(Photographer - Joshua Pike)
There seems to be quite a bit of media out there hedging High Tension as a punk band or punk-rock. Do not let the packaging deceive you, what I experienced at The Newtown Social Club felt like a pretty clear cut case of metal-as-fuck. A song like “Collingwood” might tap-dance around the fringes of punk with its racing guitars but in the end, Karina Utomo’s screaming vocals always feel like the dominating factor. What Utomo and her band mates do in High Tension is create a palpable wall of sound that hurls you backwards with its ferocity. And that ain’t bad.
Many of the songs have an urgency of beat, a recklessness to them that makes you feel like you’re a paramedic in the back an ambulance rushing to some kind of emergency. It’s exactly that feeling of holding on for dear life that propels a track like “Mountain of Dead” forward with such powerful momentum- and makes it such a crowd pleaser. Personally, if I was had to give them their own genre I’d call it Crisis metal… although I rather like that the band’s Facebook page lists their genre as Brudal \m/.
Crowd response on the night was focused on Utomo’s strong stage presence. Her flailing hair drew the eye and then numerous stage dives and crowd surfs cemented the bond. Hell she spent an entire track riding audience shoulders. These are exactly the kind of hijinks that are all too rare in this day and age of OH&S lamery but make a memorable gig. Yay small venues!
That said, with music this forceful you do feel the need for the odd moment of respite. It’s one of those age old lessons that classical music has to teach even the scabbiest of Black metal church burners – mix it up. A little bit of soft makes the loud louder. High Tension are all 10 all the time. Just a few quieter moments would go a long way.
Supporting act Mere Women did a great job of creating a rich, sometimes haunting, soundscape. It was an absolutely pleasure wafting along with their brand of blurry electronic sound and imploring vocals. Sadly they were undermined by coordination issues with the sound desk. This all-too-frequent occurrence is one that seems to hurt so many up and coming bands. Although I’m generally on the band’s side, and am pretty sceptical about the competence of desks jockeys at Ozzie venues, this is the kind of thing that headlining pros manage to head off with a sound check well ahead of time. Yeah I know, that’s not always possible. Such is life.
More generally, The Newtown Social Club feels like a good little venue and joins the growing (but still depressingly sparse) ranks of places to see local music around Sydney. Check out something there soon!
Written by Alex Wregg