfortunately their introductory sample was weak, attempting to be atmospheric in a room that had just seen all of them fiddle on stage for twenty odd minutes, but was quickly forgotten in the lovely blending of parts Monuments brought to the stage, their singer switching effectively between singing and screaming with the most lovely tone, although sometimes sounding  a little out of breath. Another brilliantly crunchy band, they made use of the standard bass/ guitar/ drum ensemble to great effect, but with the added intrigue of a battered old saxophone over the top of some seriously heavy riffs. Their guitar harmonics were a lovely addition to the mixture going on, and the beard of that man.. Well, Dumbledore’s got some competition is all I’m saying. In fact, three out of five members just had the most insane hair, just yet another pro in the list of great things about them, including the frontman’s charisma. At one point he asked the audience “Do you know who we are?”, and on the affirmative roar shouted “Are you sure?”, genuinely surprised to have amassed such a following. His other great moments included repeatedly fist-bumping a fairly inebriated member of the audience, getting the audience to click their fingers in time before the riff kicked in, and asking if anyone in the room was a singer and proclaiming “That shit’s hard”. A combination of great music, a brilliant attitude and some intense strobe lighting made for a powerful show, but more than that, a fun one. Watching the rhythm guitarist headbang with nose touching the floor, the drummer standing up to hit the toms harder and the entire band smiling at each other was one of the best things I’ve seen live.

But then there was Karnivool. To begin with was their very specific technical set up, which was done entirely by their roadcrew, who were screamed at, not with malice but with excitement, the entire time. As the room shook during soundcheck with the impact of the kick the crowd only got noisier, and I noticed the cymbal on my right was completely warped from impact. As I’d never seen or listened to them before, I paid attention as the set list was taped down, my initial fear of them from the volume being dispersed completely as I noticed a song called Roquefort and mentally faceplamed. However, as the band assembled onstage, I was yet again forced to re-evaluate. Their bassist’s beautiful 6-string was offset by their rhythm guitarist’s apparent complete normality, their lead had no shoes on, although I suppose their drummer did have no shirt on, and their frontman was a lanky, skinny man with slightly sticking out ears. I mentally took a step back, not physically as the crowd had pressed in too tight, and let go of my expectations. I had literally no idea what was coming. The opening song was so ethereal to start with I was bemused after their crazy set up, but their next song completely switched it up with some seriously crunchy tones and some mental strobing. The lead singer’s face didn’t change the whole time, just utterly chill and completely content, reaching out to everyone in the crowd and generally having a brilliant time. Not that I could hear what he was singing the majority of the time as literally everybody in the crowd was drowning him out, but the snippets I did hear were fairly amazing. The faces of the rest of the band were incredible too, the rhythm guitarist singing along, his face contorted with expression, the bassist continually smiling and the drummer slightly frowning the entire time, with a man-bun that showed he meant business, which was fair enough, as his use of polyrhythms and beyond mental fills probably took a wee bit of concentration. I don’t know, I’m not a drummer, but I suspect they were tricky.. All of the rest of the members had insane pedal boards to work with, all of which were labelled very specifically, and watching them switch tones in unison during songs was utterly delightful. Switching effortlessly between atmospheric and chuggy, Karnivool’s ability to capture the crowd was actually a bit terrifying, and watching them, even I settled into watching with the expression that people usually use for their life partners during the honeymoon period, or especially cute puppies. As they build their song ‘Deadman’ up and up to it’s peak, and the singer looked moderately confused as the band exploded around him in unison, someone let out a slightly deranged fangirl scream near the front.

Then I realised it was me.