There’s something abuzz about Australia’s music culture lately. Maybe it’s because Gotye had the blitzing and Grammy-scooping chart-topper Somebody That I Used To Know only two years ago; Courtney Barnett has dominated the interwebs and subsequently SXSW; and last year’s Hottest 100 was invaded by Chet Faker and other Australian artists. But those artists are super-urbane Melburnians who smell their own farts. Do we really want to live in their bubble, where talking about changing weather is a revered topic and obsessing over AFL is the done thing? (seriously, what’s the point of playing a sport if you can’t beat the Poms at it?)
It’s something that sort of goes amiss in Australia, but there’s a really big rock and metal history and culture here, and is normally the case, it is much more appreciated overseas than locally. Think of all the bands – AC/DC, INXS, Parkway Drive, Cog, Midnight Oil, Karnivool, The Saints, Grinspoon, Wolfmother, The Butterfly Effect, Dead Letter Circus, Pendulum, and Jet are a few – and it’s clear the little nation of ours has quite a pedigree.
Australia has a great and celebrated history of heavy music, and that tradition continues with the heavy riffs and soaring vocals of Perth’s Chaos Divine.
Waltzing in from stage right are Western Australian band, Chaos Divine, a progressive heavy rock band following in the footsteps of their fellow Perthites Karnivool in serving up a delightful stew of progressive rock, alternative metal and poppy inflections. Chaos Divine more accurately come across as a more progressive version of the same hard rock/alternative metal strain thrashed out the aforementioned heavy heart-throbs Cog and The Butterfly Effect. Once you learn that Forrester Savell’s prints are all over this record, it’s not surprising; not that that’s a bad thing, I should hasten to add. It’s a good thing. Definitely a good thing. Please don’t hurt me Forrester.
Colliding Skies is the name of the band’s third release. Unfortunately, the band only has an iTunes account, where they’ve put their full album, and a Soundcloud page, where they’ve only put up half the songs. Despite that, five songs is good enough to soldier on with. Ha! Get it? Because the first single from Colliding Skies is called Soldiers. With a video delightfully coated in Australiana – Ford Falcon, eucalypts everywhere, red brick suburbia, family stickers on the car window – Soliders resembles the accessible pinnacle of available output of the new album.
Soldiers begins with a groovy riff, that combined with the opening shot of the Ford wagon in the video, makes it come across as the pretence to a tongue-in-cheek song. Within the first minute however, we’re given glimpses into this band’s progressive repertoire. That groovy riff soon stops to let in a few bars of lightning-fast chugga chugga to transitions to the progressive rock hallmark of looping, odd-time, melodic chords.
A classic rock buildup, a surprise to be honest for a band with such a wide span, ushers in the chorus. Here, the Chaos Divine is happy to take a breather as David Anderton shames us all with his soaring and fantastical vocals. Anderton himself takes a breather after the third chorus, for an equally soaring solo that comes in to soothe and to see us on the way out.
In that one song alone, the range of genres toyed with reaffirms my faith in experimental and progressive music. There’s also a didactic element to that toying, almost as if the band has pooled the influences together to say “Here, listen to this stuff, it’s good”. Landmines, which opens Colliding Skies, begins with a space-age prog rock riff that subtlety bounds along in oddly-timed bars. Deftly, the band then replaces that riff with a groovy metal one, complete with matching backing growls on the way down, without blinking an eye.
Symbiotic and Mara display these basic progressive rock tendencies as well. Symbiotic is more subdued, rising from valleys rather than exploding from mountaintops like Landmines, whereas Mara eats away a bit, in a bad way, with its particular chorus. Taking a left turn is Badge of Honour, a track that is alternative rock first, and prog second, and especially out of place with its traditional song structure. One thing that Symbiotic and Mara both have in common, is the tendency for Anderton to adopt a grunge-y wail that at times made it sound as if Clint Boge was guesting. That tendency is thick throughout Badge of Honour’s verses.
I myself am not a fan of comparing bands on such shallow stylistic links, but that wail in itself harks back to the pedigree of heavy rock music that’s so quietly embedded in Australia. Chaos Divine, with their progressive cauldron of all the radio friendly ends of heavy music, could be signalling their way to singularity by unearthing old sounds in a trailblazing new way.
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