Stalker, Stormforge & Bridge Burner – Thirsty Dog September 16, 2017

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Power, speed and violence proclaimed the social media release for last night’s three-act gig, and it functioned as a pithy mission statement for the ethos of each act.

I had no idea until I got there, but it was also a birthday bash for a friend of the musicians, and the man himself was periodically the focus of banter, shout outs, a happy birthday song. The camraderie was hilarious and touching, but maybe don’t spread that around. The metal scene works hard for its evil and intimidating image.

I’ve written a fairly gushing review about Bridge Burner on here not so long ago, and I’m going to have to work hard not to re-tread. This performance was all just as tightly performed, violent and guttural.

Frontman Ben Read remains viscerally physical and emotionally raw, though between songs also showed off some deadpan humour: “this is our happy one” he muttered, sounding about as happy as his lyrics. This second time watching I was braced for the impact and paid more attention to some extra details. Goddamn but C Sinclair is a phenomenal drummer. He looks at ease while his hands blur between blinding blast beats. He and guitarist Josh Hughes can stop on a dime, ease suddenly into slower sections, or just as suddenly escalate the pace to shattering point.

Of the guitars themselves I appreciated the sinister melodies on show between the distortion, and the squalling feedback counterpoints. There were more moments of slow tension in this performance, and on one track even a bit of dark post-metal rearing its head. Overall Bridge Burner show they’re a band who know that exactly the right amount of tension and contrast adds to the impact of their crushing violence.

I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed Stormforge. Power metal has never been my genre of choice, which is weird considering I’m an enormous fantasy nerd. Anyway, Stormforge’s live show both impressed me and put a huge grin on my face.

They played their grandiose set with charisma and self-aware humour, but also passion and virtuosity. Frontman Courtney O’Leary captured the crowd with his funny and charismatic stage presence, pacing the tiny stage as best he could, leaning all but into the arms of the guitarists as he played along on the air guitar and encouraged them to share in his swagger. His vocals themselves were dramatic and clean, with huge fondness for the soaring high notes, which he held well.

The drums rollicked and rolled, and I appreciated that I could hear the bass rumble fluidly across the riffs, but it was the guitars that held my main attention throughout the set. The interplay between the two guitarists on the main riffs was speedy and catchy, and the long songs gave plenty of room for Raj Singarajah to flex his fingers in solos, the blazing fretwork inevitably capturing my eyes. This was fun, escapist metal with a weight of musical talent behind it, and the crowd loved it, pressing up towards the stage and cheering the final songs uproariously.

If Stormforge showed a certain self-aware charisma, Stalker’s appeal was in their full commitment to their bit. Playing throwback 80s speed, the influence of Judas Priest is worn not so much on their sleeves but on their studded leather outfits.

The energy whipped up by Stormforge heightened even more – Stalker clearly have a following in Auckland judging from the way the already crowded pub filled way up just before their set, and the loud cheers as they started playing.

No instrument in the three piece overly stood out to me, rather the music blended into a whole experience, one of speed, sweat and campy horror theatrics. It was nostalgic and raw, and drew a huge response from the crowd, as we cheered, headbanged, and threw ourselves around in a mosh pit that lasted near the whole performance.

Stalker played up to the crowds response, getting down in the frontrow’s faces, grimacing and grinning. They were sadly plagued by a few technical issues, having issues with the mics before the set and the guitar during it, but the crowd mood remained high while waiting to sort it out. They closed their final song to rattling crescendos of guitar and drums, and roaring applause.

Cameron Miller

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Incurable nerd seeks audience to nod and smile politely as he rambles through opinions about music that sounded important in his head. Likely to be found running tabletop RPGs, watching animated movies or at extreme metal shows doing his best to look jaded. Will discuss genre fiction and hip hop lyrics for longer than any normal person wants to discuss anything.