• Samantha Wolstenholme

Gig Review: Balloons Kill Babies + Spook The Horses + The Stranger + Dr. Parallax


Headliner: Balloons Kill Babies

Supports: Spook the Horses (NZ) + The Stranger + Dr. Parallax

Venue: The Flamin’ Galah, Brisbane

Photography: Brandon Shields (www.brandonshields.com.au/)

There is a smattering of faithful metalheads clad in black inside The Flamin’ Galah when I arrive at 8pm, trickling in to assemble for what is to be the last show of Balloons Kill Babies’ “Prodromal” tour on a pleasantly balmy Thursday night in Brisbane. I note that The Flamin’ Galah has had a well-deserved makeover since I was last there, which was when the venue still operated under the name of The Beetle Bar. How fitting this is, considering Balloons Kill Babies’ similarly striking rise from hiatus with the recent release of their stellar “Prodromal” EP. Now coming off the coattails of a highly successful tour to promote this excellent piece of work, the band are treating us to one final hurrah of a quality lineup of bands that live and breathe prog.

Eccentric locals Dr. Parallax are the perfect choice to open the night, wasting no time in launching right into their unique brand of instrumental, psychedelic post rock. Throughout their set, each member of the band appears completely immersed in the music they are creating and hearing as they effect an intriguing contrast between guitar melodies working in tandem and sudden intense, almost ferocious breakdown sections. The band demonstrates their skill in crafting an exquisite build-up through each number towards a climactic point technically, texturally and dynamically. A worthy opener that has me looking forward to everything else in store for the night.

Local prog metal favourites The Stranger are up next. It has been some months now since the four-piece has made a live appearance, and they take the stage tonight with the notable absence of a bass player. However, this does not detract from their performance tonight in any way – if anything, they play with more energy, elation and passion than usual. Opening with frenzied single “The Whip”, the thunderous double kicks and furiously fast lead guitar passages attract a new crowd of enthralled punters, who gather eagerly at the foot of the stage to watch this band that has such a natural chemistry and is clearly having an absolute ball. The Stranger blister through a tight set and all members execute technical precision. Vocalist Tom is note-perfect tonight and particularly shines in the more ballady numbers in the set. Overall, an excellent performance from a consistently polished band.

Spook the Horses follow The Stranger, taking things down a notch and guiding the audience into the ethereal realm of more ambient post rock. Visiting us all the way from windy Wellington, NZ, the band’s unique take on post rock is at times meditative, at times intensely raw and anguished, and always highly atmospheric. With their three guitars with interchanging melodic roles and one gorgeously warm bass tone, this mostly instrumental six-piece is an exercise in impressionism through electric guitars that is helped enormously by their liberal use of some serious reverb pedals. The addition of a light show on panels in the background is beautiful to look at and enhances the overall experiential quality of this static yet mesmerising performance. All in all, Spook the Horses successfully pave the way for Balloons Kill Babies to round off a wonderful night of prog.

Conscious of the late hour on a weeknight, Balloons Kill Babies rip into their set right from the get-go. Unfortunately, a few punters have left by this point in the night, but many loyal fans gratefully stick around to see what is, in my opinion, a world-class band unleash the full force of their magnificent art on stage. The instrumental trio perform an incredibly tight set and maintain a great intensity throughout. Musically, they vacillate between being subtle and effortless, or dynamic yet brutal. Melodic motifs sing out, clear as a bell, amidst the band’s lush wider post-rock soundscape. These are vastly skilled musicians who are not only entertaining to watch, but who work together as a musical unit to create a colourful, chameleon-like journey of shifting moods and textural nuances. The band’s technical precision is on display in the standout number, single “Illuzia”, after which the show ends in a blistering haze of relentless double kicks and driving riffs. A fitting end to what was a brilliant celebration of some of the best in local and international prog and post rock.

All photographs by Brandon Shields Photography (http://www.brandonshields.com.au/).


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