Live Reviews : Carcass & King Parrot @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 15/06/2014
Images: Len Panecki
Words: Jonathon Besanko
Last night was awesome. I always knew Britain’s extreme metal royalty, Carcass, would put on a great show, but all my expectations were thoroughly exceeded. They put on a monster of a gig, and it was coupled by their welcomed brand of humour that formed the rest of their set. More to that later though.
The gig took place at 170 Russell, a venue I’ve very much grown fond of. Last night reassured me as to why that is. The sound and lighting on the night was fantastic. Both King Parrot and Carcass sounded amazing live and their unique light set ups gave each of their sets an enjoyable aesthetic.
The whole place was pretty much packed out, and even by half an hour after door open the crowds were still flooding in (let’s not forget King Parrot frontman, Youngy’s, amusing remark later on, “we heard the line went… up the street!”). While it didn’t quite reach the insane numbers I witnessed at the Kreator-Death Angel gig not that long ago, there were still impressive numbers of the night. And you had a good assortment of people in the crowd who’d come obviously for Carcass and those that were also spotting shirts and hoodies in support of the night’s opener, Melbourne’s ever-insane grindcore thrashers, King Parrot.
King Parrot’s set was as volatile and brazen as ever, but it’s funny then that when things quieted down for a rare second between songs, either frontman Matt ‘Youngy’ Young would speak out or so would his cohort, bassist Slatts, and they both just seemed like the most awesome of folks. What separates King Parrot from the hordes of other extreme metal bands currently saturating the Australian market is that they play in a grindcore style, something I otherwise haven’t seen anywhere else in our local scene. It’s both violently headbangable and hilarious all at once, especially when every opening segment or tail-end of a song is usually heralded or followed by one of Youngy’s trademark parrot-like screeches.
The ruthless onslaught the band carries in their sound is harsh, unrelenting, and solid as fuck. Aided by the earlier mentioned sound engineering, while the wall of noise the band happily brought forth stormed 170 Russell, it never diminished the rip-roaring solos and gut-wrenching drum work (of which it was also drummer Matt “Skitz” Sanders last gig in Melbourne and with King Parrot for that matter). Every aspect of King Parrot’s music was still audible, and thankfully wasn’t lost in the mix.
Funnily enough, if you can believe it or not, King Parrot’s stage presence actually felt a little tame compared to what I’ve seen at shows of theirs in the past. Sure, while they didn’t let up on the ear-bleeding sound in the slightest, their onstage antics were for whatever reason rather kept at bay. At past shows, I’ve seen Youngy screech directly at the faces of those assembled at front rows – spittle flying everywhere – while at other moments I’ve seen him dance with people in the crowd, vulgar displays of his arse, and being charged around the venue like a battering ram, among others. Unfortunately, aside from the usual of beer-guts out and pants hanging low to reveal arse-cracks, none of these other events were anywhere to be seen. It was a bit of a shame, because when it comes to King Parrot, not really being much of a grindcore listener myself as such, their appeal largely came from the aforementioned deeds. That being said, however, it was still an enjoyable set, and as the sole opener for the night, King Parrot received an overwhelmingly warm response. Every time a song of theirs came to its conclusion, it was followed by an uproarious cheer. And their banter with the crowd only served to drive the crowd response as well, such as the excellent remark from Youngy at one stage to a guy in the crowd wearing a King Parrot shirt: “C’mon dude… get in the pit, man, we need you. Yeah, I know you spent half an hour on your hair do” and the amusing follow up from Slatts, “They’re scared of ruining the heavy metal perm!”
Closing on a solid note, they managed to work up their own wall of death in the pit, had a great moment where the lights dimmed to reveal their silhouettes before bronze lighting, and gave a nice little nod to the fans too: “Carcass, this song is dedicated to you. It’s fucking awesome to be here! And thanks to you [the crowd] for buying tickets and shit. Give yourself a round of applause!” before going on to play the track “Bozo”. Good work, lads.
With King Parrot finishing their set around ten past 9, we were in just over a half hour wait before Carcass emerged onstage. But man, when they finally did at 9.45, it was completely worth the wait! Carcass opened with one of the strongest starts to a gig I’ve seen, and I’m not just saying that. I was feeling rather fatigued on the night, but once Carcass came out, it immediately got me going, and I ended up pretty much headbanging and cheering for the rest of the night. If that’s not a recommendation, I’m not sure what is.
It’s been six years since these lads last graced our shores, and as Carcass announced ‘Good evening!’ to a sea of horns and bouts of applause, their amazing start was heralded in by the simple-but-melodic gem that is instrumental “1985” off their recent ‘Surgical Steel’ album before leading into “Buried Dreams” off 1993’s ‘Heartwork’. There was a strong crowd response from the get-go, and above the chanting and the moshing, the solos courtesy of Bill Steer and Ben Ash were majestic to listen to.
Frontman and bassist Jeff Walker was commanding on stage. And it was only by the second song “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” that pretty much the entirety of the venue was captivated by Carcass, with the majority headbanging along. Carcass was monstrous, both in sound and purely as a band. Owning the venue throughout the entirety of their set, despite the relative smallness of 170 Russell, Carcass made it seem huge by comparison. The lighting was and mix was ever in their favour, only serving to heighten the crushing rhythm Carcass had on the night. Beneath hues of blood red lighting and indigoes, their ambient sound carried the harsh and hefty weight of their music. Carcass first formed in 1985 and despite disbanding in 1995 only to later reform in 2007, if you hadn’t known any better you’d think they’d been performing together for what’s going on almost three decades. There was a level of expertise and sheer power behind Carcass that was quite awe-inspiring to watch. There was a great level of synchronicity behind the band, and even though original drummer Ken Owen is no longer with them, their now third drummer Daniel Wilding who joined the band in 2013 fits the mould of Carcass perfectly. He complements their sound, but is understated, and allows the other members to shine where as needed.
One of the more entertaining aspects of Carcass’ set was Jeff Walker’s constant and amusing stand-up. Ever the jokester, his little bits of humour delightfully peppered themselves through the night, with such early gems as ‘we’re some pommy-lads from England!’ and ‘“170 Russell” sounds like an Iron Maiden song… about a hooker!’ That was merely the icing on the cake, however. While unfortunately I can’t record here every brilliant joke he made last night – and of that there were many! – I will make note of a few of my personal favourites throughout the rest of the review.
One of the most loveliest and engaging frontmen you could hope to see, as Walker went on to talk about Carcass’ latest album ‘Surgical Steel’ (which made waves on Metal Obsession’s Best Of 2013 lists last year), he made the amusing comment, ‘Australia is known as a colony of ex-thieves. Just download the fucking thing, we don’t care!’ all with tongue firmly in cheek. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt Walker’s comedic routine to be a highlight of the evening. I always saw people laughing and cracking up every time he made one of his remarks, and it was a fitting counterweight, and a good way to ease down, between the unrelenting metallic assaults Carcass brought forth so incredibly with each sequential track.
They all just seemed like the nicest of fellows onstage and it really made me enjoy their gig all the more! I will say this though the crowd was rather conservative at times. Whether it was because people were tired at the end of the week, or if was the fact the air was thinned by the amount of people I saw lighting up in the venue, Carcass even had to ask if we were all still with them on a number of occasions. This most famously took place where, just as the solo kicked in for “Unfit for Human Consumption”, Walker actually stopped the set dead in the middle and asked for us to “participate”. “We’re not a fucking zoo, you know,” he added. It wasn’t angrily said though. It was more an observation if anything. I’ve got to say suddenly stopping a song like that took balls so I give them kudos.
It was shortly after this that Walker went offstage to take a piss. During the interim the sound guys brilliantly starting playing this particularly girly pop song to which people in the mosh area jokingly started rave-pumping to, and which got me and a bunch of other guys around me cracking up. As Walker came back out onstage with this massive grin on his face, they tore right back into it with his declaration of ‘Fire!’ Afterwards he apologised, making the hilarious comment in his distinctly British accent, ‘Sorry, we’re getting old and there are no rocket pants!’
Closing with “Corporal Jigsaw Quandary”, Carcass’ sound was immense with Steers’ solos a definite highlight of the evening. And under the deep blue lights, Walker gave an anecdote on St Helens, the town he grew up in, and talked to the crowd about rugby and how he played in that town. In the background was a postcard for an old image of St Helens and he made the joke how ‘it certainly doesn’t look like that anymore!’
Ever the humble fellows and with a jaunting penchant to wisecrack, one of Walker’s best was what followed. Going on to make a joke about their sound for the night, Walker made the comment, ‘The joke is that [this is] all on computer; the drums are all triggers. Welcome to the modern age, fuckers!’ It was amusing and got a good chuckle out of people.
‘Now we’re going to play some stuff from the album everyone pretends to hate,’ he began. ‘But we know they love!’ as they led into “Black Star” and “Keep on Rotting in the Free World” from 1994’s ‘Swansong’.
One of the best portions of the evening followed, however, as Walker made the comment, ‘We know what you want, and you want it hard… fucking cowbell!’ before leading into a brilliant cowbell beat. It was both unexpected and hilarious!
He then announced ‘this is the part where the band cringes!’ before leading into the introductions. Beginning with Ben Ash, he mentioned how Ben had been feeling a bit down as he was feeling a little neglected. So in response he got us all to cheer for Ben, before Walker went up, hugged him, and then gave him a big kiss. Followed with the intro for Daniel Wilding, Walker made the cheeking comment, ‘We couldn’t get Pro Tools, so we got a twenty-five year old drummer instead!’ And lastly, he added, ‘and here’s the reason all your girlfriends dragged you down’ as Bill Steer in response eased back into the shadows. ‘He’s shy,’ Walker went on to add, ‘but a demon in the sack!’ which was met by great laughter. ‘Literally,’ Walker continued, ‘He has horns! But just one, little horn.’ Everyone cracked up. It was a great moment.
As the night drew to a close, Walker cried out, ‘Thank you very much, Melbourne and good night!’ Giving his best interpretation of Steve Harris’ firing bass move, he called out one last time ‘Cheers, you band of kangaroo shaggers. Good night!’ before the crowds dispersed and the end to a fantastic night came to its head.
About Jonathon BesankoJonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.
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