Live Reviews : Periphery, Circles & Polaris @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 05/02/2017
Words: Mitch Alexander
Photos: Clinton Hatfield
Following the unprecedented event of rain falling in Melbourne, and the subsequent public transport shutdown/driver’s freaking the fuck out/bicycle’s getting soaked, I only managed to catch the merest glimpse of Polaris. And from what I did see, I’m sorry for that, because not only did they seem fucking rad, they might also have been the best band of the night.
Circles were an odd one this evening; usually, if a band has some positives and negatives working for and against them, they overall even out to be being acceptable, or average. Not so Circles, who were being Schrodinger’s Djent, existing both as an amazing band and a woeful one.
To sandwich this critque like I was letting someone from the company go, I’ll start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever felt a bass tone so meaty and satisfying. It was powerful, clear and honestly, just delightful to have my bones rattled the way they were. The guitar tone/mix, however, was dog vomit.
They unfortunately had some technical difficulties at the start, which I’m thinking may have contributed to their overall mix sucking, but the guitar tone sounded thin, muddy and weak, like they’d mic’d up some noise-cancelling earbuds from JB HiFi, and there was an atrocious high end “rattle” hanging above the entire mix that shat me to tears (which graciously abated midway through their set).
On the other hand, though; my god can these guys harmonize. There are at least two backing vocalists in this band who could potentially be Australia’s Best Singer in their own rights, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their bass player, who doesn’t do too much in the way of vocals, is also world class. Circles seem hyper-aware of the main focal point of their band, and my goodness me do they absolutely crush the singing and harmonizing. With no disrespect, it’s like watching Human Nature or Backstreet Boys; a boy band’s entire existence is predicated on getting those vocal parts just right, and Melbourne has their very own metal band nailing it while also playing some pretty tech music. So kudos, and fix ya tone, and props.
I’m done with Periphery. Live, that is. Periphery III was not only one of my top 5 albums of last year, it’s probably in my top 10 or 20 of all time. And lest I was missing something after this gig, I popped it on as I made my way home, and it was still an astounding piece of aggressive art. But seriously, fuck this band live as hard as your hips will allow.
It’s frankly fucking offensive that they charged so much for this show, only to stand on stage like a bunch of disinterested high school nerds, roped into performing someone else’s end of year exam songs. The worst bit is that when they do do something, it’s clearly synchronized and pre-planned, making the whole experience a cynical exercise in box ticking. And even then, they don’t have the gumption to headbang for longer than, at most, 15 beats. And I know the longest stretch was 15 beats because the show was so woefully boring I ended up counting.
Here are some positives; it’s loud. If you love Periphery’s songs, then you simply won’t hear them louder anywhere else than at a gig. You will, however, be missing some vocal parts, but that’s what a live show is all about right? Taking some of the polish off the recorded tracks in exchange for some energy and pith? For every other band on earth, yes! Not these champs though.
Another positive; they play each note really good. Like, every note comes out of the speakers in the venue just like they do on your speakers at home. But louder. I guess I’m missing something though because I’ve seen Cattle Decapitation, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Psycroptic, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, The Bad Plus, Avashi fucking Cohen Trio, and probably a dozen or so more technically impressive bands also put on a half decent performance that doesn’t involve sauntering across the stage and playing with each other’s fucking hair, which actually happened. Fuck, even Thy Art Is Murder usually have a bass player who kicks things off. Am I missing something? Is there a hidden layer to Periphery I just can’t hear?
I’m genuinely asking. Let me know in the comments below. Change my mind. Tell me why I shouldn’t recommend people don’t spend their money on this asinine “fuck you” to the fans loyal or excited enough to see them live. Because a whole bunch of people seemed super stoked on this performance and I’m putting it down to choice-supportive bias or Stockholm Syndrome. Seriously, let me know. Cause from where I was standing they were one middle finger and backing track away from playing their set through a laptop and having a chat in some deckchairs. Fuck ‘em. Save your money.