Progfest review - The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Annual Australian rock event is back in full swing

A press shot of headliners Caligula's Horse

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Progfest has been an annual event on the national rock calendar in Australia for several years, but it took a breather in 2015. There’s an obvious intention to ease people back in with the first few bands. Up-and-comers Qlaye Face have a slightly melancholic approach to prog rock, and their sound soothes and caresses the listener, as opposed to smashing them in the face. Instrumentalists Bear The Mammoth provide lashings of atmosphere amid their doomy post-rock forays.

Now the ever-building crowd are ready for a pummelling, and Figures provide it. While heavy, their tunes soar on the back of frontman Mark Tronson’s fabulous vocals. The side stage of the Corner gives punters true brutality crossed with virtuosity with Adelaide’s Dyssidia, whose razor-sharp riffage is counterpointed by the wild vocals of Mitch Brackman.

Orsome Welles are launching their brand new single Maestro tonight, and they go to extra lengths, employing costumes and theatrics to enhance their big, bold and beautiful live set. Transience are probably one of the more traditional-sounding acts on the bill, taking strong cues from the likes of Dream Theater and Karnivool, but they infuse their sound with a modern intensity that’s all their own. Their epic single Ocean grows another leg in a live setting.

Perth’s Chaos Divine should be one of the bigger acts in progressive heavy music on the planet, such is the anthemic quality of their songs and larger-than-life size of their collective personality. That they aren’t remains a great mystery, and their live set tonight is a wall of catchy immensity.

Alithia provide further contrast with their idiosyncratic, world music-inspired rock and unhinged live show, which sits right at the edge of chaos but never quite gets there.

One of Australia’s finest heavy prog exports, Circles inject their set with about as much frenzied energy as can be imagined, and they arguably, very narrowly take the ‘set of the night’ honours.

We Lost The Sea’s instrumental music swirls, ebbs, flows and mesmerises around single musical themes that go on for minutes and minutes on end, but never get boring, a feat only imaginable for artists of prodigious skill.

And then there are the headliners, Brisbane’s Caligula’s Horse, who have reached a transcendent and illustrious status in their career now. They treat the crowd to a brand new song, a 16-minute enormity called Graves, and 45 minutes more of fantabulous C-Horse favourites.

Progfest, it’s great to have you back.