It’s been somewhat of a long and mysterious wait, but Dead Letter Circus’s third album is here, and the good news is it doesn’t disappoint. The Brisbane quintet have been squirreling away since announcing their new album in February, and the result is a typically epic album of heavy rock with some new twists. Many tracks feature a softer and less cluttered approach than before, but the trademark heavy riffs and colossal choruses are still present in abundance, with vocalist Kym Benzie on fine form and newbie guitarists Clint Vincent and Luke Palmer fitting in seamlessly. Reinvention is welcome, but DLC are smart enough to evolve while staying true to their roots. Whether quiet or loud, these songs showcase a band who have the knack of making everything sound as big as everything else; which makes for an album that will not only make your eardrums bleed, but do it over repeated listens.
Those of us whose ears still have that droning mrrrrrrhhhhh sound resonating from BIGSOUND and related gigs should probably have stayed at home tonight, instead of heading along to West End’s The Hi-Fi Bar to catch bands whose volume levels could be described as toweringly gargantuan, at the very least. But alas, here we are; our battered ear-drums present and correct to take another beating at the hands of one of Brisbane’s finest alt-rock bands of late. Ear-plugs have never been my thing; I see wearing them at a gig as like going to a pie-eating contest and taping up your mouth, although I’ll probably revise this approach when the pain of hearing even the softest folkie becomes too much. Secretly and somewhat desperately, I’m banking on bionic ears being readily and cheaply available from Big W or K-Mart by the time I hit retirement age, otherwise I’m pretty much fucked. Either that or I’ll have walked in front of a bus by 35, having not heard it barrelling towards me at 110 kph with horns blaring. So it goes.
The first band to take several years off my hearing lifetime tonight is Sleep Parade; the Melburnians putting in a solid set of searing guitar lines and apocalyptic drums, despite being a bit cramped to the front of the stage so as to avoid the range of gear laid out for the head-liners. A large and enthusiastic crowd has already made The Hi-Fi close to uncomfortably full, and give the alt-rockers a rapturous response, especially after singer-guitarist Leigh Davies does the old playing-the-geetar-with-the-teeth trick. Nice.
Next up is a band who are also capable of putting out suitably massive amounts of sound to further reduce my chances of listening to Keith Richards’ 100th birthday concert; Closure In Moscow. The Melbourne prog-rockers take to the stage after some time and blare out monumental levels of noise, centred on the grandiose lead vocals of front-man Christopher de Cinque. Yeah, he might look like an avant-garde Vince Neil circa 1987 and dress like a dandified Goth complete with silk shirt, gold medallion, and shorts so tight they remind me of the time I wrapped the Christmas ham in cling-film, but he has a voice strong enough to make all the luminous skull-waving silliness seem like a secondary part of the show, and nothing more than a bit of harmless fun.
Dead Letter Circus enter from stage right at around 11:30, and after only a couple of notes from Stewart Hill’s bass I know the future is bleak for being able to hear stuff. First up is opener from latest album The Catalyst Fire ‘The Cure’ followed by ‘The Mile’ and ‘Reaction’. After ‘Alone Awake’ huge chants of “D.L.C! D.L.C!” reverberate around a by-now close-to-capacity Hi-Fi. Security guards here have a reputation for zero-tolerance in regards to crowd-surfing and moshing, and it’s at this point one particular thrill-seeking lad is hauled from his lofty position atop a couple of dozen audience members’ heads and slung back into the crowd where he is suddenly introduced into my world with a sudden clash of skulls. Well played Mr. Security Man – don’t you just have a giant pair of primitive balls that we should all be so impressed with, ya big fuckin’ knucklehead? Never mind, as by the time the on-fire band get to new single ‘Lode Star’ the audience has lost their collective shit and is enjoying the sounds and spectacle as one. After an encore including a massive ‘Next In Line’ we make for home, and as I cross Victoria Bridge with an even bigger mrrrrrrhhhhh sound in my ears for accompaniment, I’m grateful for the lack of buses running at this time of night. Well played, Dead Letter Circus.