The small bar section of the O2 Islington Academy is cosy to say the least with a capacity of around 250 people making it the smalles of the O2 Academy venues spread across Britain. It probably comes as a bit of a shock to Karnivool, the best thing to come out of Australia since Shane Warne started to play test cricket. Back home their most recent album, the excellent 'Sound Awake' went straight to #2 in the charts and they have toured their home nation at credibly large venues to some major extent. This however is their first UK headline show scheduled between dates supporting Welsh reggae metal quartet Skindred across the UK' a first headline show that has been too long coming for the band's tiny yet dedicated army of UK fans.
The gig is thankfully sold out but by the time the first support band take to the stage is roughly two-thirds full only. Many not yet here will later express disappointment when they realise that Skindred opened for their touring partners, a secret surprisingly well kept until doors open. The second half of their set is pure dynamite, proving their reputation as an act whose reputation has been built on live foundations, and by the time they end with a blast through their best known song 'Nobody' the crowd is baying for more metal action. Essex metalcore act Forever Never do their best but unfortunately they are merely a generic metalcore band without the extra talent levels of unique songwriting to make them stand out from a tired scene in the same way that Exit Ten, for example, do. Lead singer Renny Carroll looks like a school's 1st XV rugby captain but jumps up and down with a ferocity that sees some in the audience worry that he may either fall off the tiny stage or else break through the lower than usual ceiling. His bandmates meanwhile strike an unusual mix between ditch dwellers, scene kids and Jerry Cantrell lookalikes and in contrast are extremely static. This gives the performance a somewhat underwhelming feel although, to be brutally honest, the music isn't good enough to deserve any better.
Some equipment issues see Karnivool arrive on stage slightly later than planned but they more than make up for it with the crowd cheering the opening chords of every song like the return of a long lost relative. It would not be an understatement to call the Australian quintet one of the tightest bands around at present as they make their complex grooves shimmer with the same force as on record. Singer Ian Kenny's voice is spot on throughout while the bass playing of Jon Stockman also deserves high praise. First album tracks such as 'Fear of the Sky' get the best reception but the strongest are those from the new record, especially opener 'Simple Boy' and the epic 'Deadman'. There isn't really enough room on stage for Kenny to employ the extravagant stage moves he apparently performs in larger venues but the enthusiasm and skill of the group is what makes them winners at this show. The guitar of Drew Goddard guides everything with his riffs being heavy enough to shake the walls but also technical enough to impress. By the time the band depart after their 11 song set they have won the hearts of any in the room who were undecided before the show. The band also seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves throughout, regularly expressing what a "pleasure" it is for them to be playing a headline show in the UK at long last. An absolute steal of a show at £8.50, everyone present hopes that they will return sooner rather than later.