Karnivool and The Ocean at Backstage, München
I’m back based in Germany for a little bit and decided to hop down to Munich on a whim to catch this tour before it slipped through my fingers as the Berlin show was sold out.
I’ve come to respect both of these bands more and more in recent years, watching The Ocean grow in popularity with the release of Phanerozoic II, and delving deeper into Karnivool’s back catalog – admiring this Australian band from the other side of the world. To say both of these bands have had a huge influence on me is an understatement, so seeing this tour announced with the two of them combined blew my puny mind – particularly as it had been 8 years since Karnivool toured any part of Europe, and I’d never had the pleasure of seeing them live before. This was a tour lineup that I couldn’t miss…
Now it’s my first time catching a gig in München, and I have to give a cheeky shoutout to the layout of the venue. There’s a huge amount of tiered standing space surrounding a central pit area to allow for vertically challenged individuals to have a good chance of seeing, rather than just having the entire venue’s standing space be completely flat. More venues should take note of this!
First up were The Ocean, and they didn’t mess around. They played an assortment of highlights from 2 of their most acclaimed albums, ‘Phanerozoic II’ and ‘Pelagial’. If you wanted a ‘best-of’ soundtrack from this band to kick-start your addiction into their discography, tonight’s setlist would have been it.
It was also great to finally hear the band live with Loïc Rossetti (vocals) after the Phanerozoic II release as the last time I got to see The Ocean was at the Prognosis festival in April 2022 where the band had to put on an instrumental set. Loïc was sadly out of action due to a skiing accident that resulted in both of his legs being broken. He’d clearly recovered well for this tour, moving all over the place and playing with the audience bringing an eerie yet energetic presence to the stage.
Robin Staps (guitars) also went through a near-death incident last month almost drowning on a beach in Puerto Rico. I think we can all be glad that he was eventually saved before suffering a fatal death, but there’s definitely some irony there almost drowning in ‘The Ocean’… Not to trivialise the incident. You can read more about it here in this Google Doc that Robin shared, but I warn you that it is rather distressing.
Starting with ‘Triassic’ before running through ‘Miocene | Pliocene’, ‘Mesopelagic: Into The Uncanny’, ‘Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses’, ‘Pleistocne’, and ‘Holocene’ – they surely chose tracks on purpose from their discography that are a bit ‘mouthy’ to write down in an article! I’m very glad they finished with ‘Jurassic | Cretaceous’ though, as that is probably my favourite single track that came out back in 2020 – so finally seeing it with a full band ensemble is a nice bit of bucket list checked off.
Despite any previous medical troubles, The Ocean held back no punches tonight as they slaughtered the room with their heavy riffs – even if their discography was less familiar to the crowd than Karnivool’s.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that The Ocean were able to play their set tonight – and I’m incredibly thankful that they were able to. And, with a new single out recently, ‘Preboreal’, maybe we’re in store for another full album sooner than we thought… Now, onto Karnivool.
Over the last decade, this band has somehow managed to gradually increase their fanbase – despite releasing an incredibly small amount of music. They released one song in 2021, ‘All It Takes’, which has been IT since their 2013 album ‘Asymmetry’. Like every other fan of this band, I think we can all hope that there’s more music on the way – but first things first, it’s European tour time. A tour that has been postponed twice due to covid related issues, so the band still having money left in the bank, pulling off a month-long tour on the other side of the world, is nothing short of a miracle.
Starting off with ‘C.O.T.E’ from ‘Themata’, and then the new 2021 single, tonights set put a spotlight on possibly their most well-known album ‘Sound Awake’. It’s the album of theirs that I’m the most familiar with, so I took great pleasure in finally witnessing these songs being performed live. And the München crowd knew how to have a good time with it.
Yes yes, of course, I got into the mosh pit – angrily shoving strangers around to the deep pulsing bass tones of Jon Stockman rumbling through the venue. Running straight through ‘Goliath’, ‘Simple Boy’, ‘Umbra’, ‘All I Know’, and ‘Deadman’ one after the other had my whole body tingling. and the energy of the crowd bounced off of the energy of the music – chanting back every lyric, grooving along. It was a sea of euphoric faces.
And from what my ever-improving, but still somewhat limited German skills gave me, it seemed like the overall vibe of the crowd was overwhelmingly positive at these setlist choices. One man told his friend that the band were playing “all of his favourites”, which must have been a wonderful feeling given the 10-year break since Karnivool last played München.
Finishing the main set with ‘Themata’ and ‘Change’, I stood in awe at the tightness of the mix, and of the performance. Everyone that contributed to putting on this show were clearly experts in their fields, particularly in the lighting department. Never too overwhelming, but incredibly stimulating none the same, keeping the energy flowing through the whole venue through the artistic flashbangs.
The first encore track, ‘Alpha Omega’ off of ‘Aymmetry’, I once again just had to stand back and appreciate Ian Kenny as his vocal control on this number was off the scale. Particularly through the mellow sections what can only be described as a beautiful noise was emanating from his mouth, captivating the whole crowd at the edge of their metaphorical seats. And finally, ending with possibly their most well-known track ‘New Day’, Ian didn’t even have to sing anymore. It’s truly a surreal experience being enveloped in a cluster of humans all shouting and screaming the exact same words in unison with the thundering backing of the instrumentals still pounding through your ears.
That night in München, fans showed Karnivool that they have been deeply missed. And we can all only hope that this spurt of activity post covid means that more music on the way. Karnivool must continue – there is no other way forward.