In the arches under Brighton station, an evening of progressive metal spanning from the borders of hardcore with Palm Reader and ethereal avant-garde with headliners The Contortionist awaits the city’s residents. Progressive music has long held a niche in Brighton, with connections to the inception of Tesseract, packed past shows for Monuments and No Consequence, and local stalwarts such as Vrona going from strength to strength, meaning the venue is packed right from the beginning of the show.
Before the touring two of Palm Reader and The Contortionist take to the stage, opening the show are local trio Kicking Graves whose self-styled genre of stoner-tech fits their sound, driven by rich chords under vocals with more technical riffs in the gaps in between. Channelling Southern rock attitude, the quality of their music is enough to fill the room despite the early start to the evening. Their performance comes across more technical than their recorded EP Anthropocene with the tracks added to their live set, with the band’s initial awe of the occasion giving way to a professional performance punctuated frequently by appreciation from the crowd. A very promising show and a potential sign of things to come for another technical band on the Brighton scene.
Palm Reader are perhaps further along the spectrum to hardcore, with hints of progressive elements; their sound hits similarly to some of Dillinger Escape Plan’s mid-career work, replete with experimentation and emotion. This is hardcore with emotion, but it certainly isn’t emotional hardcore. Proclaiming Brighton as one of their favourite places to play, the band rip through their set with energy that couldn’t be contained on stage, to the degree that bassist Josh Redrup starts and finishes the set on the floor amongst the bristling audience. Vocalist Josh Keown commands the stage, bounding from side to side and adding expression with copious hand gestures whilst delivering his heartfelt lyrics, keeping the audience in the palm of his hand. With their set primarily supporting their most recent album Braille, their performance feels over too soon, but this is a mark of its accomplishment.
Check out Palm Reader's awesome video for "Inertia"
The Contortionist are well established on the global progressive rock and metal scene, having four albums under their belt; most recent release Clairvoyant (2017) is the theme of the evening. With more of an early softer djent sound – similar to the aforementioned Tesseract – the album sounds thematically dark, yet the music is some of their softest and most accessible in their back catalogue.
Vocalist Michael Lessard matches his more measured and deliberate performance to that of the song, and where the set focuses on more recently released tracks it’s a quiet authority he exudes on stage, rather than the boundless energy of Palm Reader’s Josh Keown. His precise, sustained vocals offer an anchor for the audience amongst the more frantic and rhythmic texture building by the bandmates behind him, and despite his visually quieter approach to many bands performing live he still draws focus the way one would expect a frontman to.
Concluding their (pre-encore) set with “Return to Earth” from Clairvoyant, the evening reached a crescendo with the audience perhaps not energised or driven wild by The Contortionist’s music, but fully engaged and swept along by the depth and atmosphere of one of the band’s best tracks to date. Those pumped up by Palm Reader found little to jump around to in The Contortionist’s set, but the consummate performance of distinctive music of this quality in a compact venue will always make for a memorable experience, and it would be one worth repeating should they come around on tour again.
Check out the video for "Return to Earth" from Clairvoyant below: