Friday night saw me yet again in central Auckland for a gig, this time to catch Stonehurst and Elidi who were both up from Christchurch, my neck of the woods. I had been looking forward to this for months, ever since I reviewed the last single by Elidi, Witches Brew. It was only when checking the tour poster to confirm times that I realized another band had been added to the mix, White Nøise Mafia, which meant I knew tonight was going to be even more fun. The boys made a beeline for me when they saw me in the venue, thanking me yet again for all thst has been doing for them, so I asked Matt H how they got the gig? It turned out that Stonehurst supported Alien Weaponry when they in Christchurch, and Matt had become mates with Tim, which is how it all came about. He then introduced me to Tim from Stonehurst and Jack Orr from Elidi and we were chatting away for ages (they were both extremely impressed that I was wearing a Bridge Burner shirt) until someone realized it was time for the show to start.

Perhaps rather unsurprisingly, White Nøise Mafia were doing the same setlist as the previous week, and of course Lewis de Jong (Alien Weaponry) was leading the headbanging and mosh at the front, although during the course of the evening I also had long conversations with Riaccardo Ball (Just One Fix) and Bryce Patten (Downfall of Humanity) – it is always great to see bands supporting each other. This was WNM’s first time playing at Whammy Bar, but if there were any nerves, they certainly didn’t show it and they were soon crunching into Medicate. I know Chris had some onstage problems last week, wasn’t able to hear himself properly and compensated by straining his vocals and pushing too hard, but tonight he was more relaxed and pushing the crowd as always. While he and Matt Sansome are the epitome of cool, Matt S and Neo are metal monsters – hair everywhere and really into the music. I noticed Neo drop a stick at one point as he was blasting so hard into the kit – it was only afterwards that he told me he dropped six that night with it all being so intense. These guys are full on from the beginning, but somehow, they always know how to get the crowd even more amped up and tonight that was with Attack, halfway through the set when the moshpit became even more frenetic due to the high-octane metal being directed their way. The new single, The Divide, was sandwiched between the two covers of Bleed It Out and My Mind Sedate, and those three together really got the crowd going and all too soon it was over.

Elidi wasted no time at all in getting on the stage, and soon the quintet were creating an atmospheric soundscape which certainly made one realise that something very special was going to be coming our way. Then from that they cracked into Genesist and we were off. During the course of the set a few people said to me how much they were being reminded of Tool, and while that is true, I think it actually goes back further than that and, in many ways, they are using some of the same original influences of that band, as opposed to just them as a starting point. The music is often downtuned, with a deep bottom end, then complex vocals cutting through over the top. It felt very Seventies at time, with some obvious doom influences, but there is also a place for groove metal and the result is incredibly dramatic and powerful indeed. I noticed when re-reading my notes that I used the word “intense” a great deal when trying to capture the mood so that obviously made a huge impression on me. In some ways it felt that musically we were listening to three distinct sections, all combining to create something quite majestic. At the foundation we had drummer Steve Howden who was constantly changing the attack, and providing finesse which allowed him to cut into the music at the bottom end. At the top we had singer Dan Russell who was not only living and breathing the music in his every action and mannerism but was also providing some wonderful diverse and powerful vocals, and then in the middle we had guitarists Richie Jehan and Jack Orr (who also provided bv’s) with bassist Troy Cameron. They were creating a river of sound, different currents moving and flowing together, splashing against the edges and at others creating a riptide of emotion and power.

Even though they only have two guitarists I found there were times I was reminded of Spook The Horses, and when they launched into Witches Brew it was incredibly dramatic, powerful and progressive. The music had a spell on much of the audience, Dan obviously in its thrall and twisting and moving in a way that at times made me think of Fish or Pete Garrett. The dynamics within the music were providing contrast and space, allowing the band to get even heavier and then for the vocals to just rip even higher. This is music driven by the drums, providing a firm base for the guitars and bass to weave their spell and the vocals to add finesse. They finished their set, and I just wrote down SOAD, Meshuggah, Deftones, Karnivool, Tool, Graveyard, Sabbath, Spook The Horses, Black Widow, Blue Cheer. There is no way that should make sense, but it does, and I am so looking forward to catching up with these guys again.

The guys from Elidi and Stonehurst are great mates, sharing the same rehearsal space, with Jack Orr also working as Stonehurst’s sound engineer, so it made total sense for them to tour together, while musically it was a match made in heaven as they are complimentary while also being quite different. Stonehurst are a quartet, with Tim Hunt (vocals, rhythm guitar), David Hunt (bass), Rhyz Bell (lead guitar) and Jay Arthur (drums), and there was no messing about as they went straight for the jugular with Medicine. This is very heavy classic melodic rock, but with incredibly powerful vocals and a real sense of grit and honesty in what they are doing. It was also quite refreshing for many of their songs to feature guitar solos, and it was only when I was hearing them that I realised they appear to have dropped out of fashion with many bands these days. Songs like Whispers felt commercial, but always with that much harder, darker, and metallic edge, raw and vital. The riffs are crunched, everyone is giving their all, and the vocals are raw and filled with gravel. It is classic rock, but at the same time it is a force of nature, and there were times when we could even hear some blues at the base. 

We had some Hammond organ sounds at times, which allowed the band to shift in yet another direction and Fall In A Hole felt dramatically different to what had gone before, with a wonderfully dated sound. But then we had Ultimate Shadows, which was very bass led, and showed just how many different styles they were putting into the mix, yet always keeping it real while also having that commercial base. At one point they even turned on some dirty funk blues groove which made me think of early ZZ Top, but nastier. Suffering Man was probably the highlight of the set, an incredibly powerful number with a great guitar solo, while all the guys were obviously having a real blast on the stage.

Yet another belting night on the local music scene. Who needs international bands?