Into Orbit – Whammy Backroom January 27, 2018

Into Orbit transported a small but enthusiastic crowd on a blissful post-metal journey at Whammy Backroom last night.

 The Wellington duo released their third studio effort Unearthing in February last year, an album with a sound as massive and broad in scope as the title implies. Instrumental music is niche even within the various metal or post-rock or prog niches Into Orbit could be said to inhabit. Nevertheless the chops on this duo have garnered them attention from many directions.

Opening act Slumbug are an act that have now completely captured my own attention. I caught this sludgey trio once before as part of the massive lineup supporting Aussie punks Axilism, but honestly that night was such a marathon of acts that the distinguishing features of each became a bit blurry.

Slumbug definitely distinguished themselves last night. Sludge metal is traditionally a blend of thick doom and abrasive hardcore punk, but Slumbug put an added twist of Riot Grrrl influence, especially in the vocals. Jessica Paton on lead vocals, and Lucy Katt on support, deliver mostly clean sneers and angry shouts, with a notable exception being Paton’s wonderful broken glass shrieks on (I believe) “Niu Niu- Jessica’s Hate Song.”

Meanwhile drummer Carla Tinsley beats her kit like it’s pissed her off, and the bass and guitar rumble with that swampy sludge tone. This is a good moment to shout out to whoever was doing the sound last night, because it was excellent throughout. Thick riffs, simple but effective songwriting and understated attitude, this is a band worth showing up early to catch.

Instrumental doom metal outfit Thousand Limbs were up next. I liked these guys quite a bit, but I wanted just a bit more from them. It’s easy to see why they are on Into Orbit’s bill; while Thousand Limbs’ style is more straightforward metal, they have all the ingredients and talent to pull off the kind of epic impact you want from an instrumental band.

The riffs are catchy and at times crushing, the drums were nicely rolling and fluid, the guitarists played rhythm and lead in perfect dialogue. They also had a good grasp of ambience and more atmospheric moments leading into songs or across songs.

Taken section by section, it was hard to find any major criticisms or reasons I wasn’t as blown away as their epic style was trying to achieve. It was only taken as a whole that some of these songs felt a bit undercooked. At times Thousand Limbs were hitting it, getting that beautiful transition from build up to climax, lifting up into a riff that got us banging heads and rocking bodies. At others, though, that climax never quite came, and I felt like I was simply being led from section to section. The song petered out leaving me wanting them to keep building it, more intensity, more weight, more scope.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy their set or felt they lacked talent. If anything, their best moments showed they have everything they need, and the rest simply needs honing to a more cutting edge. Overall I felt Thousand Limbs were a band of great promise that they were only beginning to deliver on.

Into Orbit then took the stage and casually, without a word, delivered everything the crowd could want. With only two members, they performed with more dynamism and unpredictability than many bands twice their size.

They created a mix of lush atmospheres and pummeling weight, and knew exactly how to use each to interrupt, cut through or enhance the other. Sweeping melodies would without warning descend into crushing riffs, or a wall of distortion would be cut through by a clean picked melody. Ian Moir’s drumming showed a truly impressive range of ability, from slow subtle jams to rattling post-rock snares to rumbling double kicks. While Paul Stewart seemed determined to prove the sheer variety of sounds that can be wrung out of an electric guitar and a set of effects pedals, painstakingly building walls of sound with the use of loop pedals and feedback.

Not everything went as smoothly as Into Orbit’s playing. Mutterings of mounting concern spread as, three quarters through the show, smoke began to pour from one of the amps. We were then treated to the part-alarming, part-impressive sight of the two musicians playing through a crescendo without missing a beat, all the while glancing fretfully as venue staff bustled about preventing a fire and removing the amp from the stage. Truly the show must go on, and the crowd raised a cheer at the band’s nerve. Louder cheers greeted the dying notes of the last song of a very impressive set.

Cameron Miller

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