Review by Natalie Zed; Concert photography by Adam Wills
Metal cannot often be defined as subtle. Every now and again, however, these is a show that serves as a sort of palate-cleanser, offering metalheads an opportunity to indulge in some of the more delicate flavours that this broad, strange genre of music has to offer. Cynic, Intronaut and Dysrhythmia performed just such a show, giving the audience at the Opera House an aural meal to be sipped and sampled as well as devoured.
First and foremost, I must note that this show was exceptionally well curated. The lineup was composed not only of excellent musicians and interesting bands I was eager to see, but of three bands that fit together on stage. They each complimented each other’s work beautifully, and the presence of each enhanced and uplifted the performances of the others. I was also struck by the sense of reverence and respect for each other’s work the bands demonstrated. After performing, I spotted the striking Colin Marston (who is also a member of Gorguts and Krallice) in the audience as he watched and visibly enjoyed the rest of the show, not just passively sitting back, but listening carefully. This created an atmosphere in which the audience was encouraged to regard the show not just as a series of discrete sets, but to see the entire structure of the evening as a deliberate composition.
I arrived about a third of the way through Dysrhythmia‘s set. The audience was attentive, though initially the tiniest bit standoffish, as though they not quite sure how to respond to their work and stage presence. I can understand this; Dysrhythmia have a shirt that says “no vocals, no breakdowns, no dancing, no fun.” This can, initially, seem alienating. I beg to differ only on the last point, however. While they aren’t fun in a dance-party folk-metal drunk-fest way, they’re certainly an extremely pleasurable band to see live. The source of this pleasure is hinted at by their name. ‘Dysrhythmia’ comes in two varieties: circadian (jet lag) and cardiac (irregular heartbeat). The name of the band is incredibly apt. Their sound discombobulates like sleep deprivation does, throws the listener’s intellectual balance off. It is disarming. The sound also throbs, a heartbeat gone wrong, as hypnotic as it is unsettling. While I can see that this particular brand of strangeness may not be for everyone, I found their oddness extremely attractive.
Intronaut filled the middle slot, and filled it extremely well. They were refreshing after the initial weirdness of Dysrhythmia, and set the tone for Cynic wonderfully with their jazz- and sludge-influenced sound. They’re sharper as well; if Dysthrythmia inflict blunt force trauma (gently if relentlessly), Intronaut scratches and gnaws. They also have a lightness, a sense of playfulness to them. They bantered with the audience, were cordial and gracious, and genuinely seemed to enjoy being onstage. They’re complex without being dour, and I appreciate that. They’ll gleefully scramble your brain, but at least both they and the audience will enjoy the experience.
There was a tension as palpable as an ache in a muscle that preceded Cynic‘s entrance on to the stage, and a release of supreme satisfaction when they began to play. I don’t headbang to Cynic; I sway. They’re one of the bands that arouse my seldom-indulged tender side. I don’t feel confrontational while listening to their music. It is not about catharsis, but a very different kind of release. All around me, I noticed other members of the audience, whether standing at the front or leaning against a wall in the back, settling in to watch the show. Paul Masvidal is deeply interested in meditation and breathing practice, and this comes across in every aspect of his sound. Rather than throwing punches, Cynic, stretches, extends, folds and enfolds. There are two ways to remove tension from a muscle: a beating or a massage. Cynic opts for the latter rather than the former, and their tenderness defines them.