So, it was back up to The Thirsty Dog tonight for the first time in quite a while for a three-band bill. I was looking forward to this as the last time I saw {Pale Flag} they were very good indeed, but it did mean I was missing {Deathnir} at Ding Dong. With venues back at orange the gigs are starting to pile up thick and fast, so there is no excuse at all for not getting out there and supporting the local scene.

A group of people playing instruments on a stage

Description automatically generatedFirst up were {Grym Rhmyney} and there have been a few changes in the band since I last saw them at part of the Metal Blitz Festival at Ding Dong last year. While Albi Ingram (guitar, vocals), Jamie Stuart (bass, backing vocals) and Spencer Jew (guitars) are still there they have a new drummer in Izak Kennedy, and have also expanded their sound by bringing in keyboard player, Sean O’Kane Connolly. There are not that many metal bands in Auckland utilizing keyboards, so I was looking forward to hearing what they were like.

They kicked off with Haven, with a strongly picked bassline, which was then followed sweetly by the guitars until they kicked in with the riffs. The keyboards were providing an overlay at the top, but the overall sound in the venue was bass heavy, so when the vocals started it was incredible easy for their impact to be lost. When the mix was right it was obvious that the keyboards are providing an excellent counterpoint to the harsh and deep vocals of Albi. There is an underlying groove to their music, and while always heavy, it is not the instruments which provide the edge, but the vocals. This is downtuned music which has quite a bit in similarity with Coal Chamber and other bands which gained attention just after the grunge wave. This is metalcore, but with the emphasis strongly on the metal. With the guitars, bass and keyboards all focusing on the lower registers there is room for the keyboards at the higher end, and the longer the gig went on the more important they became to the overall sound. This is What Your Hands Were Made For is the title of the new EP, and it starts quite differently to the rest of the set, but it soon gives way to crunching riffs and plenty of passion.They bring together sounds which are melodic and heavy in one area, lightness with the keyboards, then with the harsh vocals over the top but somehow it all makes sense. They feel more balanced than the last time I saw them and there is no doubt the crowd enjoyed it. They finished the set with City Of The Plague, seemingly crunching it out that little bit heavier.

A person singing into a microphone

Description automatically generatedThe stage was now set for the much more metallic {Silent Torture} who are renowned for their Cannibal Corpse-style approach. They have not been gigging much as of late but now they are back with the line-up of Liam Hand (vocals), Aidan McGorry (rhythm guitar), Daryl Hodgetts (lead guitar), Elijah Jurd-Pinho (bass), and Ross Curtain (drums). There was a slight delay while Liam located the setlist, but then it was heads down and meet you at the end as they kicked into Biblically Bastardized. Here we have a band hitting at full intensity, with Liam providing some wonderful growls, while literally throwing himself into the material. Ross is hitting the skins hard, providing both the foundation and the assault while the bass and twin guitars lock in, tight. Then at the front is Liam, eyes staring, as he somehow conjures other worldly sounds. Skinned Incinerated Carcasses gives way to Mutilator and the band were very much on a roll, with surely Covid the only reason there was not a massive moshpit going on as the sound they were creating definitely deserved it. Will Stairmund was here tonight for his first Auckland gig in years (as a punter as opposed to a performer), supporting his mates and there were definitely far more people at this gig than I had seen here previously, as people were glad to be out having fun at a metal event. Torn To Pieces has a quite different introduction, much more of a technical death metal style, and we switched between that and brutal which made for an interesting mix. This was where people at the front finally could not resist anymore, and bodies started to hit the floor. Blasphemy kicks off almost in grindcore territory, which is absolutely okay with me and for the people at the front as the audience moved even closer to the stage. Trail Of Corpses is another where they turned the brutality and speed up to the max, blending grindcore and death metal into an unholy noise full of passion and power. They finished the set with “the cute one”, according to Liam anyway, and then they launched into Bloodbath in an attempt to demolish any eardrums still in existence. This was an incredibly intense set, and I am already looking forward to seeing them again in the future as this is a heck of an act.

It was definitely a case of “Follow that!”, but there were plenty of {Pale Flag} fans in tonight, willing their band to kick up a storm. Mind you, I did have quite a surprise as the band were setting up, as Matt Hammond was plugging in. I know Matt from three other bands, but I had seen Pale Flag a few months back and they had a new bassist then, but apparently Matt joined the band just this week! He is a phenomenal five-string bassist and on chatting with guitarist Liam Donald there was no doubt they are pleased to have him involved. The rest of the band are Jack Queenin (guitar), Cody Johnson (drums) and Isaac Drakeley (vocals), and they were not going to be worried about what had happened before as Pale Flag are a force of nature, one of the most powerful metal bands around.
One reason they are so powerful is that they really understand the need for contrast and dynamics within the sound and throw in different tempos and styles, so every switch emphasizes what has gone before and what is to come. They started the set in stillness, waiting for the backing track to hit the right spot and then they were into Demise and playing as if their lives depended on it. No-one would realise that Matt was such a recent addition as he locked in tight and was happy to push himself to the front of the stage. In the process of proving himself to everyone he somehow managed to break a string which meant there was a somewhat unexpected break in proceedings while he resolved the issue.
They were playing some newer songs tonight and Human Error was the one they went to after the break. This is such an incredibly heavy band, but there is a metallic groove through everything they do, throwing up so mighty riffs where the body has to move, there is physically just no choice. This is powerfully dramatic music, with the band tight, while at the front Isaac is in total control of everything which is taking place. He uses multiple styles to tie in with whatever is going on, while Cody uses the double kick pedal to great effect while never overdoing it, again ensuring that it has the dynamic effect when it is employed. The night ended with the pummeling Breaking The Cage, and then it was over, or was it?.
It has been months since I was last a full-blown metal gig where the crowd could get sweaty and gnarly, and had quite forgotten just how much fun it is to see metal acts in full flight. All the bands here tonight played a storm, but Pale Flag were not going to be allowed to leave the stage quite as easily as they had expected, with the crowd demanding an encore, so tonight we were the first audience to hear the new number The Summit and the audience went nuts with a violent mosh which certainly justified it being played. What a night!