REVIEW: Bongzilla, The Black Swamp + Chassm, Crowbar Brisbane, 17/05/2019

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Words: Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer.

Photos: Elizabeth Sharpe – Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography.

The musical Gods of stoner rock and doom metal, Bongzilla are currently touring Australia and New Zealand for the first time thanks to Your Mate Bookings, Get On The Stage + Young Henrys and much to the delight of Aussie fans everywhere. Last night Brisbane was blessed with a generous serving of sludge at our home of the heavy, Crowbar. Brisbane’s show was the kick off and the tour continues tonight in Sydney then hits Auckland, Wellington, Geelong, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Arriving early as always so as to not miss a thing, I was happy to be back at Crowbar, having not been there for a few weeks or more, it is a venue that feels so comfortable for me (and many other Brisbane locals) that it is almost a home away from home. Diehard Bongzilla fans were eagerly awaiting the night’s show and the excitement levels in the air were at an all time high.

First up was a local duo who are fairly new to the scene in their current form, Chassm. Ex Mammoth members, Storm Mahan and Elijah Lee are both talented musicians and their forces and talents combined create a two piece that brings a huge sound to the stage during their live performances. Their sound seemed louder than ever on the small Crowbar stage last night. This is the second time I have had the pleasure of reviewing them, the guys also supported Hobo Magic on their recent ‘Hooroo’ tour. Chassm are an instrumental, stoner rock, sludge mix of sounds and seem to go into a musical trance when they perform. Although Crowbar’s stage is small, it has depth to it and I felt like the duo could have benefited from moving forward on the stage a little to draw the crowd in more and not seem so almost faded to the back of the stage.

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Next up was my favourite sludge metal kings, The Black Swamp. We have so much talent in our local music scene in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast and that makes my music loving heart sing! Everyone who knows me knows I am passionate about supporting local music and bands and I do my best to support as many as I can. From time to time though, I find a band who blows my mind with how good they are and I become like a former teenage version of myself. If I was 16 I would totally have Black Swamp posters all over my walls, would keep scrapbooks of their photos, interviews, reviews and news articles and would declare my undying love for them whenever possible to whomever would listen (a little obsessive? …Yeah probably but music is my heart, so it is what it is). The Black Swamp have such a high level of talent as a band and they just play so God damn good together, feeding off each other on stage and sharing a mutual love and respect for each other and for what each individual does and brings to the line-up.

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The Black Swamp are not just a band, they are a family and the guys haven’t played in a little a while due to a band member being really unwell (my love and healing vibes sent your way) so the guys have temporarily got Josh Poynter filling in on guitar. Poynter plays bass and guitar and has been in a heap of other bands over the years including the recently (and sadly) defunked, Elephant. I have always known of Poynter as a bass player so seeing him absolutely kill it on guitar last night was just awesome. The guys opened with one of my personal favourites, Purge which is a perfect opener. Frontman, Luke Hosking’s vocals are perfection in this track (as with every track though really). Hosking really holds such a solid presence as a frontman, he was most definitely born to do exactly this. Rolling into the title track from their EP Witches next which really turns the sludge up a notch. *sigh* can I just go back and see this set again now please? …Saving my current favourite and one of their most recent singles, Headless until last. Bass player, Rohan Downs has a way of playing and a certain stance when he does that just draws me in every time. I often find myself getting lost in and focusing mostly on the deep bass tones and vibrations when I watch Black Swamp. Last night standing side stage the wall I was leaning on was vibrating and moving with the music, giving off a feeling of the whole venue becoming one with the brilliance of the Swamp. With the divine Jesse Kenny riffing it up on guitar and the passionate and dedicated Brendan Woodley smashing it out on drums, this line up of talent just blows my mind every single time.

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The crowd became even more packed into the small space in front of the stage as Bongzilla prepared to deliver their set to eagerly awaiting fans. The guys demanded that the lighting be changed to only green lights, a very fitting colour for the stoner rockers but also a photographer’s nightmare. With the hazy shade of green upon the stage and the pure pleasure on the faces of the fans squashed to the front of the barrier, they guys began to take us on their musical journey of sludge filled riffs that had us all drifting to another headspace.

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Having never seen them play live before and only fairly recently becoming a fan I was unsure what to expect, the first thing I was drawn to was the deep and chunky bass tones from bass player, Cooter Brown. There is the well known joke about how some bass players stand their looking bored a lot of the time. I love bass players who totally smash that stereotype in the face and play with so much sheer love for what they are doing that it draws in all those who are present. And honestly, what is sludge without bass am I right? The bass brings that deep, heavy and dark vibe that I love about the sludge and doom sound. With Mike ‘Muleboy’ Makela on guitar and vocals, Jeff ‘Spanky’ Shultz on guitar and Mike ‘Magma’ Henry on drums, this four piece machine of a band is stoner doom at its finest. The raw, screaming vocal from Makela breaks up the depth of the music somewhat and combined creates the Bongzilla sound that is so well loved by their fans.

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The set seemed to last for a really long time much to the delight of those in attendance and the merch desk was busier than I have seen it in some time with fans keen to purchase shirts, vinyl and the rest with the Bongzilla guys graciously signing vinyl and posters for a few lucky fans.

After a massive first show for the tour, the guys are sure to be in high spirits as they continue the tour tonight (pun totally intended)

Full gallery of photos by Ummgummamumma – Live Music Photography available HERE. 

Get your tickets to the upcoming shows via the links on their Facebook page HERE.

Tour dates:
Friday 17th May – Crowbar Brisbane with Chassm & The Black Swamp.
Saturday 18th May – Crowbar Sydney with Black Rheno & Loose Unit.
Monday 20th May – Whammy Bar Auckland with Arc Of Ascent & Yarnspinner.
Tuesday 21st May – Valhalla Wellington with Arc Of Ascent & Opium Eater.
Friday 24th May – Barwon Club Geelong with Motherslug & Droid.
Saturday 25th May – Bendigo Hotel Melbourne with Black Jesus & Cement Pig.
Sunday 26th May – The Cranker Adelaide with Mammoth & Iron Worzel.

Presented By:
Your Mate Bookings , Get On The Stage and Young Henrys. 
(Rocknrollbrat, Valhalla (NZ), Third Eye Music (NZ))

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