Apologies… a bit late posting this!

A few nights ago, Fowler’s played host to Washington state’s Queensryche, a band with a thirty-plus year history, over twenty million albums sold and a very acrimonious bust up back in 2012 with their former front-man Geoff Tate. You could perhaps be forgiven for wondering just how enthused such a band might be in playing in a moderately sized and less than salubrious (but still very, very cool) venue like Fowler’s. We needn’t have worried. But more of that later.

Despite making a short detour via the Franklin Hotel at the insistence of my associate who shall remain anonymous (let’s call him…’John’), and where there just happened to be a tap takeover by the good brewers from Foxhat/Vale Brewing (more on both the Franklin and Foxhat in future posts), we arrived at Fowler’s right on time to see local lads icecocoon kick off proceedings in fine style. A progressively-minded metal band, icecocoon have a distinctive sound that to me sounds something like an amped-up Cog coupled with the soaring melodies and massive wall of sound that characterises the Devin Townsend Project, and anchored with a thumping bass sound that reminded me at times of Russian Circles. And they are all red hot players, a fact not lost on the early crowd.

Their songs are well crafted and full of great hooks, and importantly don’t outstay their welcome. My only gripe was that the sound was a little uneven meaning that the vocals and occasionally the guitar solos were a little buried in the mix. A very minor matter though. There is a new album in the works but in the meantime you should check out their very good debut album ‘Deepest Crystal Black’ (available here www.icecocoon.bigcartel.com/products and also locally at Clarity Records).

Next up were another local band, this time in the form of Hidden Intent, a trio of young men wholly dedicated to the fine art of thrash metal. Formed in 2011 the band has toured nationally as well as through New Zealand and South East Asia, steadily honing their craft. Their influences seem to come largely from classic ‘eighties Bay Area thrash with a dash of DRI or Nuclear Assault-style hardcore-thrash crossover and a sprinkling of classic metal stylings thrown in for good measure. Not surprisingly there is nothing subtle about Hidden Intent (as evidenced by their single Addicted to Thrash), and it is fair to say the energy levels in the room went up several levels as soon as they kicked in. That said though, just occasionally the frantic tempo slowed momentarily to reveal some real song-craft, showing that there is likely more to Hidden Intent than initially meets the eyes and bludgeons the ears.

The band have just signed a management deal with New York based Extreme Management Group, home to Suffocation, Atheist, Cryptopsy and King Parrot among others, so 2017 promises to be a busy year for the boys. They are playing their final show for 2016 at Enigma on Friday 9 December (in the company of Dirty Pagans, Shadow Realm and Melbourne’s Elm Street) and you can check out their fine musical wares at https://hiddenintent.bandcamp.com/

Taking the stage with little fanfare, tonight’s headliners simply let rip. Opening with Guardian from last year’s rather excellent ‘Condition Human’ album, new singer Todd La Torre quickly established that his vocal abilities well and truly match those of his predecessor, while the rest of the band (founding members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield along with guitarist Parker Lundgren who joined in 2009) showed that Queensryche in 2016 still pack a mighty progressive metal punch.

The good-sized crowd sang along with great gusto to classics like Best I Can, Queen of the Reich, Empire and Operation: Mindcrime, while a powerful and haunting rendition of Silent Lucidity was another highlight. The band responded in kind, putting in an energetic, passionate and musically dazzling performance, capped off by the blazing encore couplet of Screaming in Digital and Eyes of a Stranger.

So all in all, a most splendid way to spend a Thursday night; with two fine local bands illustrating  the depth, breadth and quality of our local heavy music community and a veteran band showing both why they have been so revered for such a long time and that they have still  got plenty more to offer now and in the future.

Jimmy Mac

NB Thanks to John for the photo!