Chronolyth, with Salacious, Sworf, and Violet Shift.

The Railway Hotel – Cairns

Small rooms, for some reason, just click for some bands. I’m not saying that Sworf looked out of place on the big stage at the Jack on Friday evening – far from it, actually – but backing up the next night in the rather more salubrious Railway surroundings, they seemed to hit their comfort zone. Possibly just a coincidence, I’m not implying they feel more at home in the less decorous end of town…

Kicking off proceedings for the latest heavy-side-of-the-tracks night was Violet Shift, who produced a typically polished set, instrumental contributions balanced nicely, and complete with vocal layering delivered from the surprise traditional frontman positioning! The Innisfail boys are consistently tight musically, the songs are engaging and well-structured, and the performances never fall short of a professional level (and I’ve seen ‘em in all kinds of rooms!) If you haven’t caught Violet Shift live recently you should do yourself a favour. Melodic prog metal may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I reckon it should be.

After Violet Shift’s set, and the requisite backloading of their massive pedal rigs, the four boys surnamed Sworf hit the stage to punch up the tempo and get some scream-along crowd input. Stix Sworf obviously has some deep-seated issue with manufacturers of China cymbals, judging from the beating he was doling out to his, which probably made Doc’s stage-left position a lot more comfortable than that of his mate Jarrod on the bass. Not that you could tell, though – the latest member of the team is a perfect fit. Papa steered the team through their post-hardcore/rock spectrum, with a glimpse of grunge, finishing back in rock territory with their take on Billy Idol.

Stepping up next was band three for the night, six-piece Salacious setting up an ideal lead-in to the tourists with a dose of groove in their usual style. The step up in instrumentation with the triple-guitar/twin synth assault meant some parts occasionally fell prey to the cymbal wash from the dreaded brick wall less than a metre behind Daz, but if any of the six noticed it they didn’t let on. Euan was in his usual great form on vocals and didn’t let the subdued crowd numbers impact the show. Opening with their interpretation of Rage worked to grab everyone’s attention and the originals comprising the rest of the set are by now well-known to the metal faithful.

A breather for the crowd followed as the headliners set up. Nearing the end of their 27-date tour, and with a Soundwave appearance fresh on their resume, Chronolyth is hitting their straps and dished out a suitably tight, melodic groove show showcasing their new full-length release Sovereign. I like the modern sartorial flexibility you never saw with death metal bands back in the day; ‘80s style Finn brothers haircuts just wouldn’t have done. Any false expectation this may have given of a lighter sound disappeared instantly, and there was little let-up sonically in their set, just a consistently brutal assault as you’d expect from a band with their reputation. Even by headline show time the crowd was very limited in number – timing not great with the aforementioned awards thing at the nearby Jack on the night prior – which is disappointing given the rarity of such quality bands touring this far up the coast, and the very affordable cover charge. The fixed bars do impact on moshing space, but on the upside give frontmen plenty of acrobatic licence! Great show.

Overall the night gave up little in the way of surprises, if you went in with high expectations and some prior awareness of the bands involved. Considering it’s hardly a purpose-built rock room, sound was controlled well by Sam Jansen and the ambience was also good thanks to Phil Capewell’s setup of lights from Todd. Any venues that are supporting acts delivering heavy music are taking risks swimming against the current in this climate, and if attendance numbers can climb, it’s to be hoped that this will pay off. It’s really up to us punters to get off our couches and support shows as often as we can.