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Live Reviews : Absu, Portal and Ruins in Sydney

By on January 17, 2012

I’d like to start by saying, while I love attending gigs in Newtown, deciding to be “responsible” and drive in for a change was a big mistake! Not only did I get stuck in highway traffic along the way, it ended up taking almost 45 minutes to find a park in the overcrowded streets of Newtown/Enmore, resulting in me arriving at the venue just moments after the second band, Erebus Enthroned finished their set. By all accounts from friends who caught them, both Erebus Enthroned and opening band Norse delivered amazing sets which I’m sad to have missed. But after seeing both bands live before, I can say that people were definitely telling the truth as they’re both great live and well worth catching! So at least I know for the future, don’t drive to gigs, go by public transport, drink, and enjoy! As long as I’ll somehow make it home…haha!

So after purchasing a much needed alcoholic beverage, I made my way upstairs to find an absolutely packed room awaiting the beginning of Tasmanian black metal band Ruins to begin their set. Turns out that by this stage in the evening, the event had completely sold out, hence the abundance of attendees filling out the venue. Within moments, Ruins took the stage imparting a harsh demeanour over the crowd, matching their frenzied, furious sound. Maintaining this throughout their chaotic set, these guys performed some remarkable, memorable black metal which shows just how experienced and well rehearsed these guys are. Ruins have been among the Australian metal circuit for quite some time, supporting some massive international bands such as Satyricon and Immortal, and consisting of members such as Dave and Joe Haley of extremely popular local metal band Psycroptic. After seeing Ruins a few times live before, I thought I knew what to expect from this powerhouse of musicians, but I was actually blown away even further by these guys on this night as it was the first time I saw them as a full functioning band, rather than a group of session musicians gathering for the occasional show. On this evening they all performed extremely well, both as musicians and a band alike, and let me wanting more. Personally, I am looking very forward to the next time I see these guys live!

It’s not often that when one support band finishes and another support band starts setting up, you see people in the crowd not only keeping their positions in the crowd, but merging their way even closer to the front of the relatively smallish stage. But then again, it’s not often Brisbane based avant-garde horror black metal band Portal plays in town. Presenting themselves in attire rarely seen in a live band, Portal came on stage with an extremely crushing sound, almost obliterating the speakers in the process. Clad in dark cloaks, hoods and veils shielding their identities, Portal created a devastating soundscape in which you could tell every member of the audience was captivated within. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought Portal was the headlining act of the night. From the moment they played, The Sandringham Hotel became a cesspool of tightly knit metal heads that lapped up every moment of their live existence. The singer of Portal, The Curator, dominated the microphone with his squid-like glove grasp, commanding the crowd into oblivion and beyond. Staring among the crowd during their performance, I did not see one person’s gaze adjust from the sight of what was occurring on the stage. Not only is Portal a mesmerising and enthralling live act to witness, but they also perform some of the most horrifying, amazing dark ambient black metal you’ll ever hear. If you haven’t already, make sure you see these guys live. In fact, add it to your bucket list!

And we finally bring ourselves to the headlining act of the night, Texan occult black metal band Absu. While I can only say I own a couple of their albums, I didn’t recognise a lot of their material. But I did enjoy their live performance. While I still believe Portal may have been the highlight of the night, Absu definitely brought a certain velocity and ferocity to the stage in which was an amazing sight to see, especially for a three piece. If you’re not already aware, both the drummer and the bassist of Absu both share singing duties. One thing that I couldn’t seem to let go of during the set was the drummer’s headband which held his microphone. This works well except for the fact that the drummer wears a bright, shiny sequence style head band to keep the vocal microphone on, which is extremely distracting. I’m all for one to have fun and take the piss live, but when you’ve always presented yourself as an ‘occult’ metal band, perhaps your live appearance should be reflective of this. Either way, Absu played an amazingly tight live set, showing just how much their decades of experience have taken them. It was both a great and rare thing to see a band of such calibre playing in a smaller local venue, hence why it sold out for that very reason. Absu were not only an extremely tight live band, but they also knew how to work a crowd, especially one like the packed out crowded at the Sando this night.

It was great to see such a well-established band such as Absu finally make their way to Australia. The chosen venue was perfect for them as it allowed for the exact clientele and crowd size for such an event. If Absu ever decide to return, I’m sure they’ll be performing to a much larger crowd!