There’s a telling moment during All I Know where we watch Karnivool singer Ian Kenny crooning and writhing to the music, looking out into an empty amphitheatre. Perth’s Heath Ledger Theatre can normally hold over 500 people but tonight each and every seat remains vacant. For the seminal Australian progressive rock quintet, celebrating Sound Awake’s tenth anniversary has, like most things over the past 12 months, succumbed to a series of frustrating delays. So it’s come to this. But this is no mere live stream and the band have pulled out all the stops to make sure one of the best modern progressive albums gets a fitting birthday party.
Weaving flawlessly through the record in its entirety, the first few songs are performed with the band behind a semi-transparent banner draped across the front of the stage. Ian Kenny’s dad dancing on acid moves casts an artistic silhouette as cameras pan across to show a fervent band transcendent in the moment. It’s a unique detail in a set littered with nuances, musical and visual. From Goliath’s rampant riffs and skipping lead guitar lines to the gorgeous delicacy of New Day, which snakes towards its seismic, tear-jerking crescendo, be it the creativity the camerawork, the subtle but sweet harmonised backing vocals or the enveloping mix which allows all those nuances to breathe, there’s so much to be lost in.
Sure, this isn’t live. The show has been pre-recorded and beamed worldwide with different streaming options available to cater to multiple time zones. It means plenty of post-production has gone into this show, yet that doesn’t take away from the magic of the moment. While there were technical difficulties for some – a server crash bringing the UAE stream temporarily down at one point – Karnivool presented a polished and entertaining product that was worth every penny, bringing their global fanbase together in the process. Seeing fans in Australia praising the stream in the morning only made you clock watch even more, waiting for your turn and that tantalising wait more than proved the virtue of patience.
Soon the banner dissipates and the band revs up the gears. Set Fire To The Hive is relentless under red lighting, with Kenny’s exquisite and impassioned vocals locked into Steve Judd’s drilling drumming – which he makes look effortless throughout. The Radiohead lift music interlude of The Medicine Wears Off transitions seamlessly into convulsive intro of The Caudal Lure. Sweat pours down Kenny’s forehead as he belts out its chorus, veins in his neck popping, his emotions turbulent.
Kenny stands in the centre of the theatre for Deadman, singing back at the band. It’s a strange but enjoyable thing to witness, indicative of the situation the world is in whilst savouring the positives it can present.
It isn’t just Sound Awake’s brilliance on display tonight however and the songs that follow are a career spanning showcase of what the Aussies are capable of. Fade, from 2001’s Personal EP has them flexing nu-metal riffs with insatiable hooks. Roquefort, originally from debut album Themata, was re-released with brass embellishments for the bonus track of Sound Awake and it’s that version, full of pomp, power and prestige, that we are boisterously treated to.
Aeons, representing 2013’s Asymmetry, is the only song which steers close to disappointment. Whilst executed superbly, it represents a record that at times stands in Sound Awake’s admittedly towering shadow.
It’s a delight, then, that All It Takes, an as yet unreleased track gets a grand unveiling to cement the knowledge that the band’s future is full of invention and ingenuity. Its guitars spin and grind with grit and groove, thumped out with a confidence that hints that maybe, just maybe, the next chapter in their history is just around the corner.